Perhaps the hardest thing about becoming a nun is just coming to the decision to begin the journey! We can find ourselves dragging our heels deciding what to do about that nagging nudge from God that keeps popping up ... or a restless sense that our present life is not enough! What to do when there is an emptiness that keeps turning us back to God? Deciding to take the first step towards sisterhood is the hardest.
Most religious congregations have a similar process of working with an applicant during their discernment time, then giving them an application form to fill out when they seem to be ready to move ahead. A number of other steps follow such as writing an autobiography, completing physical and psychological exams, gathering school transcripts, sacramental records, and submitting references from those who have filled out a questionnaire about the applicant.
All these steps in the application process are to help the community and the applicant to assess readiness for life in a particular apostolic or monastic community. It is important for the applicant and the religious order to not be misled in seeking entrance to the particular congregation. Does the applicant have sufficient physical and emotional health to undertake entering a new lifestyle at this time? Are there unresolved family or personal issues that would make it difficult to enter the formation process freely and peacefully? Is there an average healthy readiness to begin life in community, and to become engaged in the life and ministries of the congregation?
Often after writing a letter of request to enter the community, there is a face-to-face meeting with the congregation’s major superior or leadership personnel. After the paperwork is in order and the meetings have taken place, then a time of joyfully preparing a welcome ceremony if the applicant is accepted for entrance. It's a wonderful time of celebration for the applicant and community!
While there can be cases of cold feet during this discernment and application time, there is often a sense of peace and confirmation that comes from moving on the Spirit’s call. The God who calls will give the grace and strength to respond to that call. God initiates the process and will faithfully assist and accompany us in every step of the journey leading to the fulfillment of our vocation!
What are some other questions you might have about the process of joining religious life?