The College of Philosophy and Letters was established as a distinct school of Saint Louis University in 1889 for the education of Jesuit seminarians.
In 1934, the college was approved by the Sacred Congregation for Catholic Education as a reserved ecclesiastical faculty for philosophy. In the fall of 1975, the purpose of the College of Philosophy and Letters was expanded to include all pre-ministerial programs at Saint Louis University.
With Pope John Paul II’s promulgation of the Apostolic Constitution Sapientia Christiana in 1979, the College began to function no longer as a reserved faculty but as an ecclesiastical faculty open to all qualified students—religious, diocesan, and lay, male and female.
The college currently admits Jesuit students, students studying for ordination as archdiocesan clergy, and students of other Catholic religious orders, congregations and institutes. It is also open to admitting laypersons with an interest in philosophical preparation for ministry.
Currently, the College of Philosophy and Letters houses one of three “First Studies” programs in the United States for young Jesuits in training. The other two are at Fordham University and Loyola University-Chicago.
The college seeks to prepare students with the intellectual background for intelligent service of faith and justice in dialogue with culture, and for later studies in theology.
Toward those ends, its programs are designed to give students an integrated philosophical training that deepens their appreciation of the Catholic faith, introduces them to key philosophical concepts that inform theology, and illuminates the contexts of ministry in which they engage as servants of the Gospel.
These aims require a course of studies that helps students to bring the Catholic tradition and the insights of philosophy to bear on the problems of human existence and contemporary global challenges, in such a way that these resources can be integrated with other fields of learning.
The college mission flows directly from the official commitments of the Society of Jesus in union with recent Popes and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. To fulfill its mission, the college collaborates closely with other departments at Saint Louis University, in particular the Departments of Philosophy and Theological Studies, which provide many of the courses that students in the college are required to take.
The college also collaborates with The Aquinas Institute of Theology, which provides many of the graduate theology courses the Jesuit students take, and with Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, whose faculty deliver some of the courses for seminarians.