During the summers of 2021-2022, I will participate in a Tertianship program of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in preparation for my profession of final vows.
The Society of Jesus has a long formation process, on average ten years, before ordination to priesthood, and then several more years of pastoral experience or higher education before final vows are made. This final incorporation into Jesuit life occurs after participation in a program of final testing that has been called Tertianship, since it represents a third time of probation following the original scrutiny of one’s application to the Society of Jesus and the two-year novitiate experience. The goal of this final “school of the heart” is to produce men who are free to participate with Jesus in the unfinished work of the kingdom of God.
I have been a Jesuit for eighteen years and have been ordained a priest for the last thirteen of those years. While most Jesuits enter the Society of Jesus following university studies, my path was a different one. I entered at fifty years of age, after having worked as a pediatric endocrinologist and physician scientist at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, MD. It was there I heard call to leave the privileged world I had known to provide medical care to people in need in El Salvador during that country’s civil war of the 1980’s and early 1990’s. It proved to be an experience that transformed my life and was foundational to my entering the Society of Jesus.
While there are many Tertianship programs throughout the world, the one I will participate in will take place in Portland, OR. There, I will join several other Tertians along with three Jesuit instructors for this two-summer program. Together, we will examine and share our Jesuit lives, take part in the 30-day Ignatian silent retreat, explore the constitutions and history of the Society of Jesus, and take on, covid pandemic permitting, some apostolic assignment. It is a program that requires the freedom to put aside self-interest in order to seek the will of God and an authentic following of Jesus in our world today.
It is my fervent hope that the Spirit will lead me to a deeper understanding of my Jesuit vocation so that I might be of service to all God’s people, especially those most in need. It will also be a time to examine the work of A Faith That Does Justice, the nonprofit organization that I founded and lead, and to be open to where the Spirit may be leading it in its mission to help people of all faiths experience God by living their faith intentionally in service to others.
These summer months of Tertianship will offer me an exciting opportunity for self-renewal and recommitment to Jesuit life. I certainly welcome the opportunity! I will also look forward to communicating the gifts of this experience to you at some future time so we might all benefit from them and serve others in the process.
Meanwhile, I offer my blessings upon you during these summer months. I also ask for your prayers during this time of my preparation for my full incorporation into the Society of Jesus.