Hearing the Call
You’ve felt the tug on your heart. That persistent pull toward an authentic path — one that connects your spiritual self to all of your life. Maybe you’re being drawn to the Sisters of St. Benedict. Your call may be crystal clear, or not so much. But find out — and how you respond — will set your life in motion. So start with some questions.
How can you know if this calling is really for you?
Start by looking for the little things…small signs that suggest a call from God.
- You feel close to God or Jesus.
- You go to spiritual retreats or workshops.
- You think about God almost every day.
- You like to pray.
- You read Scripture on your own.
- You want to follow Jesus.
- You’re active in a parish or youth group.
- You like to serve others.
- You enjoy spiritual conversations.
Sound like you? Here are a few other signs to watch for:
- You have religious mentors or people you look up to.
- You like to work with or visit religious women like our Sisters.
- Family or friends notice how much you enjoy religious company.
- You Google religious orders and are curious about their lifestyle.
- You’ve had a retreat or a live-in experience with a community.
- You’ve been to a discernment retreat.
- Religious life is an option for you.
- You’ve asked God if this is a call.
Still with us? Then here are some serious signs that a loving and patient God may be calling you to religious life here.
- The idea doesn’t go away. If you ignore it, it keeps coming back.
- You dig deep into all the reasons why religious life wouldn’t work. Your head builds a case, but your heart still feels that persistent pull.
- The question, “How can I know for sure?” doesn’t scare you off.
- You “try on” other options, but you feel unsatisfied, disappointed or restless. In discernment, this is “desolation,” a lack of peace or joy.
Six Markers on a Successful Path to Sisterhood
A Call Initiated By God
A genuine religious vocation wells up within your heart…not from outside pressure or circumstance. Maybe some event put you on the path. If you’re truly being called, it only confirms what was already stirring in your heart.
Free Response To The Call
Is this idea of religious life your own desire? Or does it weigh you down? You may not know yet. Some fear or doubt is absolutely normal. But if you’re truly responding freely, then somewhere along the way, your vocation will give you great joy and a deep sense of peace.
We continue to mature our whole lives. But a certain level of maturity is needed for life in a religious community. It takes personal responsibility. The ability to give and receive forgiveness. And a focus on others above self.
A Personal Relationship With God
You already love God. In a true religious calling, you long for greater intimacy with the Lord through regular Mass, frequent Confession and prayer time with Scripture.
You need physical, mental and emotional health to live cheerfully and generously in a community with its schedule, diet, work, and practices.
Desire & Capacity To Live The Vows
If God is truly calling you to religious life, you’ll receive an appreciation for the beauty of your call — and the capacity to live it. You’re offering God your natural capacity and desire for marriage and family, your right to own possessions and live according to your own will.
The Three Vows
“The vows pledge us to give our lives to the things we’re for, not to try to escape the things we’re against.” (The Fire in These Ashes: A Spirituality of Contemporary Religious Life by Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister) Through the vows, we dedicate our entire lives to the pursuit of God in the everyday, to community life and to the service of others above self.
Your vow of stability marks a commitment to this specific group of women in Ferdinand, Indiana, and to live by the Rule of St. Benedict and the direction of the Prioress.
With this vow, you pledge obedience to the will of God, to the Rule of St. Benedict, to your prioress — and mutual obedience with the other sisters in the community.
You vow fidelity to the monastic way of life — to common prayer, the common table and the common good of all the members of this community of which you become a part.
When Generations Live Together
It used to be normal to find two or three adult generations living under the same roof especially in farming communities and dense urban areas. That was true until the 1950s. As Americans became more prosperous, multi-generational life declined.
Of course, religious life still offers true intergenerational living. At Monastery Immaculate Conception in Ferdinand, we have three or four generations living together in community, depending on how you measure a generation. And that comes with some big benefits.
Our younger sisters have a built-in group of mentors within our community. While mentors are wonderful in any setting, they’re especially so in religious life. Our older sisters are in a unique position to guide their younger counterparts through the adjustments needed to adapt to life in a religious community. They’ve been there and done it, and are generous with their wisdom and encouragement.
Our more mature sisters also teach by example. As they lead, setting a vision for the future and making critical decisions, they’re showing younger sisters how to approach challenges and opportunities. That’s been especially valuable throughout the Covid pandemic, as life seemed to change almost daily. It will be equally true as the world continues to change.
The example of our more seasoned sisters extends to the way they conduct themselves, too. Sisters are human beings just like you, with the same flaws and frailties as everyone. Watching our sisters as they mature and become the best version of themselves is so inspiring to those coming along behind them, and sets a standard to which all can aspire.
Older sisters know so much, a combination of education (most of our sisters have at least one advanced degree, and often several) and experience. They’re coaches and counselors, offering everything from advice and encouragement to comfort and consolation.
Of course, intergenerational living in a religious community like ours is a two-way street, and younger sisters bring something to the table as well.
The energy and enthusiasm of younger sisters as they embrace religious life can be infectious, rekindling the passion and purpose of their more mature counterparts. It’s been shown that older people who spend time with younger ones tend to live longer, more vibrant lives. They simply feel younger themselves.
Newer sisters also bring a fresh perspective to the community. The world is changing more quickly today than at any time in history, mostly because of the speed of technology. A religious community can’t live in the past; they must always adapt to the world in which they find themselves today.
The insights and ideas of younger members, who have grown up with this rapid change, can invigorate a community and help it find ways to remain relevant in this new world. The way we minister to the world has to evolve as the needs of that world do, and younger sisters bring their community closer to that world and its needs.
Even in moments of sadness, this intergenerational life brings benefits. When an older sister passes, the natural sorrow on the part of her surviving sisters is leavened by a richer understanding of this life as temporary and our souls as immortal and eternal. She begins to see death, while sad for us who remain, as the promise of God fulfilled for her sister. That is a comfort.
Finally, there’s the almost intangible and indescribable wonder of a friendship between two people who are separated by many years or decades. The give and take that develops in such friendships, their natural pleasure in sharing experiences and perspectives, will often create relationships of truly surprising depth and warmth.
Interestingly, perhaps as a result of the Great Recession and other social changes, there are more intergenerational households today than at any time since the 1950s. One in five Americans now lives in a home with two generations of adults (age 25 and older) under one roof. Whether that trend continues or subsides remains to be seen. In the meantime, the beauty of intergenerational life in a religious community remains one of its richest treasures.
Benedictine Life Today
Imagine a world of deep political divisions, disease and dictators. A world of conflict, violence and unrest, unbridled ambition and deep mistrust. Sound familiar?
We’re not talking about today. That was the world when St. Benedict, in sixth century Italy, wrote what he called his “little rule for beginners.” Today, fifteen centuries later, it’s shockingly modern.
As Sisters of St. Benedict, we’re guided by four pillars of that Rule: community, hospitality, work and prayer. They offer a clear way forward in a world as turbulent as ours.
But they offer something more. For each of us, they offer a way to live that brings out the best in us, and that allows us to help make life better for others. In many ways, they take us back to things we knew as children, and can re-learn as adults. Here’s how they do it.
From the time you were young, you were searching for community…a sense of belonging. You found it first in your family, then among your friends at school. You may have found it at your first job or in your neighborhood, in a youth group at church or somewhere else. You may still be searching for it.
It might seem that social media and all our devices keep us more connected than ever before. But they don’t. More people feel isolated today than ever. What’s missing? That true sense of belonging. Benedict knew it then. It’s truer than ever today. Community matters.
Benedictine life offers a stable community that lasts a lifetime. All of life’s joys and trials, laughter and tears, obstacles and accomplishments, work and play are shared with people who care about you.
The Benedictine sense of community is a New Testament idea. The first Christians had “all things in common.” They shared everything in a life focused on the common good. And they helped each other become the light of Christ in a world as dark and unruly as Benedict’s…or ours.
As Sisters of St. Benedict, we’re here for each other. We want the best for one another. We make each other stronger. We encourage each other. We challenge each other. We forgive each other. We love each other. We take care of each other. We’re a true community.
Even when you were playing as a child, you were busy working. Play simply focused your budding talents and interests on some goal. We’re wired to be productive. The sense of accomplishment at a job well done is universal — especially when our work unleashes our natural gifts.
When you think of nuns and work, you may think of scrubbing floors or scouring pots and pans — scenes from old movies. But the modern Benedictine ideal is to help each Sister within our community put her innate abilities and passions to their highest use and purpose.
Part of work is developing your talents and knowledge. Our Sisters are among the most educated people anywhere. You’ll find more advanced degrees — Master’s and Doctorates — under our roof than on many college campuses. We encourage the pursuit of passion through education and expertise.
Within our own community in Ferdinand are healthcare professionals and educators, lawyers and translators, entrepreneurs and executives, artists and administrators. We work within the walls of the monastery and out in the wider world.
And think about this. We may take on different kinds of work at different times in our lives — but we never retire. We also tend to enjoy lives that are much longer than average. Coincidence? Probably not. Benedict knew what he was writing about. Worthwhile work keeps a person young.
You saw that coming, right? Come on…we’re nuns! Prayer had to be in the mix. But it may not be what you think. The kind of prayer we practice isn’t discipline and drudgery. Like texting your best friend, it’s weaving a conversation with our Creator into every part of the day.
Go back to childhood again. Little ones understand prayer right away. They love being able to talk to God. Their prayers are usually very energetic and very specific. They often make us laugh. They probably make God laugh, too.
As Sisters of St. Benedict, we rediscover and build on that first, childlike desire to pray. We pray together as a community, in the morning and the evening. We pray on our own. We pray for one another. We pray for those who ask for prayer. And we pray for the same things you do. Our families. Our friends. Our world.
Think of it this way. When you walk and talk with a friend, you’re truly present in her life. You feel what she feels and understand what she needs — what makes her happy or sad. In Benedictine life, prayer works the same way. It keeps us closer to the mind and heart of God. That’s how friendship with God grows.
Benedict advises us to “greet each person as Christ.” Can you imagine a better approach — especially when so many seem unwilling to be kind to one another?
Once more, think back to childhood. Little ones are almost always excited to meet another child. They see every new face as a friend. That joyful spirit of welcome is a wonderful example for adults.
Hospitality begins at home, and so this spirit of welcoming one another makes community life both stronger and more pleasant. But Benedictine hospitality extends far outside our community. It shows up in the way we welcome those who come to us for spiritual direction. Those who come to pray. And those who simply want a tour.
It guides us in the way we work with our staff here at the monastery. In the way we interact with donors and volunteers. In the way we welcome guests to our Benedictine Hospitality Center.
And it’s evident in the way we minister outside the monastery, in all the places where you’ll find Sisters of St. Benedict at work: in hospitals and homeless shelters, courtrooms and classrooms, food pantries and parishes. It makes us long for — and work toward — social justice and care for our shared earthly home.
Seeing — and welcoming — each person as Christ makes it harder to hold a grudge. It helps you deal with someone who’s unkind or disagreeable. It’s not always easy. But it’s clear. When you imagine the face of Christ, the small concerns of the world have a way of disappearing. We become Christ to those we meet.
A Rule for Today…and Beyond
None of us knows what the future holds. The Rule of St. Benedict created a model that’s adaptable to every time. It’s remained relevant for centuries, in the face of wars and wonders, terror and technology. It provides a calm center from which we can direct our lives outward and upward.
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance something is stirring inside you…some sense that God has more in store for you than you imagined. That quiet call or spirit of restlessness can be very scary. It usually is. It’s an invitation to move out of your comfort zone.
Reflecting on those Benedictine principles — community, hospitality, work and prayer — might help calm your soul a bit. When you consider a life outside the ordinary, what remains is something extraordinary. In the spirit of Benedict, we’re praying for you as you reflect on your future.