The Making of a Jesuit

Before Becoming a Jesuit

A man hears the call within his heart. Jesuits look for men who feel called by God and who also possess:

  • a deep personal love for Jesus Christ.
  • a habit of prayer which develops into action.
  • sufficient self-knowledge.
  • good religious practice.
  • an intellectual capability.
  • a sense of sociability and availability.
  • some familiarity with Jesuits.
  • good physical health.
  • a history of service and concern for the poor.
  • the joy to live a life of poverty, chastity, obedience.
  • a strong desire—zeal for being a Jesuit!

An interested man then prepares to enter the Jesuits by completing a year or so of discernment as a candidate, during which he lives and works on his own—with the intention of joining the Society.

After Becoming a Jesuit

A man offers his life in response to God’s call. The Jesuits welcome this man into community, and he becomes a Jesuit on Entrance Day (usually in August of a given year). He then begins the process of formation and incorporation into the body of the Society of Jesus.

The stages of Jesuit formation include:

Novitiate—2 years
A novice learns to create a community of brothers who grow in prayer, knowledge of the Society, apostolic work, and personal enrichment. He meets the Lord through the 30-day Spiritual Exercises retreat. At the end of these two years, he pronounces vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

First studies—3 years
The newly-vowed Jesuit moves into academic work as a brother or a scholastic. He studies philosophy and theology, and he deepens his Jesuit identity through other ministerial work which strengthens or challenges his gifts.

Regency—3 years
The Jesuit brother or scholastic moves into active Jesuit ministry, usually teaching at a high school or university.

Theology—3 years
Jesuit scholastics usually move on to formal theology studies which prepare them for priestly ordination, but the Jesuit brother might study theology for a shorter time as a way to enhance his effectiveness for ministry.

Ordination—usually in June
A scholastic receives the Sacrament of Holy Orders and is available for his first assignment as a Jesuit priest.

Tertianship—about 5 years later
Jesuit brothers and priests take a year to review their formation, to experience again the 30-day retreat, and to pronounce final vows in the Society. Now initial formation is complete—Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam.

Reprinted with permission from a brochure by Fr. Patrick Fairbanks, SJ, Former Vocations Director of the Chicago Province (now Midwest Province) of the Society of Jesus.