Founded in 1540 by Ignatius Loyola, and commonly called the Jesuits, the Society of Jesus is a male religious order of priests and brothers in the Catholic Church. There are over 15,000 Jesuit priests, brothers and seminarians worldwide who serve in over 100 nations on six continents.
Many people use the word vocation (from the Latin vocare; “to call”) in reference to the divine call to become a priest, sister or brother. However, the Catholic understanding of vocation is much broader: Every baptized person has a vocation — a call — to love and serve God. How you choose to live out that vocation is what each person must discern.
A man called to be a Jesuit should be motivated by a deep, personal love of Jesus Christ and a “desire to imitate in some manner our Creator and Lord Jesus Christ…since he is the way which leads to life” (St. Ignatius of Loyola). A primary characteristic of Jesuit spirituality is to seek to be a “contemplative in action,” combining the service of faith with the promotion of justice, following the example of their founder, Ignatius, who strove to “find God in all things.” Jesuits consider themselves to be sent on mission with Jesus as companions consecrated for service under the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Yes, there are a number of requirements. The most basic requirements include being a single, Catholic male aged 18 to 45*. In the US and Canada one must either be a citizen or have permanent residency status. Other requirements and qualifications are normally discussed during the discernment process.
(* The upper age requirement varies by Jesuit Province.)
Yes, but normally a candidate must wait three years after he becomes Catholic before he can begin the novitiate. A recent convert may begin the discernment process during that waiting period.
Jesuits do not have an official habit. The Society’s Constitutions gives the following instructions: “The clothing too should have three characteristics: first, it should be proper; second, conformed to the usage of the country of residence; and third, not contradictory to the poverty we profess.” (Const. 577)
No. Jesuits pray the Divine Office privately and observe a rhythm of personal prayer, which includes the Ignatian Examen, contemplation and meditation, and celebrating/attending daily Mass in community.
Saint Ignatius believed that Jesuits were to be men on mission, “contemplatives in action.” As missionaries “in the world” then, Jesuits devote themselves more to the Church’s pastoral needs in place of an obligation to the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours in common.
All Catholic priests are ordained to the priesthood through the Sacrament of Holy Orders. However, a man may choose to be a diocesan priest (sometimes called a “secular” priest) or a religious priest.
If he chooses to be a diocesan priest, he enters the diocesan seminary system for generally five to six years of philosophy and theology studies, as well as personal and pastoral development. Once ordained, he typically serves within his own diocese (a geographic territory designated by the Church). He is appointed to his ministry, most often parish work, by the bishop of that diocese. A diocesan priest makes a promise of celibacy and obedience and is accountable to his bishop.
A Jesuit priest, on the other hand, is a religious priest, that is, a member of a religious order. He joins one of nearly 90 worldwide provinces (geographic regions) of the Society of Jesus, where he enters a lengthy and arduous 11- to 12-year formation program that includes personal, pastoral, spiritual and academic development. (Visit http://www.beajesuit.org/forming-home for more information on Jesuit formation.) Once ordained, a Jesuit priest is available for his first assignment which is given to him by the provincial superior to whom he is accountable.
Not all Jesuits are priests. Some are brothers and many are scholastics and novices (men in various levels of training). However, the vast majority of Jesuits are ordained priests.
Jesuits work in a wide variety of roles, serving in parishes, educational institutions, retreat houses and various social ministries. Jesuit ministries extend across a world of human need. Many know Jesuits through our work in education (schools, colleges, universities, seminaries, theological faculties), intellectual research, and spiritual renewal. Jesuits continue the tradition of providing retreats based on the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Jesuits also serve as foreign missionaries — the Society is the largest missionary order of the Church — as well as retreat ministers, chaplains, scientists, social justice advocates, nurses, doctors, lawyers and researchers. Jesuits also engage in direct evangelization to the poor, interreligious dialogue, and other such “frontier” ministries. Whatever the mission, it is inspired by the motto Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam (“For the Greater Glory of God”), often abbreviated as AMDG.
Holy Orders is a sacrament in which a priest is called forth from a community and ordained by a bishop. Members of religious communities take vows publicly in the presence of their superiors. Both ordination and the profession of vows are perpetual commitments.
A Jesuit brother takes the same religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. A brother’s life revolves around prayer, communal living and a ministry within the Church and the Society. A brother is not ordained to the priesthood and thus does not perform the sacramental duties of a priest. Jesuit brothers have equal respect and place in the community.
For Jesuits, the traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience foster greater availability for the work of the Kingdom of God in the Church.
The vow of obedience is the touchstone of Jesuit life. St. Ignatius wanted his companions to be ready at any time to respond to the greatest needs of the Church. Jesuits seek to follow the will of God as it is revealed in the mission given to each Jesuit by his religious Superior in the Society of Jesus.
By the vow of chastity, a Jesuit consecrates his life entirely to the Lord, promising to live his life in a state of celibate chastity as a living witness to the Kingdom of God and a prophetic reminder that we are created finally for the future life with God. By this vow, the Jesuit brother or priest becomes available to love and to serve all people, not attached to one person or to one family.
By the vow of poverty, a Jesuit renounces personal ownership of material possessions, seeks greater solidarity with the poor, and shares all goods in common in imitation of the early disciples of Jesus. The vow of poverty calls a Jesuit to live simply, free from attachments in order to be fully available to serve the Gospel and witness to God as the one Lord of our lives.
Solemnly professed Jesuits take a special fourth vow of obedience to the Holy Father in the matter of missions, undertaking to go wherever they are sent. Professed Jesuits embrace this obedience as a distinctive grace conferred by the Lord on the Society through its founder so that Jesuits may be more closely united with God’s salvific will.
During the 1530s, St. Ignatius Loyola began writing about the emotions that took hold of him — feelings of gratitude and anguish, consolation and sadness — while encountering the Scriptures. Those meditations eventually became the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius Loyola, first published in 1548.
The Spiritual Exercises is a compilation of meditations, prayers and other contemplative practices. It is not like other classics in Western spirituality that are typically read from beginning to end. It is more like a handbook, especially for use by spiritual directors who accompany and guide people through this dynamic process of reflection.
The object is to help people develop their attentiveness, their openness and their responsiveness to God. In other words, the Exercises embody the characteristic themes of Ignatian spirituality. They are organized into four sections or “weeks.” These are steps along the path of spiritual freedom and collaboration with God’s activity in the world.
The Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States (JCCU) comprises five provinces, representing the entirety of those two countries: four provinces in the United States (West, Midwest, Central and Southern, East) and one in Canada. Additionally, the JCCU represents Jesuits from Belize, Fiji, Micronesia and Haiti.
A Jesuit Vocation Director (or Provincial Assistant for Vocations) is appointed by the provincial superior of each province (or region) to promote membership, to help others discern their vocation and to oversee the Vocation Office and its team. The vocation director formally accompanies, assesses and interviews every candidate of the province to determine his suitability for admission to the novitiate.
Jesuit Vocation Promoters serve as the first contact for an inquirer and work closely with the Vocation Director in screening and inviting suitable men into the province’s discernment program. Once a man is in discernment, the promoter seeks to provide him with general support, discernment counseling and pertinent information.
Discernment of a vocation is normally a gradual process. It involves a process in which an inquirer is assisted and accompanied as he continues to prayerfully discover the will of God and grow in his personal relationship with the Lord and his Church. Ordinarily the inquirer is invited to attend Jesuit vocation events and is provided other resources that enable him to know the Society of Jesus better and enable the Society to know the man better. When or whether an inquirer is be considered a candidate who may eventually apply for the novitiate is a determination made by the vocation director.
While the precise details of the application process may also differ somewhat depending on the province or region, it will likely include the following elements:
Each provincial makes the final decision regarding the acceptance of a candidate to begin the novitiate.
Released on February 19, 2019, the Jesuit Superior General, Rev. Arturo Sosa, S.J., announced four Universal Apostolic Preferences for the Society of Jesus over the next decade. These were identified through a fruitful process of discernment lasting almost two years. All Jesuits were invited to take part in the discernment process, which also included many representational mission partners. The process concluded with a confirmation from Pope Francis in a special meeting with Fr. Sosa.
The four Universal Apostolic Preferences are:
Novices typically enter the Society of Jesus through their local province. If you are from an area outside of the Conference of Canada and the United States, we encourage you to first check with your local Jesuit community.
See below for a list of Jesuit Conference around the world:
Overview of the Jesuit Conferences from the Curia in Rome
Jesuits of Africa and Madagascar
Jesuits of Latin America and the Caribbean
Jesuits of Europe and the Near East
We encourage you to explore the ministries and charisms of the many congregations of women religious, many of which follow the Ignatian charism. If you are based in the United States, click here. If you are based in Canada, click here.
The USA East Province is one of the five provinces in the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, incorporating Eastern part of the United States from Maine to Georgia and the District of Columbia. Jesuits from the UEA Province also live and serve in Micronesia and Fiji. The province includes colleges & universities like the College of the Holy Cross and Georgetown University, high schools like Fordham Preparatory School and Cristo Rey Jesuit High School in Baltimore, and a number of pre-secondary schools, parishes, retreat centers, and various other works.
Fr. Sean Hagerty, SJ, is the vocation promoter for the UEA Province. That means that Fr. Hagerty is responsible for accompanying men who are discerning a life in the Society of Jesus. He joined the Jesuits in 2012, after having served in the U.S. army. He has ministered in prisons, campus ministries and hospitals, and conducted research into just war, moral injury and the reintegration of soldiers into the Catholic community. He was just ordained a priest in 2022.
Fr. Hagerty is happy to answer YOUR questions about Jesuit life! Feel free to email him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or better yet, submit your information on the above form and someone from Fr. Hagerty’s team will get back to you ASAP.
The USA West Province is one of the five provinces in the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. It comprises ten states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. Jesuits in the west are a diverse group of men who serve Christ and his Church in 19 educational institutions, 13 parishes, 2 retreat centers, and other social and pastoral ministries like Homeboy Industries, Jesuit Restorative Justice Initiative (JRJI), Kino Border Initiative (KBI), Native American Missions, and Christus Ministries for young adults, to name a few.
Fr. Andrew Laguna, SJ, is the vocation promoter for the US West Province. That means that he is responsible for accompanying men who are discerning a life in the Society of Jesus. He has been a Jesuit for thirteen years and a priest for two years. Over the course of that time he has taught high school theology and coached running; worked and traveled with Jesuits in Latin America; and served as a parochial vicar at parishes in San Diego and San Jose, CA.
Fr. Andrew is here to answer your questions about Jesuit life! Submit your information, and he will get back to you as soon as possible.
Fr. Robert Murphy, SJ, grew up in the suburbs of New Orleans, LA. He met the Society of Jesus at Jesuit High School. At the University of South Alabama in Mobile, he earned a Bachelors of Science in Physical Therapy. While working as a staff physical therapist in Laurel, MS, he became a Certified Athletic Trainer. In 2003, he entered the Jesuit novitiate in Grand Coteau, LA. After taking first vows in 2005, he earned his Doctor of Physical Therapy at Saint Louis University while also studing philosophy. In addition, he spent time in El Salvador studying Spanish. While in regency at Jesuit College Preparatory School of Dallas, he served as director of campus ministry, a teacher of Spanish, and a coach of soccer. In 2011, he was sent to Boston College where he earned a Masters in Divinity and License in Sacred Theology. He was ordained a priest in 2014 and spent his first year at a bilingual parish in San Antonio, TX. After he returned to Saint Louis University, to serve as the campus minister for health care students and coordinator of the retreat program. After time Ireland and Kenya, he joined the vocations team in 2020. He enjoys running as well as playing and watching sports. He also likes traveling, cooking, and watching comic book movies and shows.
Fr. Joseph Hill, SJ, was born in Phoenix, AZ, the third of four sons of an American mother and a Canadian father. At nine years old he moved to England. He met the Jesuits in high school at Stonyhurst College. He attended the University of Oxford, earning a degree in theology in 2003. In 2004 he entered the Jesuit novitiate in south Louisiana. After taking first vows in 2006, he studied a Master’s in philosophy at Fordham University in New York. For regency, he then spent three years teaching theology at Jesuit High School, New Orleans. In 2012 he was sent to study theology at FAJE in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, earning a master’s degree in 2014. He returned to Boston, MA, earning a MEd at Boston College in 2015. He was ordained a Catholic priest on June 13th, 2015. For one year he was associate pastor at Parroquia San Ignacio in San Juan, Puerto Rico and chaplain of the parish elementary school. From 2016 to 2021 he taught theology and directed campus ministry at St. Louis University High School in St. Louis. He joined the vocation promotion team in 2021. Fr. Joseph loves teaching, giving retreats and leading pilgrimages to holy sites. In his free time he enjoys reading, playing sports, hanging out with friends, and travelling to exotic places.
Fr. Michael Wegenka, SJ, was born in Midland, Michigan, lived briefly in Carmel, Indiana, and grew up in Katy, Texas. He attended Strake Jesuit College Preparatory school and entered the Society of Jesus when he was 18. He received a B.A. in Philosophy and English Literature from Fordham University in 2011. He taught British Literature and Sacred Scripture to sophomores at Regis Jesuit High School in Centennial, Colorado for three years and then received an M.Div. from Boston College in 2017. He completed an S.T.L. in Historical/Systematic Theology at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and was ordained a priest in 2018. After spending a year as an associate pastor at St. Charles Borromeo parish in Grand Coteau, Louisiana, he served for three years as the Pastoral Director at his alma mater, Strake Jesuit College Preparatory in Houston. He became a vocation promoter in 2022 and now lives in Denver. He enjoys reading and discussing a Catholic novel, skiing, beating his older brother’s time in half-marathons, and spending as much time as possible near the Great Lakes or the mountains of Colorado and Wyoming.
They are ready to answer your questions about Jesuit life. Submit your information, and Fr. Murphy, Fr. Hill and Fr. Wegenka will get back to you as soon as possible.
The U.S. Central and Southern Province is one of five provinces in the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. The province encompasses 13 states from Florida to Colorado, the territory of Puerto Rico and the nation of Belize. We serve the people of God in seven retreat and spirituality centers and 14 parishes. We carry on the tradition of Jesuit education in six institutions of higher education, 12 secondary schools, a middle school and a social research institute.
The Province of Canada is one of the five Jesuit provinces in the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, incorporating all ten Canadian provinces and three territories. It includes Campion College in Regina, Loyola High School in Montreal, Manresa Jesuit Spiritual Renewal Centre in Pickering, and Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Toronto.
Fr. Edmund Lo, SJ, is the vocation promoter for the Canada Province and also Haiti. That means that Fr. Edmund is responsible for accompanying men who are discerning a life in the Society of Jesus. He’s been a Jesuit priest for two-plus years. Over the course of that time he’s mainly worked with young adults across Canada, busying himself with campus ministry in universities, directing retreats for young adults and giving workshops on Ignatian spirituality, particularly on St. Ignatius’ rules for discernment of spirits.
Brother Dan Leckman, SJ is a vocation promoter for the Canadian province. That means that Daniel is responsible for accompanying men who are discerning a life in the Society of Jesus. He’s been a Jesuit Brother for 10 years. Over the course of that time he’s acted as spiritual director, has run and developed retreats, and has taught catechism to children and adults. Daniel is here to answer YOUR questions about Jesuit life! Submit your information, and he will get back to you ASAP.
Fr. John O’Brien, SJ, is the vocation director for the Canada Province. That means that Fr. O’Brien is responsible for guiding men who are discerning a life in the Society of Jesus through the application process. He’s been a Jesuit priest since 2017. Over the course of that time he’s given many Ignatian retreats to young adults and professionals across the country
These Jesuits are here to answer YOUR questions about Jesuit life! Submit your information, and one of them will get back to you ASAP.
Br. Matt Wooters, SJ is a native of Washington, DC. He joined the Jesuits in 2012 after graduating from John Carroll University. After college, he served for two years with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in Belize. His graduate degrees are in Social Work and Theology from Saint Louis University and Santa Clara University, respectively. Br. Matt has spent most of his life working with folks experiencing homelessness, migrants, and those struggling with addiction. He is an open water swimmer, a sometimes podcaster, and a lover of stand-up comedy.
Fr. Eric was ordained a priest in June of 2022, and his first assignment is working with the vocation team for the Midwest Province. A native of Green Bay, WI, Eric’s Jesuit life has taken him to Boston, Chicago, and St. Paul. He’s studied Education, Philosophy, and Theology at the graduate level, and is currently working toward a degree in Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University in New Orleans, LA. In his free time, he enjoys exercise, reading and writing, playing the drums, singing, and watching sitcoms (especially Brooklyn 99, New Girl, and Parks & Recreation). In the past year, he picked up two new hobbies: Spikeball and squash.
Br. Matt and Fr. Eric accompany men considering a life in the Society of Jesus, serving across 12 states in the Midwest. They are passionate about sharing information on Jesuit life, answering questions, and accompanying people in discernment. Reach out, and they’ll get back to you ASAP.
The Midwest Province is one of the five provinces in the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. It comprises twelve states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Midwest Jesuits work at high schools, retreat centers, parishes, universities, and other ministries. If you watch March Madness, you probably recognize Midwest Jesuit universities like Creighton, Marquette, Xavier, and Loyola Chicago.