Who are the Jesuits?

Founded in 1540 by Ignatius Loyola, and commonly called the Jesuits, the Society of Jesus is a male religious order of priests and brothers in the Catholic Church. There are over 15,000 Jesuit priests, brothers and seminarians worldwide who serve in over 100 nations on six continents.

What is a vocation?

Many people use the word vocation (from the Latin vocare; “to call”) in reference to the divine call to become a priest, sister or brother. However, the Catholic understanding of vocation is much broader: Every baptized person has a vocation — a call — to love and serve God. How you choose to live out that vocation is what each person must discern.

What are some characteristics of a Jesuit vocation?

A man called to be a Jesuit should be motivated by a deep, personal love of Jesus Christ and a “desire to imitate in some manner our Creator and Lord Jesus Christ…since he is the way which leads to life” (St. Ignatius of Loyola). A primary characteristic of Jesuit spirituality is to seek to be a "contemplative in action," combining the service of faith with the promotion of justice, following the example of their founder, Ignatius, who strove to “find God in all things.” Jesuits consider themselves to be sent on mission with Jesus as companions consecrated for service under the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Are there entrance requirements to become a Jesuit?

Yes, there are a number of requirements. The most basic requirements include being a single, Catholic male aged 18 to 45*. In the US and Canada one must either be a citizen or have permanent residency status. Other requirements and qualifications are normally discussed during the discernment process. (* The upper age requirement varies by Jesuit Province.)  

Can I become a Jesuit if I have converted or am converting to Catholicism?

Yes, but normally a candidate must wait three years after he becomes Catholic before he can begin the novitiate. A recent convert may begin the discernment process during that waiting period.

Do Jesuits wear a habit?

Jesuits do not have an official habit. The Society's Constitutions gives the following instructions: "The clothing too should have three characteristics: first, it should be proper; second, conformed to the usage of the country of residence; and third, not contradictory to the poverty we profess."

Do Jesuits pray the Divine Office in common?

No. Jesuits pray the Divine Office privately and observe a rhythm of personal prayer, which includes the Ignatian Examen, contemplation and meditation, and celebrating/attending daily Mass in community.Saint Ignatius believed that Jesuits were to be men on mission, “contemplatives in action.” As missionaries “in the world” then, Jesuits devote themselves more to the Church’s pastoral needs in place of an obligation to the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours in common.

What is the difference between a diocesan priest and a Jesuit priest?

All Catholic priests are ordained to the priesthood through the Sacrament of Holy Orders. However, a man may choose to be a diocesan priest (sometimes called a “secular” priest) or a religious priest.  

If he chooses to be a diocesan priest, he enters the diocesan seminary system for generally five to six years of philosophy and theology studies, as well as personal and pastoral development. Once ordained, he typically serves within his own diocese (a geographic territory designated by the Church). He is appointed to his ministry, most often parish work, by the bishop of that diocese. A diocesan priest makes a promise of celibacy and obedience and is accountable to his bishop.

A Jesuit priest, on the other hand, is a religious priest, that is, a member of a religious order. He joins one of nearly 90 worldwide provinces (geographic regions) of the Society of Jesus, where he enters a lengthy and arduous 11- to 12-year formation program that includes personal, pastoral, spiritual and academic development. (Visit www.beajesuit.org/forming-home for more information on Jesuit formation.) Once ordained, a Jesuit priest is available for his first assignment which is given to him by the provincial superior to whom he is accountable.

Not all Jesuits are priests. Some are brothers and many are scholastics and novices (men in various levels of training). However, the vast majority of Jesuits are ordained priests.

What do Jesuits do?

Jesuits work in a wide variety of roles, serving in parishes, educational institutions, retreat houses and various social ministries. Jesuit ministries extend across a world of human need. Many know Jesuits through our work in education (schools, colleges, universities, seminaries, theological faculties), intellectual research, and spiritual renewal. Jesuits continue the tradition of providing retreats based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Jesuits also serve as foreign missionaries — the Society is the largest missionary order of the Church — as well as retreat ministers, chaplains, scientists, social justice advocates, nurses, doctors, lawyers and researchers. Jesuits also engage in direct evangelization to the poor, interreligious dialogue, and other such “frontier” ministries. Whatever the mission, it is inspired by the motto Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam ("For the Greater Glory of God"), often abbreviated as AMDG.

What is the difference between vows and Holy Orders?

Holy Orders is a sacrament in which a priest is called forth from a community and ordained by a bishop. Members of religious communities take vows publicly in the presence of their superiors. Both ordination and the profession of vows are perpetual commitments.

What is a Jesuit Brother?

A Jesuit brother takes the same religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. A brother's life revolves around prayer, communal living and a ministry within the Church and the Society. A brother is not ordained to the priesthood and thus does not perform the sacramental duties of a priest. Jesuit brothers have equal respect and place in the community.

What vows does a Jesuit take?

For Jesuits, the traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience foster greater availability for the work of the Kingdom of God in the Church.

The vow of obedience is the touchstone of Jesuit life. St. Ignatius wanted his companions to be ready at any time to respond to the greatest needs of the Church. Jesuits seek to follow the will of God as it is revealed in the mission given to each Jesuit by his religious Superior in the Society of Jesus.

By the vow of chastity, a Jesuit consecrates his life entirely to the Lord, promising to live his life in a state of celibate chastity as a living witness to the Kingdom of God and a prophetic reminder that we are created finally for the future life with God. By this vow, the Jesuit brother or priest becomes available to love and to serve all people, not attached to one person or to one family.

By the vow of poverty, a Jesuit renounces personal ownership of material possessions, seeks greater solidarity with the poor, and shares all goods in common in imitation of the early disciples of Jesus. The vow of poverty calls a Jesuit to live simply, free from attachments in order to be fully available to serve the Gospel and witness to God as the one Lord of our lives.  

What is the Fourth Vow Some Jesuits Take?

Solemnly professed Jesuits take a special fourth vow of obedience to the Holy Father in the matter of missions, undertaking to go wherever they are sent. Professed Jesuits embrace this obedience as a distinctive grace conferred by the Lord on the Society through its founder so that Jesuits may be more closely united with God’s salvific will.

What are the Spiritual Exercises?

During the 1530s, St. Ignatius Loyola began writing about the emotions that took hold of him — feelings of gratitude and anguish, consolation and sadness — while encountering the Scriptures. Those meditations eventually became the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, first published in 1548.

The Spiritual Exercises is a compilation of meditations, prayers and other contemplative practices. It is not like other classics in Western spirituality that are typically read from beginning to end. It is more like a handbook, especially for use by spiritual directors who accompany and guide people through this dynamic process of reflection.

The object is to help people develop their attentiveness, their openness and their responsiveness to God. In other words, the Exercises embody the characteristic themes of Ignatian spirituality. They are organized into four sections or "weeks." These are steps along the path of spiritual freedom and collaboration with God’s activity in the world.

What are the different provinces?

The Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States (JCCU) comprises six provinces, representing the entirety of those two countries: five provinces in the United States (West, Midwest, Central and Southern, Maryland and Northeast) and one in Canada. Additionally, the JCCU represents Jesuits from Belize, Fiji, Micronesia and Haiti.

What is a Jesuit Vocation Director?

A Jesuit Vocation Director (or Provincial Assistant for Vocations) is appointed by the provincial superior of each province (or region) to promote membership, to help others discern their vocation and to oversee the Vocation Office and its team. The vocation director formally accompanies, assesses and interviews every candidate of the province to determine his suitability for admission to the novitiate.

What is a Jesuit Vocation Promoter?

Jesuit Vocation Promoters serve as the first contact for an inquirer and work closely with the Vocation Director in screening and inviting suitable men into the province’s discernment program. Once a man is in discernment, the promoter seeks to provide him with general support, discernment counseling and pertinent information.

What is the process to enter the Jesuit Novitiate?

Discernment of a vocation is normally a gradual process. It involves a process in which an inquirer is assisted and accompanied as he continues to prayerfully discover the will of God and grow in his personal relationship with the Lord and his Church. Ordinarily the inquirer is invited to attend Jesuit vocation events and is provided other resources that enable him to know the Society of Jesus better and enable the Society to know the man better. When or whether an inquirer is be considered a candidate who may eventually apply for the novitiate is a determination made by the vocation director.

While the precise details of the application process may also differ somewhat depending on the province or region, it will likely include the following elements:

•               submission of a spiritual autobiography
•               interviews with several Jesuits and possibly a Jesuit colleague
•               a psychological assessment
•               medical examinations
•               background check
•               submission of an extensive application form, academic transcripts, financial reports, letters of recommendation

Each provincial makes the final decision regarding the acceptance of a candidate to begin the novitiate.

How do Jesuits see their mission in the Church and the world today?

Released on February 19, 2019, the Jesuit Superior General, Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J., announced four Universal Apostolic Preferences for the Society of Jesus over the next decade. These were identified through a fruitful process of discernment lasting almost two years. All Jesuits were invited to take part in the discernment process, which also included many representational mission partners. The process concluded with a confirmation from Pope Francis in a special meeting with Fr. Sosa.

The four Universal Apostolic Preferences are:

1. To show the way to God through the Spiritual Exercises and discernment
2. To walk with the poor, the outcasts of the world, those whose dignity has been violated, in a mission of reconciliation and justice
3. To accompany young people in the creation of a hope-filled future
4. To collaborate in the care of our Common Home.
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