For the past five months, Rev. Stephen Surovick, S.J., Senior Director of Mission and Ministry, was in Portland, Ore., to complete his third probation, or final stage of his Jesuit formation. Here he offers a reflection on his time there.

‘It’s when we get the lightsaber.’ This is how I would often, jokingly, describe Tertianship when asked. From the Latin for ‘third,’ it is known as the ‘third probation,’ the third and final stage of formation for a Jesuit. First Probation lasts two weeks, giving a new Jesuit novice the chance to confirm with God and the Society of Jesus whether to officially enter the novitiate, the first two years of Jesuit life. The length of Second Probation varies, but typically encompasses about 10 years of studies and work, potentially followed by ordination to the priesthood. A Jesuit would then be invited to Tertianship approximately 5-10 years later. Upon completion of Tertianship, a Jesuit is eligible for final vows, when one can be considered a caretaker of the Society of Jesus itself. And while there are Tertian programs located all over the world, the pandemic made that a difficult prospect. So I ended up in Portland, Oregon from January until May. Think of it as a sacred sabbatical.

My class consisted of nine Jesuits from the U.S., Canada, Ireland, Slovenia, Egypt, Cameroon, Congo, and Indonesia, providing a real sense of the international nature of the Society of Jesus. With three Jesuit directors, we were in good hands as we read through St. Ignatius’ life story, the founding documents of the Society of Jesus, the documents of the Second Vatican Council and General Congregations (international meetings) of the Jesuits. Combined, it was a great opportunity to revisit a lot of the material we read as novices but this time with 18 years of experience and, hopefully, a little wisdom under my belt. It was a good refresher that allowed for deeper understanding of how God is moving in and through the world and the world-wide Society of Jesus. And while we are far from being a perfect group, I was heartened by the reality that we continue to strive to discern God’s will for us in the midst of a world with many needs. Like many, we are still trying to figure it out, and so we remain open to how the Spirit moves and what it inspires in us.

Tertianship also included St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises, the 30-day, silent Long Retreat. Having done this once as a novice, it was a great opportunity to again engage in one of the great legacies of St. Ignatius, but this time with even greater depth of movement and understanding. After an experience like this, the best I can sum it up is to say I am falling in love with Jesus, and the company that bears his name, all over again. Experiencing something like this will take some time to fully unpack its meaning and depth, but that process is well underway. So far it has proven a deep and moving renewal of my vocation as a Jesuit from which I experience great consolation and inspiration for the journey ahead.

I am excited that my journey ahead includes returning to St. Joseph’s Prep in the Office of Mission and Ministry, helping out with retreats, service opportunities, liturgies, and the faith formation of faculty, staff, students, parents, and alumni. And there is a great, new Spirit moving through the halls of 17th and Girard beyond a renewed Jesuit vocation. We are welcoming, and welcoming back, a new Campus Minister this summer. John Dougherty ’04 comes to us after years in a similar position at St. Peter’s Prep, the all-boys, Jesuit high school of Jersey City, NJ. John will make a great addition to the team, along with Katie Iannacone Longto, who started with us this past fall. Together, we are well poised to continue to provide many opportunities for all to connect with one another and their faith. So please let us know if there is anything we can do for you. May God bless you, and may God continue to bless St Joseph’s Prep.

Unfortunately, the Dean’s Office won’t let me display the lightsaber in my office, but trust me, it’s pretty cool.