Questions Women Ask About Vocations to Religious Life
Are people entering religious life today?
Yes. A sense of call, service, and prayer continue to attract people to religious life. Most religious orders have at last one person who has entered the community recently. The average age someone first considers religious life is 19 years old, so it’s not uncommon for high school students and young adults to ask questions about vocations. Similar to the vocation of marriage, 30 is the average age of entrance into religious life. There are over 1 million nuns, sisters, brothers, and priests in the world today.
How do the Sisters spend their days?
Simply put: prayer, work and play. We try to live balanced lives with our relationship with God at the center. Prayer, both personal and with others, is a big part of the daily rhythm of life here, as are works of mercy and ministries in areas such as education, health care, and social services. And we make time for personal interests, family and fun.
How are religious institutes/orders different from one another?
Religious orders are founded in compassionate response to real needs. Each has a distinct spirit — a “charism” — that guides their lifestyle, spirituality, vows, and mission to the church. There are 2,000 religious institutes and societies in the world — over 700 in the United States. They can be apostolic, missionary, evangelical, societies of apostolic life, monastic and cloistered. The Sisters of St. Benedict are a monastic order; we live as a community at the monastery but are active out in society. No one way to serve is better than another. The discernment process helps someone who feels called to religious life determine which way of life would be best for them. The vision of the founding members determine the balance and emphasis of community, ministry and prayer.
What are the requirements to enter religious life?
In general, the Catholic Church requires candidates to be at 18 years old, single, healthy, and of suitable character and sufficient maturity to enter religious life. In addition, each community has its own requirements.
Can past experiences and significant debt preclude admission to religious life?
Some of the church’s greatest saints, such as Saint Francis of Assisi and Saint Augustine, lived wild, reckless lives and made many poor choices before personal and public transformation. Religious communities are concerned about the choices you have made in the past and how you are currently living your life. Your ability to enter into healthy relationships with God, yourself, and others is a major part of discerning a religious vocation. The most important thing is to be honest and open with the vocation director who is guiding you in your discernment so that together, you can determine how to proceed.
Most communities require personal debt to be resolved before you enter. If your debt is the result of excessive consumer spending, this may have implications for living a life of simplicity inherent to a religious vocation. Educational debt may be viewed differently. Some communities provide financial assistance to candidates accepted into their formation program. The National Fund for Catholic Religious Vocations (NFCRV.org) also provides financial assistance to congregations with candidates with educational debt.
How do communities decide what to wear?
Religious orders have the choice to determine the external signs that symbolize their identity and communicate their charism. This may include a profession ring, crucifix, habit, veil, or other community symbol. Some religious institutes choose specific colors of clothes. Women religious dress simply and modestly. The Sisters of St. Benedict do not require the habit or veil to be worn.
Is contact with family and friends allowed?
We encourage members to retain deeply united to their loved ones even as they commit their lives to God through vowed religious life. Religious communities have different guidelines regarding visits with family and friends, and different policies may apply at different stages of the entrance process (initial formation), but phone calls and letters, and of course, remembrance in prayer are a must. Many Sisters use social media to stay connected with family and friends. Part of the formation process is to learn the skills to live a vowed life in ways that are healthy and life-giving. The hope of vowed communal life is to live with boundless compassion, radical availability, and abundant generosity.
How can I find more about religious life?
The best way to get a good sense of religious life is to talk to people living it. To learn more about religious life, consider the invitations:
- Spend time in prayer (private and communal)
- Get involved in your parish, campus ministry, or young adult ministry
- Seek spiritual direction to deepen your relationship with God
- Bring your friends and family to meet religious sisters
- Volunteer at places where sisters regularly serve
- Go to VocationMatch.com to learn more about religious communities that match your interests
- Contact a vocation director to talk about your discernment
Source: National Religious Vocation Conference