Lita and I support the missionary diocese of Fairbanks (Catholic Bishop of Northern Alaska 1312 Peger Rd Fairbanks 99709-5199) As a result we receive the Alaskan Shepard Newsletter which gives reports of the missionary work being done. In the last issue a novice in the Oregon Jesuits wrote a column about being the only Indonesian Jesuit in Bethel Alaska as part of his novitiate experience. In the article he outlined the general steps of becoming a member of the Society of Jesus. I have long admired the Jesuit order and the quality of religious they produce as well as their intellectual abilities. However, I really didn’t appreciate the long process involved before they are full members of the Society of Jesus
The Society of Jesus was founded by St Ignatius who was wounded in battle while in the military and confined to treatment during which he experienced a religious conversion. He created the Spiritual Exercises and in 1534, along with six other young men professed the classical vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, but added a fourth special vow of obeience to the Pope which is unique to the Society. Here is a general outline of the steps as described in the newsletter.
The noviate is the first step in Jesuit formation which takes two years and involves living in a community setting. Once they are accepted as novices they begin the Spiritual Exercises, a 30 day silent retreat which was the fundamental step created by the founder, St. Ignatius in becoming a Jesuit. This is intended to create a personal relationship with Jesus and includes daily prayer, the Eucharist, examinations of conscience, classes, community life, faith sharing and apostolic work. After two years of prayer, work and study they make vows of poverty, chastity and obedience Vows of poverty, chastity and obedience
Next is there is a three year period of philosophy and theology studies, known as First Studies. It is intended to provide the newly vowed Jesuit training in the spiritual, apostolic, community and intellectual areas. Usually a man is sent in a mission to one of four Jesuit communities located at universities in North America in this step in their training. During this time Jesuits are expected to earn a bachelor’s degree or if they have one to earn Masters degrees in various fields of study while devoting time to the study of theology.
After completion of First Studies, Jesuits began three years of apostolic work of the society. This step, called Regency, involves teaching in a Jesuit school or working with a native community or serving abroad in the international mission field of the Society. It is intended to help them mature in their spiritual growth.
Following the Regency period Jesuits began intensive three year theological studies which leads to priestly ordination. This is intended to help the Jesuit develop a better understanding of the priesthood.
After several years of active ministry as a priest or brother, the third and final probation period called Tertianship begins. This period of training is intended to fully integrate the person into the Society of Jesus.
Finally, after the Tertianship period and some years of ministry the Jesuit is called to take final vows in the Society of Jesus. So how long does it take to become a Jesuit? After the full training period a Jesuit is called to take final vows eleven years after entering the Society.
No wonder the Jesuits tend to be well educated, intellectual and well trained in theology. With these requirements only the most dedicated and fit survive to the end. The U.S. Marines have an advertising slogan "a few good men." it could well be the slogan of the Jesuits and in fact the Society is called "God's marines" because of Ignatius's military background.