The Society of Jesus – more commonly known as the Jesuits – is a Catholic order of priests and brothers founded by St. Ignatius Loyola, a Spanish soldier-turned-mystic who worked to find “God in all things.”
The Jesuits are active around the world, and its 17,000 members (across six continents and 124 countries) makes it the largest religious order in the Catholic Church. Jesuits work in parish and retreat ministry, in high schools and colleges. They may be found working as lawyers and doctors, psychologists and counselors, writers and journalists, theologians and philosophers, researchers and scientists. In short, Jesuits do all kinds of work. And, yet, even with this great array of voices and gifts, Jesuit priests and brothers share a singular mission: to do the world a world of good. In this way, a Jesuit dedicates his life’s work to working for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls.
Yes! In fact, in the past 20 years, at least 10 alumni have entered the Society of Jesus. Many see common themes: the charism, community, and traditions of BC helped support their vocation to the priesthood. Learn more about their journeys here: Paths to the Priesthood.
Good question. Jesuits are members of a religious missionary order (the Society of Jesus) and Diocesan priests are members of a specific diocese (i.e. the Archdiocese of Boston). Both are priests who live out their work in different ways. Learn more in this three-minute video from our friends at the Jesuit Post.
A man is usually welcomed into the Society in August, on Entrance Day, and the formation process can take anywhere from eight to 13 years to become a Jesuit priest or brother.
A Jesuit’s formation begins in the novitiate, where he spends two years learning how to pray, how to live in community and about the Society of Jesus. 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 perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
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 (including our own School of Theology and Ministry, 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.
Philosophy studies help ground a Jesuit in his critical thinking. Studying the ancient, medieval and modern philosophers helps a Jesuit make sense of the world around him and articulate for the people of God what it means to be human, and what it means to be Catholic.
Then, in Regency, 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. A Jesuit brother might study theology for a shorter time as a way to enhance his effectiveness for ministry.
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. After a Jesuit brother finishes theology studies he enters ministry, or he might go onto earn another advanced degree.
Tertianship is a time of renewal. 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 formation process ends with the pronunciation of final vows.
Information adapted from beajesuit.org and the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States.
We’ll get you in touch with a Jesuit who can talk with you about the Society; simply e-mail us at email@example.com or come by the Manresa House to learn more! There are many Jesuits at BC who would be happy to sit with you and talk about their own discernment.