Forming American Jesuits (1805-1978): Building Educationally and Pastorally Effective Resources

Stephen Richard Kerbs Exhibit Area

It is very uncertain how long the Spirit of the Society will be kept alive, at least in [America]. . . .We have been so much employed in ministries foreign to our Institute; we are so inexperienced in government; the want of books, even of the [Jesuit] Constitutions and decrees of the Congregations, is so flagrant, that you cannot find one Jesuit among us sufficiently qualified . . . to fulfill the duties of Superior.

--John Carroll, a former Jesuit and first bishop of British America (c. 1805)

Beginning in 1805 with five out of the ten surviving members of the pre-suppression Society, Jesuits began to rebuild the four institutions that are core to the formation of new Jesuits: (1) an initial two years focused on Ignatian spirituality (novitiate) and one more year at the end of formation (tertianship); (2) two years of humanity studies (juniorate); (3) three years of philosophy; (4) four years of theology including priestly pastoral training. The spirituality and humanistic studies were usually housed together, as sometimes were philosophy and theology studies. Each of the houses had at least two libraries: one for the scholastics and brothers; another for the priests who taught and managed the formation programs.

This exhibit focuses primarily on the East Coast Jesuits’ attempt to correct for Carroll’s mentioned “flagrant” want of books and the resulting ignorance of things Jesuit. The institution-building involved two tracks: one focused on spirituality/humanities and the other on philosophy/ theology/pastoral. Each track moved from location to location as larger and improved housing became necessary. The libraries of each new house often took in what had been previously accumulated, then expanded those holding with materials bought or donated, most often from Europe.

Many of these resources were eventually gathered into Woodstock College, especially when it moved from Maryland to New York City, then to Washington. The map and the two charts trace that growing collection. Prints of a few title pages with often multiple location stamps are displayed here, suggesting where materials entered and moved among the collections.