Am I Called?
Paying attention to the still, small voice of God can be a challenge in a world of rapid-fire ‘tweets’ and ‘texts.’ Yet even in this electronic age, we find that some women recall the first stirrings of a vocation to the vowed religious life in their teens or earlier. Many who ‘enter the convent’ in their late 20s and 30s indicate they are responding to a call that has unfolded gradually, but insistently, over the years.
This period of attentiveness to the voice of God and prayerful reflection on one’s vocation is called discernment. As Christians, we all are called to discipleship; we all benefit from periods of reflection on God’s will for our lives.
For those considering a religious vocation with our sisters or another religious community, here are stages in the discernment process.
Initial discernment: A period of questioning, prayer and reflection on how to live one’s life in response to God’s call to discipleship.
Affiliacy: A period of continuing discernment about one’s possible vocation to a vowed life with a congregation of religious women. For the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth (CSFN), this period may last from six months to two years. Most affiliates live with the sisters in a convent.
Postulancy: The community and the candidate accept each other for a period of structured discernment, usually two years.
Novitiate: The candidate works with the community and the novice ministress to learn more about the community’s charism (special call), its history, its spirituality. This two-year period includes additional time for contemplation, reflection and structured retreats.
Temporary profession: At the end of the novitiate, candidates petition for acceptance as a temporary professed sister. These women profess vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and renew their vows on an annual basis for five to seven years.
Perpetual vows: After five to seven years living with the community as a temporary professed sister, the candidate may petition for permission to profess her final vows.