Decree 7: “Tertianship,” General Congregation 32 (1975)

The 31st General Congregation’s tenth decree encouraged “new experiments” with the structure of the tertianship process, the time just before a Jesuit makes final vows. In the following decree, the delegates to the 32nd General Congregation revisit the topic. The decree approves two plans for tertianship to be adopted by in “different provinces and regions” in the Society of Jesus.

For more from the 32nd General Congregation of the Society of Jesus, please consult this page.



1.     Just as the 31st General Congregation, so also the 32nd General Congregation holds the institution of tertianship in high regard. Therefore, provincials should urge priests and coadjutor brothers who have not yet made their tertianship to do so as soon as possible.

2.     The tertianship of the coadjutor brothers enjoined by the 30th General Congregation is to be observed faithfully, for it has contributed much to the spiritual advancement of the brothers. When it is judged opportune, and the provincial permits, this period of formation may be made together with our priests or candidates for the priesthood.

3.     The 32nd General Congregation approves two tertianship plans, A and B, understanding that, with Father General’s approval, they may be adopted in different provinces and regions:

Plan A: After completing the Society’s required studies of theology, the candidate will enter his third probation. The experiment of the month-long Spiritual Exercises is to be made within the first months of the tertianship. Then, allowing for a suitable interval after the retreat, ordinations to the diaconate and priesthood will take place. During the course of the tertianship, a solid knowledge of the Institute and a deeper understanding of the spirit of the Society are to be fostered; but a notable part of the time after priestly ordination is to be devoted to ministries, primarily pastoral, under competent supervision. At the end of this tertianship year, the priests can be promoted to final vows. In individual cases, and for a just cause, the provincial is authorized to postpone a scholastic’s entry into tertianship; but if this is done, priestly ordination and final vows will likewise be postponed.

Plan B: When the third year of theology is completed and an appropriate spiritual preparation has been made, the scholastic can receive ordination to the priesthood. After ordination, and some time after the course of studies is finished, tertianship is to be made; this should be done not later than three years after priestly ordination, except for a just cause, with the provincial’s approval.

It is better that the tertian have an assignment and work in an apostolic community, provided that, in the judgment of the Instructor, this assignment and work are compatible with the experiments and duration of residence required in the forms of tertianship approved by Father General, so that while in an active life, the tertian may be formed to be a Jesuit contemplative in action.



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 32, Decree 7, “Tertianship,” pg. 333–334 [187–190].

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