Ask Sister Dina: how long does it take to become a sister?
Dear Sister Dina,
My question is how long is the process of becoming a sister?
– From Bryce Crosley via Facebook
The process of becoming a sister can be long. It is driven by prayerful discernment in living out the Congregation’s God-given mission within community. To do this a person has to dedicate themselves to listening in love to where God may be calling her.
Those who discern a call to become a Catholic religious sister must first be a practicing Roman Catholic. (We’ve had at least one sister hear the call before she became Catholic, so her first step was the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), a program which introduces a person to the Catholic faith). Seeking spiritual direction, visiting and getting to know more about Congregations of religious sisters, even doing some web searching, are all good ways for a woman to start to explore.
Getting to know you
When a woman wants to get to know a particular community better, she will often be put in touch with the vocation director. An inquiring woman will often participate in a Come & See weekend retreat with other Sisters of Providence, particularly the women who most recently entered the Congregation and the Congregation’s New Membership Team. During these weekends, the inquiring women begin to delve more deeply into the Congregation’s life and ministries.
When she and the vocation director feel that the time is right, the inquiring woman may begin the application process. During this time, she looks more deeply into the various aspects and relationships of her life that may or may not speak to and affirm a growing call to religious life.
Postulant, novice, vows
If her application is accepted by the Congregation, the woman is invited to enter the postulancy, which lasts at least 10 months. In this time of personal growth, the postulant learns more about religious life, communal living and apostolic service. If by discerning herself, and with the community she feels led to continue in religious life, the postulant would then enter the novitiate via a simple ceremony.
The canonical novitiate, a period of 12 consecutive months, helps the novice grow in internalizing Gospel values. After the canonical year, the novice may enter the mission novice year, which allows her to integrate her spirituality with some form of apostolic service.
As mission novice year wraps up, the novice and the community discern profession of first vows. According to our Constitutions, the sister now “becomes a member of the Congregation, declaring her commitment to [God] and her acceptance of the demands of a life lived according to the Gospel.” This period of first profession lasts one year.
Temporary vow profession generally lasts six years from first profession. The sister can renew her vows for one, two or three years. Before discerning perpetual vows, sisters must be temporarily professed for at least three years. While the sister is under temporary vows, she further examines and discerns the authenticity of her call to religious life with the Sisters of Providence as she lives her life in community and active service through ministry.
After her temporary vow period, the sister may make a request to join her life forever to that of the Congregation through perpetual profession. Upon affirmation, the sister enters a sacred period of preparation before professing perpetual vows, which includes, among other things, a 30-day retreat. This period of preparation is to deepen the sister’s relationship with Christ in her continuing growth as a member of the Congregation. After this preparation period, the sister professes perpetual vows during a Eucharistic celebration.
Quite the process
Overall, Bryce, the process of becoming a sister is quite lengthy. Not including the time of discernment before entering the postulancy, the time between entrance and perpetual vows can range from 7 to around 12 years. It involves a woman’s openness to hearing the call to religious life within her life and heart, developing a relationship with the community to which she feels called, and the sister and community freely journeying together in their growing communion with God and living out their God-given mission.
I hope this answers your question and/or spawns more inquiries. You can find more about the process of becoming a sister on our website under Join. Thank you again for your question. Please know that I hold you in prayer.
Peace and blessings,
Sister Dina Bato
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