FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

Welcome to the FAQ page! We created the FAQs to help you quickly find the information you need. Each response includes links to even more information on our website. If your question isn't here, please click on the FAQ, "Where do I go if I have more questions?" 

How do I become a Catholic Sister or Nun?

There are many important segments along the journey of becoming a Catholic sister or nun. Among them are discerning your call through prayer and reflection, familiarizing yourself with religious life and particular communities, and seeing if you feel truly at home with a community.

You are not alone in figuring this all out! First and foremost, God is with you! God is the one who inspires the call within us, and God is the one who will be with you every step of the journey! The community with whom you are discerning is also with you -- their goal is to help you discern and to show you what their life is like -- community, ministry, and spirituality. It is also helpful to have a network of support through friends, family, and a spiritual director.

For more information, see our full guide, How to Become a Catholic Nun. Although this guide is for women attracted to religious life, it can also be applied to women or men considering other vocations.


How do I join an international congregation?

If you're from India, Africa, the Philippines, or just looking to join an international congregation, there are several ways you can find information on becoming a Catholic sister or nun. First, check your local diocesan website for information on sisters in your area.  If your diocese does not have the information you are looking for, do an Internet search for congregations near you. By searching online, you will find many links to various communities including, the Sisters of Mercy in South Africa, and the Sisters of Notre Dame in the Philippines. Some communities were founded in the particular countries and some were founded elsewhere but have a presence in that country.

For daily news on Catholic sisters and nuns throughout the world. check out Global Sisters Report.

What is the difference between a sister and a nun?

The terms "nun" and "sister" are often used interchangeably. However within Roman Catholicism, there is a difference between the two. It might not be what you think! Check out our handy guide What is the difference between a sister and a nun?

What is a day in the life of a sister or nun like?

Just as there is no such thing as one kind of nun, there's no such thing as one kind of day in the life of a nun! Customs vary across congregations, and in addition, each individual sister will have a routine particular to her day. But there will always be 3 common elements to a sister's day: prayer, community, and ministry. Find out more by clicking on one of the links below or ask a nun you know what she does all day! You just might be surprised!


What makes one religious community different from another?

Aren't all nuns the same? So why are there hundreds of religious communities instead of just one? Which one then is right for me? Religious life is a great gift to the Church and world. Just as there are many different kinds of people, families, and communities, there are different kinds of religious communities, each with a unique gift from the Spirit.

Central to all religious communities is the commitment to be faithful to Jesus the Christ and to live and proclaim the Gospel -- indeed this is central to all Christians! How each community does this is a little bit different depending on how God has called them.

  • Religious communities have different saints and founders after whom they model their life. For example, Carmelites use the model of Saint Teresa of Avila and Saint John of the Cross to follow Jesus; Franciscans use the model of Saint Francis and Saint Clare of Assisi.
  • Religious communities have a particular missions that are their main focus -- to be contemplatives, to serve those who are economically poor, to witness to joy, to educate, to pray, to be healers, etc.
  • Religious communities have certain customs unique to their founding and history as well as to how the Spirit is calling them ever a new. These customs may be around prayer, clothing, community life, vows, etc.

Finding a religious community that is right for you means finding the one that feels most at home to you, where you feel like their particular "flavor" of being a Catholic sister or nun delights and sets you on fire for serving God and the world! The best way to figure this out is to go and hang out with sisters -- in one community and in multiple communities. This will help you get a feel for some of the differences as well as how you feel in the midst of them in terms of how God is drawing you!


How do I find a sister I used to know?

Maybe it was that special sister who taught you in second grade, or that nun who knew the exact thing to say when you were in the hospital, or an ancestor in your family tree that was a nun. However you may know her, you want to know how to get in touch with her or her religious congregation.

Here are some suggestions on how to find a Catholic sister or nun:

  1. If you know what religious congregation Sister belonged to, contacting them is the best first step. If you are not sure of the exact name, do a quick Internet search for all the religious communities in the area where she was. Most religious communities have a website with contact information.
  2. Contact the school, parish, hospital, or organization where you knew Sister. Many such organizations have records of all of the people who worked or volunteered there. It will be helpful to have the year and as much information as you know about her.
  3. You might also check the local parish or diocese to see if they are familiar with Sister or with the religious communities that ministered in the area. See the Diocesan Locator on the website of the US Catholic Bishops.
  4. If Sister is an ancestor, you might also check genealogy websites and search tools such as censuses, baptismal records, and archives.

#Pro-Tip: Keep in mind that Sister may be known by a different name as Catholic sisters and nuns may have originally taken on a religious name but now use their baptismal name.

Why do some nuns wear habits and others do not?

Each religious community of Catholic sisters and nuns has its own customs regarding their appearance including both type of clothing and religious symbols (e.g., crucifix, medals, congregational crest) that they wear. Some customs may call for wearing modest, modern dress suitable for the particular culture a sister lives and ministers within. Some may call for uniform dress often called a "habit," where all sisters wear the same style outfit.

Often times it is assumed that all Catholic sisters and nuns wear a habit that is a full-length, black and white dress, with veil or headdress. This image has too often been used as a divisive stereotype that does not do full justice to Catholic sisters and nuns who wear this type of habit or who do not wear a habit. It is the custom of some congregations to wear the habit because for them it is a symbol of their commitment to God and their connectedness to their sisters. Congregations who have the custom of wearing modest, modern dress also do so as a symbol of their relationship with God and their mission. They have other forms of expressing a common visual symbol such as a common crucifix or significant congregational symbol.

There are typically a number of historical and theological reasons for the customs that religious communities hold, and it's important to note that these varieties in customs are acceptable in the Church. The customs are part of the formal "rule of life" (or constitutions) of a community which is recognized and approved by by the Church.


What makes a good gift for a nun?

Are you trying to figure out what would make the perfect jubilee or holiday gift? Check out our definitive nun gift-giving guide 7 ideas for Giving Gifts to Nuns.


What are the age requirements for becoming a nun?

The age requirements for becoming a nun vary across congregations. The "usual" range is about age 18 to 40. The lower age limit is to encourage young women to go to college and to "experience life," both of which are very helpful for discernment as well as for maturing. The upper age limit is often more challenging as many women over the age of 40 experience a calling to religious life. Some congregations state explicitly that they will discern with women who are older than 40 while others will deal with the issue of age on a person-by-person basis. If you are attracted to a religious community and concerned about age, talk with the vocation director or perhaps a sister you know in the community.


Do all nuns consider themselves the Brides of Christ?

For some people it is helpful to image their relationship with God as being like a spouse of Christ. This imagery comes from Scriptural passages such as the references in the New Testament to Jesus as the bridegroom or to the Church as being the bride of Christ. Sometimes religious women and men also see themselves as spouses of Christ as a way to symbolize their commitment to God. This bridal imagery is one way among many that Christians can use to speak about their relationship with God. Other images include Jesus as friend, or the Good Shepherd, or a loving parent.


How do I know if God is calling me?

We are all given a unique call in life. For some, the calling is religious life, for others it's marriage or a particular kind of work. Discovering your calling can be both exciting and, at times, challenging. The good news is God is always by your side! Click here for Sister Cheryl's blog post on how to tune into God's call.


Who can I contact to help me understand how God is calling me?

Whether you're discerning a vocation to religious life, a particular ministry, marriage, or any kind of significant commitment, it's helpful to talk with someone about the process! Meeting regularly with a spiritual director can help you discover more deeply how God is calling you. If you are thinking about becoming a Catholic sister or nun, a vocation director can help you with your discernment and getting to know religious life.

Where can I find information on becoming Catholic?

Thinking about joining the Catholic fold? We'd love to have you! The formal process for entering the Church is called the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). To find out more about RCIA programs in your area, check your local parish or diocesan website.


Do Catholics pray to Mary and the Saints?

Mary the Mother of Jesus holds a special place in the lives of many as an example of what it means to say "yes" to God. Mary, who is always pointing the way to Jesus, is revered for her faithful love and acceptance. Catholics look to Mary and the Saints as people who can go to God with prayers on our behalf, believing that God answers prayers.


Where can I find resources about the Catholic faith and the Church?

At A Nun's Life, our journey with God is rooted in our Catholic faith. Whether you're interested in becoming Catholic, or if you want to grow more deeply in your Catholic faith, we encourage you to explore the rich Catholic tradition. Check out our Catholic Faith Series which features articles on Jesus, the Holy Spirit and other aspects of our faith.

For more information on the Catholic faith, visit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website.

Where do I go if I have more questions?

Not to worry! There's still lots more to find at aNunsLife.org! Here are a few other ways to find what you need.

  1. Click on the search icon at the top of the page and type in the keywords you are searching for, such as "spiritual direction" or "catholic prayer".
  2. Click on the "Topics" icon in the upper left hand corner of the website for a menu of all the main topics of the website.
  3. Use Google's search engine to find stuff on aNunsLife.org. All you have to do is go to Google.com and type in the search box the keyword or phrase you want info on, e.g.,  "calling from God" (quotes not necessary). Right after you type keyword or phrase, type the term "site:anunslife.org". Google will then give you all the results for the keyword or phrase that are on our website.
  4. If you've tried all of the above but have a unique question, please send us an email.