Decree 10: “Tertianship,” General Congregation 31 (1966)

The delegates at the 31st General Congregation reflected on tertianship (or the third probation), not with a desire to eliminate the process but rather to renew and adapt it within the context of the Second Vatican Council. Tertianship is essentially a year of probation, when a Jesuit examines his vocation before taking final vows. In the following decree, the delegates encourage “new experiments” with the structure of the tertianship process. The decree gives leeway to provincials and instructors to “try new and suitable experiments” to achieve the long-sought desires with tertianship. For more on tertianship and the context of 31st General Congregation, see “The Origins of the Jesuit Tertianship: Meaning, Interpretation, Development,” by Antony Rehuan in Woodstock Letters 94.4 (1965): 407–426.

For more from the 31st General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, please consult this page.



1.     The 31st General Congregation, having a high regard for the institution of the third probation, which is defined by our holy Father St. Ignatius in the Constitutions and praised in apostolic letters and the documents of the Society, and yet at the same time aware of the difficulties which beset the third probation, seeks its adaptation and renewal. This renewal, which should help to achieve more efficaciously the purposes intended by the founder himself, should be carried out according to the norms of the Second Vatican Council, the principles of the religious life, and the apostolic goal of the Society, which are proposed in other documents of this Congregation.

2.     This renewal will be especially brought about by the particular care taken to acquire an interior knowledge and personal experience of the spirit of the Spiritual Exercises and the Constitutions, and to put this spirit into one’s own prayer and apostolic action.

3.     But since many modern difficulties concern the concrete ways in which the practice of this institution of the third probation is carried out, the Congregation, considering the different circumstances in different countries, concludes that for the present new experiments are to be attempted with regard to the structure of the third probation before anything is definitively decided for the whole Society.

4.     Therefore, in the different regions it shall be the duty of the provincials and instructors to try new methods and suitable experiments, with the approbation of Father General, so that the purposes set down in the Constitutions and in the Bull Ascendente Domino may be achieved again in our time. It is understood, moreover, that these purposes are to be renewed and adapted, in the light of the principles enunciated by this Congregation, to the circumstances of different regions.

5.     These experiments should be carried on for three years, or longer if Father General sees fit. When this period is finished, there shall be a meeting, which will be able to judge about the results of these experiments and shall be a help to Father General in writing a new Instruction and in revising the rules of the instructor.



Original Source (English translation):

Jesuit Life & Mission Today: The Decrees & Accompanying Documents of the 31st35th General Congregations of the Society of Jesus, ed. John W. Padberg. St. Louis, Mo.: Institute of Jesuit Sources, 2009, General Congregation 31, Decree 10, “Tertianship,” pg. 89 [188–192].