September 14, 2018 — Ever wondered how Jesuits become Jesuits? While a man is considered to be a Jesuit from his first day of novitiate, the total journey toward Jesuit priesthood or formed brotherhood can take from eight to 13 years.
When a man answers God’s call to join the Society of Jesus, he begins the process known as Jesuit formation, an almost 500-year-old tradition adapted to today’s needs. St. Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Society along with the First Companions in 1540, detailed the process of Jesuit formation in the Jesuit Constitutions.
Below, the Society of Jesus debuts new videos narrated by Fr. Chris Calderón, SJ, on each step of Jesuit formation: novitiate, studies, regency, theology and tertianship.
A Jesuit’s formation begins in the novitiate, where he spends two years learning how to pray (especially with St. Ignatius’ daily Examen), how to live in community and about the Society of Jesus. In some Jesuit provinces, a novice embarks on a pilgrimage, where he is sent out to learn to trust in the providence of God and become comfortable with uncertainty, returning within a few weeks to a month.
Meet the novices of 2017 (2018 novices coming soon!)
Novices also do apostolic work and make the 30-day Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola. Essentially, in the novitiate, a man learns how to be a Jesuit. At the end of the two years, he pronounces First Vows: perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. Each novice pronounces vows as either a brother or a scholastic (a man who is preparing for priesthood).
After professing First Vows, a Jesuit moves into academic work as a brother or a scholastic (a man who is preparing for priesthood). He studies philosophy at a Jesuit university, usually for three years. Additional ministerial work further deepens his Jesuit identity. Some scholastics and brothers are missioned to finish work on their bachelor’s degrees, while others work on advanced degrees in philosophy or other subjects.
For the first time during formation, a Jesuit brother or scholastic works full-time in a Jesuit ministry, living in an apostolic community of Jesuits, usually for three years. Often teaching at a Jesuit high school or university, the regent learns to balance full-time apostolic work with a life of prayer and community living.
After completing regency, Jesuit scholastics (men preparing for priestly ordination) study theology at the graduate level, usually for three years. During theology studies, a scholastic is ordained as a deacon and after completing theology studies, he is ordained to the priesthood, marking the end of about a decade of study and preparation and making him available for his first assignment as a Jesuit priest.
A Jesuit brother might study theology for a shorter time as a way to enhance his effectiveness for ministry. After a Jesuit brother finishes theology studies he enters ministry — or he might go on to earn another advanced degree. Jesuit brothers are missioned to work across all apostolic ministries of the Society.
Tertianship is a time of renewal. Jesuits must have been ordained as priests, or in the case of brothers, have completed their studies. They then work in assigned ministries for several years before beginning tertianship. A Jesuit revisits the foundational documents and history of the Society of Jesus and makes the 30-day Spiritual Exercises again — in a sense, reaffirming his vocation. The tertian participates in an approximately nine-month program that also includes spiritual training and apostolic experiment.
Do you want to learn more about vocations to the Society of Jesus? Visit www.beajesuit.org for more information.