Committing themselves fully to God and to life in the Society of Jesus, nine Jesuit novices professed their first vows in front of a large congregation of their family, friends and brother Jesuits on August 13, 2016, at Holy Cross Church in DeWitt, N.Y.
First vows are professed after a Jesuit completes two years of formation in the novitiate. Unlike many other religious orders, first vows in the Society of Jesus are perpetual. Each Jesuit is promising to spend the rest of his life living in poverty, chastity and obedience. It is on this day that they add the letters S.J. after their names. For other religious orders, first vows are often temporary, lasting about two to three years.
In preparing to take first vows, Jesuit novices study the Constitutions of the Society and Ignatian writings, as well as make the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, a 30-day retreat, which is the foundation for Jesuit life. In addition to studies, novices begin actual assignments— hospital ministry, soup kitchens, mission work and teaching at Jesuit high schools—all to help ready themselves for lives of service.
With their time at the novitiate complete, these SJs will move on to philosophy studies as Jesuit scholastics, furthering their path to the priesthood or as a Jesuit brother. “Taking first vows makes it official that you want to join the Society of Jesus—that you want to live your life as a Jesuit,” said Tom Elitz, SJ, one of the nine men who professed first vows this year. Interestingly enough, another, Nathan Sparks, SJ, already an ordained priest from the Diocese of Rapid City, N.D., decided he wanted to be a Jesuit priest. He has now begun studies in the classics at Columbia University.