Steps of Formation

Jesuits acknowledge that all that God has given us is a gift to be used at the service of humanity. They use different means to face the challenges and offer good proposals in response to what society proposes today. This is achieved through intense intellectual and prayerful formation which helps us be well prepared to be instruments in God's hands.

Jesuit formation is a time where the person grows in all aspects of his humanity depending on the man's background and course of studies. The Maltese Jesuit spends many years of formation in various countries abroad. This is an excellent opportunity to meet other Jesuits from all over the world and to experience the universality of this society.

  • Candidacy and Application: When young men are interested to start to discern their vocation seriously, we offer a guided process of spiritual accompaniment. This is a time of tasting what Jesuit life is about through various experiences. After this candidacy process, the person goes through an application process by which the society accepts him for novitiate.
  • Novitiate: This is the first step where the novice begins to live religious community life and learns the traditions, rules and expectations of the Society. Maltese novices experience this stage in Genoa, together with novices from Italy and some other European countries. This time of novitiate includes a number of ‘experiments' including service to the poor and needy. The climax of the novitiate is the Spiritual Exercises in a thirty-day retreat. After these two years of prayer, work and study, the novice pronounces simple perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience either as a brother or as a scholastic who will prepare for priestly ordination.
  • Philosophy Studies or University Studies: To respond effectively to the demands of a far-reaching apostolate, the Society aims 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. Those who already have university formation do some years of philosophy as a groundwork to their theological studies further on.
  • Regency is the next period of formation. The Jesuit works for two or three years in a school or other approved apostolate and lives in an apostolic community usually in Malta.
  • Theological Studies: After regency, Jesuit scholastics begin an intensive three-year study of theology which leads to priestly ordination.
  • Priestly Ordination: This may be one of the most important land marks but it is not the end of the journey! The new priest is now a minister of Word and Sacrament and will be engaged in full-time apostolic work or special studies.
  • Tertianship: The Jesuit completes his formal formation of prayer, guidance and studies with tertianship. This time is a few months of reflection about his development as a person and a Jesuit Priest. He again makes the Spiritual Exercises in full and will also be engaged in ministries which are different from the ones he is normally involved in.
  • Final Vows:  After the tertianship period, the Jesuit is invited by the Society to make his final vows. This solidifies the bond between the Jesuit and his Lord through the Society.


  • Ready and willing to be sent

This may seem a long journey but ever since the first vows a scholastic or brother is always part of the Society, enriching it by his presence, prayer, influence, studies and ultimately also by sharing in the Province's ministry. This long period of formation aims to help the Jesuit grow more fully as a human being and to acquire wisdom, learning, compassion to proclaim the Good News in different situations and to different people. He becomes a man able to be sent, for mission wherever there is need.

  • Ongoing formation

Formation never stops. All Jesuits are invited to keep learning and growing to respond to the fast-paced challenges of our world.

Fr. Pedro Arrupe, Superior General of the Society of Jesus 1965-1983, 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." 

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