What motivates a person to become a nun?

Blog Published: June 29, 2012
By Sister Julie

Question from a blog reader …

Hi Sister, what motivation did you have to become a nun? Why did you choose that type of career/life??

You asked what my motivation was for becoming a nun. Well, I didn’t really plan on becoming a nun. My motivation was to live my life the best way I could as a young, single, Catholic woman. I knew my options were single life, married life, and religious life. I figured that I was destined for married life. I always wanted to be married and to be a mom. But, I decided I’d check out the religious thing just to say “been there, done that” … so I wouldn’t have any doubts about that NOT being my call. Well, that didn’t happen.

It turns out it was my call. I think deep down, I recognized that I was most fully myself when I was in tune with God. It just so happened that for me, that meant living the lifestyle of a religious. For others, it may mean living a married life, being a parent, becoming ordained or choosing single life. Whatever lifestyle God calls us to is IT, the best one for us. I realized that to be true to myself meant that I had to let go of something and let God do the driving. I still am quite a back seat driver, but more and more I am able to say “not my will, but yours be done.”

Being a nun is more of a way of life than it is a career. I think of a career as something that at the end of the day or week, I can come home and do my ordinary stuff. I’m “off duty” so to speak. Just like being married is not a career, being a nun is not really a career because being a nun is part of who I am. It’s like I’ve got this IHM “DNA” now that is as much a part of me as my family is. As with married life, our vows are for life — in good times and in bad.

In a way, I wasn’t the one who first chose this life of being a nun. It’s like it chose me. I know that sounds kinda weird, but it’s true. It’s not something I ever would have thought would “fit” me. Yet, by golly, it does. Once I realized that this is what God was calling me to, I had to take the time and space to choose it for myself, to make God’s call my own, to embrace it freely. After some major resisting, running, and denial, I was able to freely choose this life, knowing that it is the best way I can be me and serve God and the world.

Archived Comments

Katie July 2, 2012 at 5:33 pm

I am kind of in the running, resisting and denial stage…… How did you handle telling your family and friends? I know telling my family/friends is going to be extremely hard because they don’t see it as my calling, like I do.

Sister Julie July 2, 2012 at 10:38 pm

Hi Katie, Thanks for the question. For me, I waited a bit until I was more sure about becoming a nun. I knew family and friends would have a lot of questions (and random comments) and I wanted to feel more grounded myself so I could respond. It helped thought to have someone to talk to — my spiritual director, friends in my prayer group. It’s never easy to take the plunge but you can do it at your own pace and in a way that feels best to you.

BTW check out Ask Sister episode 116 which included telling people that you want to become a nun. Hope it helps!

Marissa July 4, 2012 at 8:52 pm

Hi Katie,

Although I am not a sister (yet), I totally understand your situation. From what I have experienced, it is different for every woman who discerns religious life (and also for every man who discerns the priesthood). For me, my friends have been IMMENSELY supportive of me, even helping me to get a move on when I have become lazy and inactive in my discernment.

However, my family is not so supportive. To them, being Catholic means to be baptized, attend church most Sundays as well as Christmas and Easter, have a Catholic wedding to another Catholic, and have a Catholic funeral when you die. No more, no less. (When my aunt became a sister at age 18, her mother didn’t speak to her for 10 years, and when another aunt left the Catholic faith, she was shunned from the family until she died tragically). Because of this, I haven’t even told my extended family about my call to be a Bride of Christ.

My mom does know, and at first thought it was just a phase I was going through. Then she realized that I was serious and was furious about it, trying to tell me that it wasn’t my call. Now, she is more accepting of it, but doesn’t want me to join any orders which will limit how often I can come home (which unfortunately rules out the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia who I am called to join). With more time and prayer, I know she will have a change of heart. The Lord will move her heart just as he moved my grandma’s heart.

My advice to you: don’t stress out too much if people are not supportive of you. After all, imagine how the families and friends of the Apostles felt when they gave up their lives to wander around with a homeless carpenter who was perceived as a Jewish heretic. Catholicism has never been about pleasing the masses, but by following the Lord’s call, you may change many hearts.

Finally, PRAY TO MARY!!! Our Blessed Mother understands better than anyone else what it means to be in this situation. When she conceived of Jesus, she was in danger of death if anyone discovered her pregnancy, but she remained faithful and accepted her role as a servant of the Lord. If you ask her to intercede for you, she will bless you and lead you even closer to her Son.

Sister Julie July 5, 2012 at 9:41 am

Hi Marissa! Thanks for sharing your experience. Sorry it’s been tough for you. Keep true to your calling and hang in there with your family and friends — they love you and want what is best for you.

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