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Frequently Asked Questions (Religious Life)

These may help others interested in or just curious about the process...

1. Do Religious Sisters wear the traditional habit?
The Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart and many other apostolic congregations do not require members to wear a habit. Some more conservative and monastic-based congregations do wear the traditional habit. The Sisters of St Joseph wear 'regular' clothes and dress simply. This is because 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 many congregations now cater for 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 time of living is referred to as Postulancy (approximately 1-2 years). 
2. The person then applies to begin a stage of serious discernment and takes time as a novice to develop her own spirituality and a deeper understanding of call (vocation) further. This time is usually known as the Novitiate (approximately 2 years). A Spiritual (Canonical) year is first and is followed by another year 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 6-9 years after the First Profession.
5. In Summary; From beginning Postulancy to Final Vows, the time frame would be approximately 10-12 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 the internet and/or social media (their focus is primarily on service through prayer). Even the Pope has an X (formally Twitter) account! @Pontifex

4. Why did you choose to become a Sister?
I chose to enter religious life after experiencing a call to service in a deeply committed way through community. I believe that often a call from God isn't something you choose; it's more like it chooses you (Jn 10:10). The call always requires that we keep listening to what God is calling you... Discernment is continual and every day is a discerning day. We all have a personal calling, and calling can change. No choice is superior to another (married, single, consecrated). 

“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 that is usually cloistered (or enclosed) or semi-cloistered. This is referred to as "monastic". Her ministry and prayer life are centred within and around the monastery for the good of the world. She professes the perpetual solemn vows of 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 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.

View the Sisters of Mercy or Mission Sisters as other apostolic examples. Plus find more resources via A Nuns Life.  
FYI: Male religious orders such as the Jesuits also profess public vows; discover a video series on the vows

6. What type of work do Sisters do?
Many sisters in the past have been teachers or nurses. But, ministry/employment for Sisters has dramatically changed. Sisters work in administration, law, spiritual direction, teaching, design, and many other ministries. This is something that will be determined with more personal and communal/congregational discernment. We are called to continue to listen and discern where the needs are each day. From first to last breath, ministry for Sisters is something that continually evolves with the signs/needs of the time.

7. Where do Sisters go?
Part of saying 'yes' to consecrated life is trusting, letting go of my 'wants' and opening to my 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 worldwide. Some cater to particular areas/countries too.

8. Is becoming a Sister the only way to become involved with a congregation?
Becoming a Sister (aka Vowed Religious) is just one way to be involved and part of a religious congregation. For example, 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. Notably your calling to any of the pathways can change with time and discernment.

9. Any articles you might recommend?
New articles are coming out all the time. I highly recommend Global Sisters Report as a window into international religious life. I have also listed a few articles below that I have been involved with. 

- NZ Catholic > 2022: Books of the Bible  +  SOSJ > 2022: Biblical Light 

- Global Sisters Report  > 2020: The gift of freedom in ‘I don’t know’
- Tui Motu: Listening to the Depths
- The Daily Telegraph: Why young people are lining up to...
- The Wireless (video): Taking a leap of faith into religious life


More can be found via

Primero Dios   
​~ Jane 

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