Who Are the Jesuits?
For over 450 years Jesuit priests and brothers have lived an amazing story of service to the Church in a variety of ways. Jesuit spirituality mirrors that of Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus. It is a way of encountering ourselves and the world that encourages us to find God in everyone and everything. Ignatius developed this spirituality based on various prayer experiences he had throughout his life. One of the key elements of Ignatian spirituality is reflecting on one's day and seeing how God was present and how one responded or failed to respond to God's presence. Another important element is the Spiritual Exercises, a method of praying and thinking that helps people discern how to respond to God's ever-present activity in their lives. A phrase that sums up Jesuit spirituality is: Everything for God's Greater Glory and Honor. In Latin this motto is expressed: Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam which is often abbreviated simply A.M.D.G. and has become the logo or symbol of the Jesuits.
Jesuit priests and brothers are men on the move, ready to change place, occupation, method – whatever will best advance the mission given to us by Christ through the Church. We are expected to do anything or go anywhere to teach Jesus Christ and to proclaim the Good News of faith shared by all Christians. We are to work towards the promotion of a just society throughout the world. Today that "we" has expanded to include lay women and men who share this vision of service to faith and justice. Jesuits and their lay partners work side by side in a common apostolate.
Brothers are men who join the Society of Jesus to engage actively in its apostolic mission without receiving priestly ordination. They have been an important part of the life and work of the order since the time of Saint Ignatius. Integral members of many Jesuit communities in the U.S. and on the missions overseas, brothers play an active role in almost every type of Jesuit work not requiring priestly orders.
A two-year Novitiate is the first stage of every Jesuit's formation. The novice begins to live the life of the vows in community and learns the traditions, rules and expectations of the Society. He makes the Spiritual Exercises in a 30-day retreat and engages in a variety of apostolic services to the very poor and needy. After this period of prayer, work and study, the Jesuit pronounces perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, as either a brother or scholastic, as those preparing for the priesthood are called.
After the Novitiate a Jesuit normally begin a three-year period of philosophy and theology studies. If he has not yet received a bachelor's degree, he studies for that at this time. After this period of studies, the Jesuit works for several years in a school or other apostolic community.
After this experience of working in the active ministry, Jesuit scholastics begin a three-year study of theology leading to ordination, while Jesuit brothers complete some specialized studies.
Either full-time apostolic work or further specialized studies follow this period. After completing these studies and further active ministry, the Jesuit continues his formation in a period of prayer, guidance and study known as tertianship. After the tertianship period the Jesuit is called to final vows in the Society of Jesus.
Jesuits work in many roles – in parish and retreat ministry, in high schools and colleges, as lawyers, doctors, psychologists and counselors, writers and journalists, theologians and philosophers, researchers and scientists – and in many places and with many different peoples – in cities, rural areas, in the missions of South America, Africa, and elsewhere.
The Jesuits are renowned the world over for excellence in education. Almost from the beginning, Jesuits were teaching at various universities in Europe. Currently the Jesuits maintain 70 secondary and primary schools and 28 universities and colleges in the United States.