A Jesuit novice spends two years at the novitiate for the first stage of Jesuit formation, culminating in his profession of First Vows: poverty, chastity and obedience. This August, 22 Jesuit novices in the United States professed these vows at Masses around the country, signifying their commitment before God to enter the Society of Jesus to serve the church.
Five novices professed their vows at Holy Cross Church in DeWitt, N.Y.; nine novices at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Grand Coteau, La.; two novices at St. Thomas More Catholic Church in St. Paul, Minn.; and six novices at St. Joseph Church in Seattle.
During each Mass, the Jesuit novices professed their vows just before Communion. “Each one comes up and kneels before the Body and Blood of Christ and makes that profession — just as St. Ignatius and his companions did,” said Jesuit Father Fred Pellegrini, a vocation promoter for the Maryland, New England and New York Provinces.
The First Vows are significant in a Jesuit’s life. As Fr. Pellegrini explained, “It’s a public commitment to the Lord and to the Society of Jesus. And the Society is accepting that, and the commitment is there on both sides.”
For the past two years leading up to First Vows, the Jesuit novices have taken classes, participated in local ministries and lived in Jesuit communities. They have also embarked on pilgrimages, performed community service and completed the Spiritual Exercises — a 30-day silent retreat developed by St. Ignatius.
“Completing the Spiritual Exercises is the most important and significant experience for the novices,” Fr. Pellegrini said. “Everything afterward flows from that experience of the Spiritual Exercises — the offering of yourself to the Lord and confirming that in different ways. From working in a hospital to teaching children, it all comes out of the experience of the Spiritual Exercises and the relationship with Jesus.”
For Jesuit novice Tucker Redding, the community service experiments revealed a breadth of Jesuit ministries that will inspire his studies.
“With each new experience, I have found that instead of being drawn to a particular field or ministry, my interests have only grown wider and deeper,” Redding said. “I look forward to spending my life in the Jesuits, discovering new interests and talents and using them for the greater glory of God.”
Following the profession of First Vows, Jesuits usually begin two years of graduate-level philosophy studies, followed by one year of graduate-level theology study.