About Us
St. Ignatius Loyola writing the Spiritual Exercises, Campion Chapel

A Glossary of Jesuit Terms


The educational and pastoral institutions that the Society of Jesus sponsors are known as apostolates because their goal is to further the faith-spreading activity of the Church that flows out of the first apostles.


Provinces are grouped into "assistancies" corresponding to nations or regions. The North American provinces, for example, form a single "assistancy." Its administrative arm is the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States, located in Washington, D.C. The Conference supports the provincials and coordinates the relationships among all the various Jesuit entities.

Father General

Fr. General Arturo Sosa, SJ
Arturo Sosa, SJ

A provincial reports directly to the Superior General in Rome, where the central Jesuit government or "curia" is located. The current “Father General,” as  he is often called, is Fr. Arturo Sosa, a native of Venezuela, the first Latin American Superior General in the history of the Jesuits.


All the education, both formal and informal, and experiences that a man goes through to prepare himself to work as a Jesuit is called his "formation."

General Congregation

Jesuit leaders from around the world meet from time to time for what are called General Congregations, often to elect a new Superior General and address important issues facing the order, the Church, and the world. There have been only 36 general congregations throughout the history of the Jesuits, and they are the highest governing authority of the Society of Jesus. The most recent, General Congregation 36, occurred in 2016. 

Jesuit brothers

A Jesuit brother is a man who consecrates his life to help the mission of the Society in a wide variety of apostolic ministry but not in ordained, sacramental ministry.

Jesuit priests

A Jesuit priest is ordained for sacramental ministry in the Church. His title is "Father."

Jesuit scholastics

A young Jesuit who plans to be ordained as a priest is called a "scholastic" until he pronounces his Final Vows. Why? Because much of his formation involves studies.


Magis is the Latin word that means “more,” and it expresses the ideal of always seeking what gives more glory to God and would be the better choice and have a better impact on the world.


When a man is accepted to join the Society of Jesus, he spends two years as a novice. A novice spends much time in prayer as well as in a variety of apostolic experiences as he tries to be sure that he has a vocation as a Jesuit.  The Society of Jesus also studies the novice to be sure that he can be allowed to take vows of religious life at the end of the novitiate.


The community of novices, with a novice master as its superior, lives in the novitiate. The term also refers to the two-year period that ends with a novice taking first vows. The full 30-day retreat of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius are a key component of the novitiate experience.


Jesuit structure is not unlike that of the United States. The order is organized into geographic areas called “provinces,” which are like states. There are nearly 90 Jesuit provinces around the world (although their number and boundaries have never been static). There are six provinces in the United States and Canada. Every Jesuit belongs to a province, although he can be missioned anywhere in the world and does not necessarily remain within the geographic boundaries of a province.


Each province has a superior who is simply called "the provincial," and who normally serves a six-year term and is responsible for overseeing the mission of the province and caring for the Jesuits who belong to the province. Father Ronald Mercier, SJ, is the provincial for the USA Central and Southern Province. He will end his six-year term in 2020. 

Spiritual Exercises

The term refers both to the program of prayer and reflection that St. Ignatius Loyola developed and to the book, which has information to help the person who is directing someone who is going through the retreat. The full form of the Spiritual Exercises lasts approximately 30 days, but there are many variations in length.


Archives Contact Us Glossary
History Province Leadership Quick Facts

Sacred Heart Jesuit Retreat House
For those seeking to deepen their relationship with God, Sacred Heart Retreat House in Colorado is an oasis of peace.