Frequently Asked Questions (Religious Life)
I have been asked many questions by friends and family about the process of entering religious life. These may help others interested or just curious about the process...
1. Do you wear the traditional habit?
The order that I belong to (Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart) and many other apostolic congregations do not require that members wear a habit. Some more conservative and monastic based congregations do still wear the traditional habit. The Sisters of St Joseph wear 'regular' clothes. Sisters basically dress simply. The reason for this is that Sisters want to be 'with' people. We are all called to holiness, we walk the same streets that everyone else does and believe in being part of the community. Sisters will wear a broach or necklace with a symbol that represents their congregation.
This short video also answers some common questions about > Sisters, Nuns, habits and even toothbrushes!
2. How long does it take to become a Sister?
There is no set-in-stone timing to this journey. Every congregation is a little different and for many congregations now cater the discernment journey for the individual.
An approximate breakdown is below:
1. There is an introductory time when the person gets to know about the Congregation and its ministries, and religious life in general. This takes as long as is necessary and for a time the person may live in a community of the Congregation. This latter time of living in used to be called Postulancy (approx 1-2years).
2. The person then applies to begin a stage of serious discernment and takes time as a Novice to the further development her own spirituality and a deeper understanding of Call (vocation). This time is usually known as the Novitiate (approximately 2years). A Spiritual (Canonical) year is first, and is followed by one of wider involvement in the ministries of the Congregation.
3. The first Profession of Vows occurs (generally for 3 years) and is then followed by a renewal of vows (generally for another 3 years).
4. Taking vows as a Life Commitment would generally follow approximately 6 years after First Profession.
5. In Summary; From beginning Postulancy to Final Vows the time frame would be approximately 10 years.
3. Can Sisters still use email, facebook etc?
Yes, absolutely. Most modern congregations encourage modern media & connecting with others in a modern and normal way. Some more monastic / cloistered based congregations do not use internet & social media (their focus is primarily on service through prayer). Even the Pope has a twitter account! @Pontifex
4. Why did you choose to become a Sister?
I feel strongly called to live a life of service, a life of love. I feel that I am like a pencil, God is writing the book. No matter what religion, God = Love and inclusion. It does not matter what your background is, how much money you have or your history. We all deserve to be loved, forgiven and treated with respect - Just as Jesus would. I feel called to live out a vocation of serving God and communicating God's all inclusive love... "You shall Love your neighbour as you love yourself"
No choice is superior to the other.
We all have a personal calling, all people are called to live life as either a married person or as single or as a consecrated person. This choice is also about my personal relationship with God. Through prayer I feel that this is something that I am being called to live (Jn 10:10). Our journey in life is to search, to listen and to answer the call within your heart, to follow what you are truly called to.
Each calling is as righteous as the other.
In a way I don't think that each calling // my call to religious life is something you choose either, it chooses you. When you listen and find your calling you find an inner peace, your heart is happy, you have a sense of 'home'; that's when you know it is right for you. It's similar to when you seek // are finding the right congregation... you don't choose the charism, it chooses you - it is your gift from God, just as a vocation to married life or parenthood.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:5
To learn more about my discernment process view Listening to the Depths
5. What is the difference between a Nun and a Sister?
The terms "Nun" and "Sister" are often used interchangeably. However within Roman Catholicism, there is a difference between the two. Here's a simple summary of the differences:
- A Catholic Nun is a woman who lives a contemplative life in a monastery which is usually cloistered (or enclosed) or semi-cloistered. This is refered to as "monastic". Her ministry and prayer life is centered within and around the monastery for the good of the world. She professes the perpetual solemn vows living a life according to the evangelical counsels of poverty, celibacy, and obedience. Check out the Carmelite Nuns of Baltimore for example.
- A Catholic Sister is a woman who does lives, ministers, and prays within the world. A Sister's life is often called "active" or "apostolic" because she is engaged in the works of mercy and other ministries that take the Gospel to others where they are. She professes perpetual simple vows living a life according to the evangelical counsels of poverty, celibacy, and obedience. Check out the Sisters of St Joseph or Sisters of Mercy or Mission Sisters for examples.
+ More info --> http://anunslife.org/resources/sister-or-nun
6. What type of work will you do as a Sister?
Many sisters in the past have been teachers or nurses. Ministry / employment for sisters has dramatically changed. Sisters work in administration, law, spiritual direction and many other ministries. This is something that will be determined with more personal discernment. I am currently working in Pastoral Care within a High School context and am involved in digital communication in the school (using my design and communication background in ministry). We are also called to continue to listen and discern where the needs are each day. Ministry is something that evolves with the signs / needs of the time.
7. Where will you go?
Sisters of St Joseph have sisters in Australia, NZ, Peru, Brazil, East Timor, Ireland, Scotland. I could be asked to discern a placement to any of these countries + there may be a need for me to study or minister in another country in the future. Part of saying 'YES' to consecrated life is trusting, letting go of my 'wants' and opening to your heart to the unknown path ahead... living in the NOW, not worrying about tomorrow and taking things one step at a time.
Many congregations are world-wide. Some cater to particular areas / countries too.
8. Is becoming a Sister the only way to become involved with a congregation?
Becoming a Sister is just one way to be involved and part of a religious congregation. SOSJ has three expressions of consecrated life or pathways to living as a Josephite (one who is drawn by the charism of Sisters of St Joseph, of Mary MacKillop and Julian Tenison Woods). More info HERE.
As well as these three pathways (Membership, Affiliation and Covenant), most Religious Congregations have Associate Groups made up of men and women who live the charism in their daily lives. With Associate membership you can often be married, have your own job etc., but make a commitment in some way to a congregation. A good idea is to be open to the charism that attracts you, that feels like home and then discern the right pathway for you.
9. Are you available for hire as an Artist?
I am currently working full time. Therefore my time is limited. However, I am available part time (dependant on the project). Any funds received would go directly to the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart to help with ministries in Australia, New Zealand, Peru, Brazil, East Timor, Ireland, Scotland. Contact me (Jane) for more information. Also view the FAQ - Art + Shop page.
10. Any articles you might recommend?
New articles are coming out all the time. I highly recommend Global Sisters Report as a window into international relgious life. I have also listed a few articles below that I have been involved with. More can be found on my Blog.
- The 'Yes' to first profession > Surrender, Home, Joy
- First Year of Vowed Life > 2018: Listening, Doors, Merry-go-rounds
- A day in the life > Sounds of Pastoral Ministry
-Sisters of Saint Joseph website:
> When we Truly Listen
> What are you so afraid of?
> Firsts (First Profession)
> Technology & Teenagers
- Tui Motu: Listening to the Depths
- The Daily Telegraph: Why young people are lining up to...
- The wireless (inlcudes video): Taking a leap of faith into religious life
- ABC Radio: 2017 Interview