Jesuit High School

Jesuit High Schools and the National Study of Youth and Religion Project builds from past research (i.e., Smith & Denton, 2005) to determine the influence of the culture of religious (and specifically Catholic and Ignatian) formation on the spiritual lives of students at Jesuit high schools, and to identify means for secondary educators to more effectively support students’ spiritual growth and development. The guiding questions for the pilot study are:

  1. Do students in three U.S. Jesuit schools have a similar pattern of spirituality outcomes as the diverse students in the NSYR?
  2. What impact does the experience of attending a Jesuit school (environment) have on students’ religious formation?
  3. What is the relationship among students’ gender, grade level, religious identification, and attendance of a Catholic elementary school and their beliefs and religious experiences in Jesuit high schools? 

Findings demonstrate that time spent in a Jesuit school results in a move away from the sort of moral relativism and belief in God as a cosmic therapist defined by Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). However, large portions of students from all demographic groups did show medium-to-high affinity with measures of MTD-like thinking, which means that this pervasive worldview impacts even intentionally-formed communities in religious high schools.

Implications of these findings suggest that educators at comparable high schools may want to consider the distinctions within their enrolled populations and ask themselves how differentiated support in religious and spiritual formation may be fruitful. Elements of the educational environment that may unintentionally foster a kind of relativistic thinking in students can be undergirded with additional teaching on how openness to new ideas does not necessarily have to mean that all ideas must be given equal value. Students can be taught to utilize the Ignatian culture prevalent in their schools as a means for discerning the merits of ideas that emerge both from the school and from society at large.