“From discovering a community to taking the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience
Religious sisters are called by God to live a special life as brides of Christ in service to the Church. Because becoming a religious sister is a serious commitment, there are several stages in the process:
1. “Come and See”
A time of visiting various religious orders to learn about them, meet the sisters, and explore different charisms. At this time, a woman feels called to religious life, but doesn’t know which order to join.
When a woman feels called to a particular religious order, she starts the application process. While in application, she is called an ‘aspirant’ because she aspires to join the order.
When a woman’s application has been accepted, she joins the day-to-day prayer and work of the order, albeit in an exploratory way. She learns more about the sisters, and begins formation, perhaps taking classes in theology and scripture. This is a time of further discernment. Length can vary depending on the person and the order.
At this stage a woman is called a ‘novice’ because she is new to the order. For a period of about two years, the novice lives the life of the order in nearly every way and continues formation. This period is analogous to being engaged; the dating is over and now she is moving toward making vows.
When a woman and the community feel sure about her call, she vows poverty, chastity, and obedience, which together are called the ‘evangelical counsels.’ In most orders (though not all), members profess perpetual vows after a period of three or more years after they first take vows. Note that while the process of formation is similar, each religious community has its own particular nuances. It’s best to ask the vocation director of a particular order about their process.”
– From the leaflet: “Archdiocese of Southwark, Vocations” – web address, further reading: http://www.southwarkvocations.com (external link).