In 1864, a new type of pilgrimage was implemented in Canada: the Jesuit novitiate pilgrimage. Since the creation of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1540, a month-long pilgrimage is one experience required of new members. This formative moment has been enshrined in the Constitutions of the order. The experience is also reminiscent of the journey of the founder, St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), who went to Jerusalem as a young man desirous to imitate Christ, and later applied the moniker ‘the pilgrim’ to himself in an account of his life confided in Luis Gonçalves da Câmara (1555). Pilgrimage was designed as a formative tool to prepare the novices for a life where apostolic availability and poverty were paramount. The experience was often realised after a month-long silent retreat called the Spiritual Exercises that nurtured their spiritual life. In the Canadian novitiate of the Society of Jesus, 1,456 novices undertook such pilgrimage between 1864 and 1968. After the conclusion of their journey, they would write a report on their experience. The Archive of the Jesuits in Canada contains an extended and coherent collection of 1,078 pilgrimage reports that have survived to present and provide invaluable information about the journeys of these pilgrims. This article explores the creation of this pilgrimage as a vernacular adaptation of a formative pilgrimage grounded in a long tradition, codified in the Jesuit Constitutions, and adapted through local ‘Rules for Pilgrims.’ The archival material demonstrates the crystallisation of pilgrimage report as a genre, offering a narrative of the experience in an apostolic key. The Canadian novitiate pilgrimage shares many characteristics with other types of pilgrimages, but shows its originality in its consistent care for personal reports and its core experience of discovery of the local Church through its parishes and pastors.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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