#Gauteng52, Week 45: The Jesuits of Auckland Park

by | Nov 10, 2017 | #Gauteng52, Johannesburg, Melville and Surrounds, Religion | 3 comments

Welcome to Week 45 of my #Gauteng52 challenge, for which I visit and blog about a new place in Gauteng Province every week for 52 straight weeks. This week I visit the Jesuit Institute in Auckland Park.

Sitting atop a ridge in Auckland Park is a stately, century-old house occupied by a group of Jesuits. Who knew?

I certainly didn’t, but Marie-Lais did. In fact, as #Gauteng52 draws to a close (only seven weeks left!) I need to give Marie-Lais Emond a shout-out. Her encyclopedic knowledge of secret Jozi places has made this series much more interesting than it would have been without her.

If you’re not reading Marie-Lais’ weekly “Other Side of the City” column in the Saturday Citizen newspaper, which features my photos, now is a good time to start. (The column doesn’t appear online, unfortunately, so to see it you have to buy the actual paper or follow Marie-Lais on Facebook.)

Anyway, Marie-Lais knew about the Jesuit Institute South Africa and the two of us went there to meet Father Russell Pollitt.

Jesuit Institute and swimming poolOne of several buildings that comprise the Jesuit Institute South Africa. The institute’s gardens are really spectacular.

Jesuit Institute residenceThe Jesuit Institute residence, built as a private home by Julius Jeppe in the early 1900s. (The Jesuits moved in several years ago.)

View of Joburg from the Jesuit InstituteView of downtown Joburg from the grounds of the Jesuit Institute.

The Jesuits

Jesuits are members of the Society of Jesus, a Catholic congregation founded in the 1500s. The society is focused on scholarship, and according to its website the Jesuit Institute South Africa “is dedicated to encouraging debate on current social issues from a faith perspective and to stimulating critical reflection, research and dialogue”. Incidentally, the current Pope Francis is the first Jesuit pope.

I won’t try to explain the Jesuit society any further, as I’m understandably uncomfortable discussing religions I know nothing about. If you want to learn more you can do what I did and read about it on Wikipedia. Or even better, go to Auckland Park and speak to Father Russell, who is a lovely person and happy to receive visitors.

Father Russell at the Jesuit Institute South AfricaFather Russell.

I really just want to talk about what a beautiful place the Jesuit Institute is. Visiting gave me a momentary yearning to become a Jesuit priest myself (if I were Catholic, that is, and a man). The institute is a peaceful, welcoming place that makes one want to sit down in the shade, read a book, and ponder the mysteries of the universe.

Speaking of books, the Jesuit Institute has a beautiful library with a great view over Melville and the northern suburbs.

Jesuit Institute library viewView from the top floor of the library. The books aren’t all religious; I saw a huge variety of subject matter during my quick browse.

Father Russell in the libraryFather Russell in the library.

My favorite place at the institute is the small chapel, which has a similar view to the library but with a lot more glass.

Inside the the Jesuit Institute chapelInside the chapel.

Side view from the Jesuit Institute chapelThe east-facing window in the chapel, which has a view of the Brixton Tower.

I’m not a religious person but I love visiting beautiful places of worship. I happened to visit this one right after The Breakup and it made me feel better, for a few hours at least. I was grateful for the opportunity.

Walkway at Jesuit InstitutePeace.

The Jesuit Institute South Africa is at 15 Molesey Avenue, Auckland Park. Call +27-11-482-4237 to schedule a visit. The institute also hosts interesting public events from time to time, and has a blog covering various timely news topics.

Read all of my #Gauteng52 posts and check out the interactive #Gauteng52 map.


  1. autumnashbough

    I’ve known a few Jesuits. They are more palatable to me than many religious persons, possibly because of their scholarship. One used to say “F@#&!” all the time. When chastised for swearing, he’d say, “I’m not taking the Lord’s name in vain! Saying ‘F@$%!’ is NOT swearing.”

    • 2summers

      I also heard Father Russell say damn and I was impressed. Hopefully he won’t mind that I said that.

  2. Mr Bunny Chow

    I was educated in a jesuit School….. I think they meant well.


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