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What it Means to Be a Jesuit

Portrait of a Jesuit

The Society of Jesus, the largest men's religious order in the Catholic Church, has operated on a global scale since St. Ignatius Loyola and a group of his companions established it, starting in 1540. Today, about 20,000 Jesuits serve as priests and brothers in wide-ranging ministries. Among the elements that distinguish the Jesuits from other religious orders are the following:

  • Jesuits undergo the longest formation (preparation) period of any religious order, typically 10 to 12 years.
  • St. Ignatius developed unique spiritual practices, including the Spiritual Exercises.
  • Ignatius also outlined a unique discernment process, or procedure, for making choices.
  • Care for the individual person, a hallmark of Jesuit ministry, develops through one-to-one spiritual guidance and in the mission(s) assigned by provincial superiors.

Basic requirements

Three Jesuits singing from hymnalsCandidates are between 18 and 50 and most have completed a bachelor’s degree. Typically, applicants spend six months to a year exploring their vocation with our Province’s vocation director and a spiritual director.

The Jesuit mission

After completing the two-year novitiate, a man takes vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. From that point on, he is considered a Jesuit.

At every stage of his life, the Jesuit’s provincial superior will listen to him speak about his prayer, desires, talents, interests, and attractions, as well as his hesitancies and limitations. While this dialogue precedes any assignment, the superior “sends” each Jesuit on a mission, discerning where he can best serve the Society and the Church.

"Whenever in the Church, even in the extreme fields, in the crossroads of ideologies, in the front line of social conflict, there has been and there is confrontation between the deepest desires of men and women and the perennial message of the Gospel, there also have been, and there are, Jesuits."
Robert Caro, S.J.