The novitiate is the first stage of Jesuit formation and novices begin to learn through experience about the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience as lived in a community setting. He learns the traditions, rules and expectations of the Society of Jesus. During this time he makes the Spiritual Exercises in a 30-day retreat and engages in a variety of “experiments,” such as serving the poor, the elderly, and teaching children. At the end of this two-year period of prayer, work and study, he pronounces perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience either as a brother or as a scholastic who will prepare for priestly ordination.
With these vows Jesuit scholastics and brothers normally begin a three-year period of philosophy and theology studies. If the man has not yet received a bachelor’s degree, he studies for that at this time. He may also be asked to use this time to begin graduate work in a field of specialization. In the United States, there are three Jesuit First Studies programs: Fordham University (New York City), Loyola University (Chicago), and St. Louis University (St. Louis).Regency is the next stage of formation. The Jesuit works for two or three years in a Jesuit school or other approved ministry while he lives in a Jesuit community.
After regency, Jesuit scholastics begin an intensive three-year study of theology which leads to priestly ordination. In the United States, the Jesuits study theology at the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, California and the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry in Massachusetts. This may be followed either by full-time apostolic work or specialized studies.
After completing his theological studies and some years of ministry, the Jesuit completes his formal formation of prayer, guidance and studies with tertianship, a time of spiritual renewal and ministry with the poor. After the tertianship period, the Jesuit is called to final vows in the Society of Jesus.