A year ago, almost to the day, I returned to Canada from a year of spiritual renewal in Ireland. That experience, called Tertianship (referred to, among Jesuits, as the “Third-Year”), is like a sabbatical, when Jesuit are invited to deepen their sense of vocation, mission, and community life. A time when he links his spiritual and human experience, in a profound way, which revisits his first two years of formation when he was a novice. The Jesuit will often live this experience in a different country than his own, in the company of other Jesuits, from around the world. In my group, for example, we were thirteen Jesuits from thirteen different countries!
You could ask, “Why do you call it the “Third-Year” or “Tertianship”? The answer is that our period of incorporation and formation in the Jesuit Order is something like a big parenthesis. The first parenthesis begins with two years of novitiate (a time of learning and initiation to religious and apostolic Jesuit life); and the second parenthesis ends with a final year of deepening and spiritual healing before the order offers you final vows.
That is why, we call this year (which involves both prayer and experiments similar to our first 2 years of novitiate), the “Third Year” or “Tertianship”. “What’s going on between these two parentheses? “, you might ask… Well, years of arts, philosophical, and theological training, along with specialized graduate studies, and years of ministry that depends on the man’s qualification (i.e. high school or university education, social work, pastoral care, medicine, etc.).
All in all, between these “two parentheses”, between the first years of novitiate and the Tertianship, which precedes final vows in the order, it may take between 15 and 24 years! Some people will say that you have to be patient to be a Jesuit, and they are correct. The joy, however, I feel to work for you, and with you, today deserves, all these years of preparation!
Looking forward to seeing you in a future publication!
Fr. Michel Lessard, SJ