|Stages of Formation|
A lot of terms have acquired particular meanings during five centuries of Jesuit living. These are the usual steps of Jesuit formation.
A Scholastic is a Jesuit who has completed his noviceship and is in preparation for priesthood. Most Jesuits are priests or are in preparation for ordination.
Jesuit Brothers are members of the Society of Jesus whose vocations are to serve the Church as in ways other than in sacramental ministry. Jesuit brothers and priests live in communities with each other share life together.
After the novitiate a Jesuit brother receives formation in theology and has two years working in an apostolic community with fellow Jesuits, at home or abroad. If he has not had secular training, opportunities are provided to acquire professional skills for a wide range of roles in our apostolates. Brothers may train to be teachers, social workers, administrators, pastoral assistants, psychologists, nurses, accountants — whatever the Lord calls them to do.
Most Jesuits are ordained priests and are ready to serve the Church in all the ways that priests usually do - assisting people pastorally and administering the sacraments. While some Jesuits work in parishes, many are involved in directing retreats, study, teaching or writing, or in serving as chaplains to various groups such as immigrants, prisoners or hospital patients.
After taking his first vows the man is now a Jesuit. If he is going on for the priesthood, he is known in the technical language of the Society as a ‘scholastic’ and will be principally occupied in studies for the following years. If he enters the Society as a brother, he will usually study theology or work towards some other qualification before joining the working communities of the Province. This will depend upon his age and previous experience.
For the scholastic, the next two or three years will normally be spent in the Jesuit Theologate housed in the terrace houses at Parkville, Melbourne. Here, in the ecumenical setting of the United Faculty of Theology, he makes a start upon the studies traditionally linked with preparation for the priesthood: philosophy and theology. An integral part of the programme will be a certain measure of apostolic work. Besides the contribution this makes to the apostolate, it also provides a further stimulus to personal development and raises in a pressing and practical way the issues he is tackling more theoretically in his studies.
In order that its men may be able to respond as effectively as possible to the demands of a far-reaching apostolate, the Society has always aimed to have its men well qualified in secular as well as religious fields. Often the scholastic has already acquired a tertiary qualification prior to entering the Society. If he has not, he will normally spend some time at one of the universities or some other institute of advanced education. Jesuit brothers who wish to undertake studies at a university are also encouraged to do so.
The years of study are usually broken by a period known in Jesuit terminology as ‘regency’. This is an experience of full-time ministry Here, for one, two or sometimes three years, the scholastic joins a Province ministry as a full-time working member — putting to use the skills and qualifications he has already acquired, gaining an indication for himself and the Society as to the kinds of ministry for which he would seem to be best suited. Though it lengthens the course to some extent, most Jesuits find this a most rewarding period in their life in the Society. Traditionally, ‘regency’ has been spent teaching in the schools run by the Province. In recent years, however, men have been assigned to other ministries — in some cases working overseas in one of the Asian Provinces with which our Province has close ties.
After regency the scholastic returns to Parkville to complete the remaining years of theology. Most scholastics complete a Masters in Theological Studies or a Masters in Theology at this time. Now the priesthood is very much in view and by this time the future work of the man is likely to be fairly clearly taking shape. The aim is that each one will form a rich integration between his own personal growth, aptitudes for particular ministries, study of theology and commitment to the priesthood as a Jesuit.
Priestly Ordination comes during the fourth and final year of theology. The new priest begins his ministry as a minister of Word and Sacrament while preparing for his final comprehensive oral examination in theology. On completion of his studies the new priest may receive a ministerial assignment or be sent for further graduate studies.
Some Jesuits will be asked by the Provincial to do graduate study for a Masters or Doctorate after they have completed the ordinary course of formation. The graduate studies undertaken will take into account the man’s aptitude for graduate studies, the Province’s apostolic needs, and the appropriateness of the proposed degree program.
For the scholastic and brother leaving Parkville, the process of formation is not quite over. After a few years in active ministry the Jesuit withdraws for some months from his normal ministry and, in company with a group of about eight to twelve contemporaries, and under the guidance of an experienced priest, spends some months in reflection upon his development as a person and as a Jesuit Priest. During this period — known as ‘tertianship’ — he again makes the Spiritual Exercises in full. He cultivates a deeper union with his Lord in prayer, attempting to blend, in as rich a way as possible, his active work in the ministry and his vocation to be a true contemplative — one who, in Saint Ignatius’ phrase, “finds God in all things” with increasing freedom and facility. There will usually be some involvement in ministries other than his usual one - to enhance his responsiveness to the variety of ways in which God works through him and by which he can reach out to all kinds of persons in many different situations.
After the time of tertianship the Jesuit priest or brother is invited by the Society to make his Final Vows. This cements the bond between himself and his Lord through the Society which bears his name.
This is, all-in-all, a long journey. But ever since taking his first vows the scholastic and brother has been part of the Society, enriching its ministry by his prayer, his personal presence and influence, his studies offered up as a work undertaken for the Lord's sake and pleasing to him, and, finally, by a sharing in the Province's ministry. All throughout, the aim has been that the human growth of the Jesuit throughout these years will be accompanied by the gradual acquisition of that wisdom, learning, compassion and skill that will make him an effective proclaimer of the gospel in a variety of situations and to all kinds of people. The key thing is that he emerge a man able to be sent — a man available for mission — wherever human needs or the opportunities for spreading the Good News should require. That was the aim of Saint Ignatius. It remains the true goal of our formation in the Australian Province today.
Formation as a Jesuit does not stop when a man takes his final vows. Each Jesuit is urged to keep learning and growing in order to respond to the requirements of our mission and the challenges of today’s world. Fr Pedro Arrupe wrote that today’s challenges:
“oblige us to reflect as much on the world as on ourselves so as to know how we can change ourselves and update our knowledge, our attitudes and our apostolic methods in order to rise up to our vocation.”
A Jesuit is expected to grow and mature through all stages of life and of faith. A Jesuit needs to keep growing all his life in order to be able to awaken life in others. He needs to acquire new knowledge and skills required for the fulfilment of apostolic assignments in changing circumstances.
Fr General, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach notes that the responsibility for on-going formation lies with Jesuits themselves:
“After God, Jesuits themselves carry the first responsibility; and nothing lasting or decisive will be achieved unless they make a very personal commitment to lay hold of the different stages of their own formation.”