“Women Singing Earth,” by Mary Southard, CSJ
Sometimes Jesuit-educated women have limited exposure to the richness and variety of women’s spirituality and communal experience in the Catholic Church. We forget, as a young CSJ sister once told me with a smile, that “Charisms have congregations, not the other way around – the Ignatian charism has many congregations, of which the Society of Jesus is but one!” Even if you keep feeling called to be a Jesuit, it’s a pretty awesome experience not only to read about these congregations but actually visit them, or go to a discernment retreat hosted by the sisters. It’s a big, beautiful world out there!
The Congregation of Jesus (CJ), founded in 1609 formerly the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IVBM)
The Congregation of Saint Joseph (CSJ), founded in 1650 also known as the Sisters of St. Joseph (SSJ)
The Congregation of the Religious of the Virgin Mary (RVM), founded in 1684 formerly the Beatas de la Compañia de Jesús
The Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (RSCJ), founded in 1800 also known as rscjs, formerly the Madams of the Sacred Heart
The Congregation of the Religious of Jesus and Mary (RJM), founded in 1818
Faithful Companions of Jesus (FCJ), founded in 1820 also known as FCJ Sisters or Fidèles compagnes de Jesus
The Congregation of Our Lady of the Retreat in the Cenacle (rc), founded in 1826 also known as the Cenacle Sisters
The Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition (SJA), founded in 1841
The Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (MSC), founded in 1877 also known as the Cabrini Sisters
The Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (ACJ), founded in 1877
The Missionary Sisters of St. Peter Claver, founded in 1894
La Xavière (Filles de saint François Xavier), founded in 1921
Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara (the Servidoras or SSVM), founded in 1988
These are just a few – there are many more women’s orders founded on the Jesuit Constitutions and/or inspired by Ignatian spirituality, discernment, and call to mission. Some could be described as “twin orders” to the Society of Jesus, founded by women who originally felt called to the Society of Jesus, who found SJ methods useful and Ignatius inspiring, or who had befriended a Jesuit priest, whether as coworker, spiritual director, confessor, or even biological brother!
Also included in the list above are congregations for whom the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius are essential to formation and apostolic work. They may not feel themselves kin to Jesuit men specifically, but rather contribute their own particular stream of ministries and spirituality to the more expansive Ignatian charism flowing through the Church.
The list will grow, as I am always learning! Please contact me if you have a community to add. (I am indebted for her research to Gemma of the Cloisters webpage, which is dedicated to providing “safe harbor” to the new expressions of vocation that are always emerging in the Catholic Church.)