I have been dating a wonderful man for 2 years, who I truly hope to marry someday. However, it wasn't until a year ago that I learned about my obligation to discern. For the past year I have been discerning, but I do not feel as though I have gotten anywhere. The other day a friend told me that in order to fully discern, it would be a good idea to split up with my boyfriend. It would be so difficult for me to do that. NOt only would it be hard for me to not be with him because he is my best friend, but I know it would hurt him so badly also. Am I really going to have to break up with him in order for my heart to be at peace about my vocation?
Firstly, let me put your mind at ease - you don't necessarily have to split up with your boyfriend in order to discern your future vocation.
Vocations discernment is about being aware of all the options that are available, and of really looking seriously at each of these, to see which is likely to be the most life-giving option for you. God's dream for each of us that that we become a fully alive person - one who is their "best self", and our vocationsal choice should enable this to happen for us.
I'm sure that you're aware that the vocational choices for Catholic women are - to be single, married, or a religious sister. All of these vocations are equal, and potentially life-giving for different women - depending on their gifts and personalities.
Have you ever seriously considered choosing to remain single? ... or to be a sister? I would hope that you have considered these options as seriously as you have considered marriage. Once you can honestly say that you have looked seriously at all the possibilities, and weighed up all the advantages and disadvantages of each, then you're coming close to having made an informed decision. Don't forget that God needs to be part of the equation too. So, I'd really recommend that you pray hard about your future vocation, asking God for inspiration and guidance. Don't expect a dramatic answer in a clap of thunder Often God sends inspirations in our quiet moments. God can also use people to help you in your discernment. How do your family and friends perceive you? ... Do they ever say things like "I can just see you as ....?" Have you thought of talking to people who are happily married? or single? or ... religious sisters? ... Ask them questions about about their lives ... Why did they choose that particular vocation? ... Why have they stayed with that vocational choice? ... What brings them life? ... What is difficult for them? ... Are they glad they made that choice originally? ... If they had their time over again, would they choose the same vocation/life path? ... (I would) etc.
Think about their responses ... talk to God about them ... imagine yourself as a single woman, or a married woman, or a sister. What feelings surface in you about each? Talk to God about these too. Listen to what God might be saying ... and it mightn't necessarily be what you would want God to be saying Be open to where God might be leading you ... and remember that God only want true happpiness for you.
I hope that what I've suggested might be of some help for you, and I'll pray that you come to choose the vocation that is the best one for you - in order that you might become your best self, and therefore make the best possible contribution to life around you.
May you always bring life to others, because you are fully alive yourself, and happy with the vocations decision you have made.
Shalom from the National Vocations Office
Dear Sister Monica, Please can you tell me if there are any vocation opportunities for women of sixty years old. Thank you, Wendy.
Thank you for your e-mail. In regard to your query - the question of your age and whether there would be opportunities for a vocation in religious life would depend on various circumstances. Different congregations have different policies in regard to age and this sometimes depends on the kind of ministries they may be involved in. For example missionaries orders would expect sisters to work overseas, often in developing countries, and in these circumstances health and age would be important considerations. A local congregation however may have a different policy about age but generally all orders would expect a candidate to be in reasonably good health. Another consideration would be existing commitments such as children or grandchildren. What I would suggest to you Wendy is that you speak to someone about your feelings - if there is a particular order you are interested in perhaps you could talk to a sister there. Being 60 would not definitely exclude you from entering a religious order but as I mentioned you would have to approach individual congregations about this. I wish you all the best and please be assured of my prayers.
Can a married person who got married by a civil ceremony and not in the Catholic Church get an annulment of the marriage through the Church? Can such a person be considered by a religious order to become a Nun? Is such a person worthy enough to serve God as a Nun?
Thank you for the question you sent in. Apologies for the delay in answering you but as we are only getting this new project off the ground there have been some technical hitches.
Now to your query in regard to having a civil marriage annulled by the Catholic Church. When the marriage is civil the Catholic Church would not be able to annul the marriage as it is not a sacrament of the Church. If the couple wanted to end the marriage it would have to be through a divorce or a civil annulment.
As to the second part of your question - a person who has been through such a divorce would not necessarily be prevented from entering Religious Life. However certain circumstances would have to be taken into consideration, such as whether the person had existing responsibilities such as children and the reasons for ending the marriage.
I hope this has been of some help to you Cherril. God Bless.
I am currently studying teaching at university. I also suffer from schizophrenia. My question is can I become a nun, and maybe use my teaching qualification in the service of the Lord?
Thanks you for your email. I hope you will not be too disappointed when I tell you that Schizophrenia is a block (officially know as an impediment) to joining a Religious Congregation. But this will not stop you from still serving God with the gifts God has given to you. It will not stop you from living your Baptism to the full. It will not stop you from taking time each day to pray and seek out where God is leading you. I wish you every blessing with your studies and hope that you will discover ways of serving Christ as a teacher. This may be a choice to teach in the poorer areas of your city or country.
I am a 23 female from a Christian background. Since the age of 18 a felt a strong desire to serve God. My family are of the Baptist denomination. However I feel its my destiny to be a nun, and to serve God. Can it be done?
Thank you for your inquiry. How delightful it is to know that someone who is still relatively young in years has such an awareness of God and the desire to serve. To become a sister in the Catholic Tradition you would need to become a Catholic. This is usually done through a process called the Rite of Christian Initiation. If you are already baptised you would not need to be re-baptised but would still go thorugh the process which helps you to understand what being Catholic is all about. After that you would need to live this committment for a while before entering a Religious Congregation. If this sounds OK for you then may I suggest that you look at few Congregations (check our website) and see if anyone of them attracts you. If any do, then contact the Vocation Director and tell her your story. I am sure she would support you on your journey.
The Anglican Church also has religious sisters.
I hope that you can find what you are searching for and that the deep desire of your heart be filled.
Sr Veronica McCluskie
Thanks for your question.
It is possible for a 48-year-old divorcee to become a religious sister, however, as with any woman who is interested in religious life, especially older women, there would be a lot of matters that need to be considered before she is finally accepted by a congregation.
Becoming a sister involves a whole long process of "discernment" that is actually a mutual experience. The woman is assisted to pray and reflect about her future in the light of her story, her personality and talents, the way the sense of "being called" has emerged and developed. At the same time, one or two designated representatives of the congregation she is considering are also evaluatiing whether the woman has the appropriate background and talents that would make her suitable for both religious life and that particular congregation. The aim of this whole process (which can take up to a couple of years) is to ensure that the best possible decision is made, both for the woman, and for the congregation. Otherwise, it's a recipe for disaster on both sides.
Age is a fact that has to be seriously considered. While it's not impossible to make such a radical change in one's lifestyle, it is very difficult for someone in mid-life. Religious life is actually a "sub-culture", that calls for a lot of adaptation, and it's certainly much easier for a younger person to adapt.
Being a divorcee certainly complicates the process Firstly, the Church requires that the marriage would have to have been annulled. Then, there would need to be a lot of dialogue around the reasons for the divorce, and whether she is psychologically capable of making another public "life-time" commitment. Also, her responsibilities towards her children (if there are any) would need to be clarified. No person who is responisible for children who are minors can be accepted by a religious order.
What also needs to be kept in mind is that it is possible for women to become involved in lay ministries within the Catholic Church without becoming sisters, and we strongly advise that any person seriously consider all the possible options, so that the final decision that is made (i.e. whether to become a sister or not) is a really informed one that brings the person deep inner peace.
I hope that this is of some help for you Renee.
Thanks again for making contact
Sr Mary Ryan RSJ
Thank you for sending in your question to us. In regard to prayer and finding your vocation any Christian vocation involves a personal and deep relationship with Jesus. As with any healthy and life giving relationship, good communication is necessary. Our 'communication' with Christ is one of the most profound forms of prayer because Christ leads us into the heart of God both in his humanity and divinity.
A vocation is a very personal call from God and I do not believe we can become aware of, or hear that call unless we spend time in prayer. This might include just quiet time being aware of God's presence in my life, reflecting on the Word of God in Scripture and allowing it to speak to me or time gathered in a faith community celebrating the Eucharist together. There are many different forms of prayer, of helping ourselves become aware of the God's love for us. God desires to be close to us and prayer is one way we can help this happen. I hope this has been of some help to you Andrew. All the best and God Bless.
I am trying to decide between whether I join a diocesan seminary or whether I pursue a vocation in a religious order. Can you recommend a good site that helps in this type of discernment?
This is a good question and while it might be hard to find guidance on this specifically, in one sense there is a lot of material out there
Let me explain.
Being a "secular" or diocesan priest and being a "religious" or Order priest might look a lot alike from the outside. Both celebrate the Sacraments for the people, both are frequently encountered in parishes or chaplaincies and both have similar academic training. There is, of course, more to a vocation than what you DO.
A secular priest will for the majority of his life live alone. While there are exceptions, predominantly a diocesan priest gives himself as pastor to the people of a place. He is tied to a particular diocese for life and to his parish for the duration of his appointment. The focus of his life and ministry is the service of his people through word, sacrament and pastoral leadership in collaboration with his bishop.
A religious priest, on the other hand, will more likely live with others of his religious community. While many religious priests may well engage in parish ministry, a great many are involved in many other activities in accordance with that order's charism. Some orders undertake no parish ministry at all. Some focus on just one facet of priestly ministry (such as preaching or devotion to the Blessed Sacrament etc). They are tied to that religious community and vow obedience to its superiors. Their focus is the living out of the charism of a particular institute in common with fellow members. They would mostly say that they are a member of their order first and a priest second.
As you can see, these are quite distinct vocations. That is why, even though you might struggle to find material specifically to guide you in the choice between these vocations, the general material serves quite well. Focus your attention not on what you wish to do - but on who and how you wish to be
Reflect on questions such as
Am I the sort of person who prefers to live with others and wishes to share them?
Does my spirituality concentrate on the service of others?
Am I comfortable with the idea of living far away from my family and friends?
How central to my spirituality is the sacramental life of the Church?
Could I spend all my life in parish ministry?
Do I feel drawn to the spirit and life of a particular founder or group?
How would you choose between the needs of a community and the needs of ministry?
There are many such questions out there - and the answers can help guide your choice.
Thank you for the questions you sent into us. Apologies for the delay in getting back to you but as this project is just getting off the ground we have had some technical hitches.
In regard to your query most, if not all Religious Congregations in Australia would require a person thinking of entering to have their high school education completed. You mentioned the possibility of doing this during the postulancy. The time we call postulancy is something of a 'getting to know' you period, both for the person entering and the congregation. It would not be an ideal time to be doing something like year 11 and 12 as this can be very intense in itself and would perhaps make it difficult to continue the process of discernment with the community in a way that would be helpful and life giving. I hope this has been of some help to you Sarah. God Bless,
Please how can one know that he is called to serve God as a priest. Do you think its true if one has joy when he thinks of becoming priest, celebrate mass?
This is a very common question and lots of people would like to know this answer
There are some general pointers I could give you.
God never calls us to something that we would not enjoy - so the fact that you find it appealing is in itself a good indicator If the idea of being a priest appeals to you and you believe you would find that life a satisfying and rewarding one, that is a very useful piece of evidence.
You should make sure that you are thinking of the genuine life of a priest. Often, we see just a part of a priest's life such as celebrating Mass on Sunday. There is much much more to being a priest than that. You need to consider are you equally attracted to a life of living alone, attending lots of meetings, dealing with the personal problems of parishioners. In other words, attraction is a good sign but make sure it is attraction to the REAL life of a priest.
Pursuing a vocation is not just a question of what you would like to do.
God, too, must be involved in this process. You need to have some confidence that not only do you wish to be a priest but also that God wants you to be a priest. Working this out is what we mean by discernment. You will find lots of information about discernment elsewhere on this website and your own priest or a good spiritual director can also help you with that.
Doesn't everyone have a unique vocation and journey? If so, why does the Church promote specific vocations (brotherhood, priesthood, marriage etc)?
Yes Andrew we all have a unique Christian vocation through Baptism and each person must discern their vocation in life. Not always an easy thing to do but never the less a worthy one. The church promotes specific vocations to help in the work of Jesus Christ. Read in Acts the story of the early community and you will discover how the early church discerned different roles/vocations for different people. Good luck with your own discernment in life and my God Bless you in all you do.
Thanks for your enquiry.
It is possible to become a sister if you have been divorced, but Church Law requires that the marriage must be annuled. The Annulment process is lengthy, and there's no guarantee that it will be granted - it depends on a lot of factors that would need to be explored by the marriage tribunal staff of your local diocese.
With regard to becoming a sister in addition to one's marital status, there are lots of other factors that any religious congregation would need to explore before accepting anyone into their community - irrespective of whether you have been married or not.
I have no idea where you live, but I'd suggest that, if you're really serious about exploring the possibility of becoming a sister, you make contact with a priest, sister or brother in your local area, and ask them to help make the necessary contacts to explore the annulment process. They may also consider it advisable to refer you to someone who is called a 'vocations minister' or 'director' a sister, brother or priest who has training and skill in the area of vocational discernment.
I'd also recommend your doing some 'homework' about religious life - read about how sisters live, the vows they take, and all about the different religious congregations and their spirit and works. Meet some sisters, talk to them about their lives, ask them what they find life-giving about being a sister, and what are the challenges thay face. I believe that the more informed we are about all of this, the better our final decision will be. Basically we must have 'yes' answers to the following questions Would I be suited to religious life? ... Do I have the prerequisites (including an annulment)? ... Would I be able to both give and receive life as a sister?
Of course, prayer must be an essential component of our searching and discerning
I hope that this answer is helpful
Kind regards from the National Vocations Office
Mary Ryan rsj
CVMA Executive Officer
Presently, I'm still weighing the advantages and disadvantages of both the married and the religious life and try to identify inner movements. Sometimes, I feel more inclined to religious life but my biggest difficult is that I find it a bit difficult to express my feelings with my spiritual director not because he does not understand me but I feel shy. How can I open up a little bit more?
Only you can make the choice to open up and share your innermost feelings with another person - but this is essential, no matter which vocational path you finally choose.
I think that shyness can be overcome by choosing to share and be honest - even though you might not, at first, feel comfortable about doing this. Obviously this requires that you trust the person to whom you're speaking. Spiritual directors are morally bound never to discuss what another person shares with them, and you have the right to ask for their assurance that they will treat what you share with them with utmost confidentiality.
I hope that these suggestions are helpful for you, and wish you all the best as you discern your future vocation. I hope that you will find the life-path that brings you fullness of life, and deep inner peace.
Sr Mary Ryan
How do we know that God is calling us to serve Him specifically as a contemplative nun? Is it true that living as a contemplative nun is harder than being a non-contemplative sister?
We can never know for sure where God is calling us until we have done a lot of "homework" about the life that seems to be attracting us. If you are interested in contemplative life, I suggest that you make contact with communities of contemplatives who are relatively close to you (there are contact details on our OzVocations website). Ask to meet some of the sisters, and ask them questions about their vocation and their present lifestyle. I'm sure that they would have literature that they could either loan or give you, and this should also give some very helpful background information.
Of course, it is essential that you pray about your future, and ask for God's guidance. It would be good to share your search with a trusted friend, and even better to share it with a spiritual director or companion - a priest, brother or sister who would have a genuine sense of what it's like to be asking the big questions in life, as they've already "been there, done that".
Ultimately, one can only know for sure that the life is for them if one tries it, and that's what the "formation" phase of entry into any religious community is all about ... "Come and See". Of course, you'd need to be reasonably sure that this is your calling before you take that step, but it was certainly what helped me to know that being a sister is what God really wanted me to do with my life. 33 years later I have absolutely no doubt that being a Sister of St Joseph is right for me I love it, and wouldn't want to be anywhere else.
I'll pray that you find where God is leading you, so that you can come to the peace of knowing that the final choice you make regarding your vocation is the "right" choice for you.
Regarding your second question I don't think that it's a very helpful generalisation. It's a bit like comparing apples and oranges - they're different. Every vocation has its challenges and its highs and lows, and different lifestyles appeal to different personalities. What might be hard for one person might not be a problem at all for another. I believe that if we do our "homework" properly, and prayerfully discern the vocation this is best for us, we're not going to be thinking about whether it's easier or harder than the life we didn't choose, I never even think about that.
I hope that my reply is helpful to you, and wish you many blessings as you search for the vocation that will lead you to fullness of life.
Shalom from the National Vocations Office
Sr Mary Ryan RSJ
I do not come from a practicing Catholic family, but I have a desire become a nun and to live in poverty working with the poor. How long should a convert wait before entering a convent if they have a call? Also, how do I tell my family who are not Catholic?
Thank you for your inquiry. It seems as though you have made some very significant and profound choices in your life recently and hopefully these have been very life-giving for you.
In regard to your question - as Christians and as Catholics our primary vocation comes to us through our Baptism into the Body of Christ. This is lived out most significantly within our particular 'faith community' such as our Parish. This is where we can grow and mature in our faith in the knowledge we are indeed part of the Body of Christ together with our brothers and sisters in this community. As you have only recently come into this particular community of faith perhaps it would be helpful to spend some time being a full and active member of your Parish community before you consider the possibility of a vocation to Religious Life. God may indeed be calling you along this path but the ongoing experience within the Parish community will, I believe, help to clarify and deepen what it means to be a Christian and a Catholic. You may already be involved in the life of the Parish and if not perhaps you could explore ways of doing this. Speaking to the Parish Priest or someone involved in the Parish may help. In the meantime, if you know any religious sisters you feel you could talk to about this deeper call you feel then that too would be helpful. Sharing our feelings and thoughts about our faith journey with someone we trust can be a wonderful aid in discerning God's will for us. If you do decide to take some time to continue your discernment in the context of the Parish community and with a trusted 'spiritual companion' it may then become clearer how to speak about these issues with your family.
I hope this has been of some help Crystal and be assured of my prayers as you continue on your journey with the Lord.
I would like to ask the signs on how to discern a vocation. I'm 24 years old from the Philippines and working on government office, I am a religious person and I almost grew up serving in our parish. I sometimes feel that God is calling me to enter a monastery, to be a contemplative nun but I'm not so sure about it.
Thank you for your e-mail and sharing your thoughts with me. Discerning God's will for us is not an easy task and is part of an ongoing journey of faith. God speaks to us in many different ways - through prayer, the scriptures, the people around us who share our journey and through the everyday events of our lives. I believe that prayer is such an important part of our discernment. Taking time each day to create a little sacred space and time where we can listen with our heart to God speaking to us - you speak about this yourself when you mention the "inner joy" you experience. God can and does speak to us in the deepest part of our being. However I believe we can not make this journey of discernment alone - it is important to have companions who can help us with their own wisdom and experience. Perhaps you know a sister or priest you could speak to about your struggles. Also, if you feel you may be called to a more contemplative style of religious life, perhaps you could go to a monastery and speak to one of the nuns there about this particular calling. My own calling did not happen overnight - it was also a journey for me and I needed to listen to God in all the ways I have mentioned, including having a spiritual mentor or guide who helped me along the way. Remember too Nancy that religious life is not the only 'vocation' in the Church. Each person has a calling or vocation to be the person God created them to be - this may be through religious life, single life or married life. Each is valuable and precious in the eyes of God, and worth considering. I hope this has been of some help Nancy. All the best and be assured of my prayers as you continue you journey of faith.
If God was calling a person to be a religious, but that person was not a practicing Catholic, how would God let that person know of his or her call?
God speaks to all people, and those who are open to God's promptings will hear, irrespective of whether they are practising Catholics or not.
I think that the secret of knowing what God wants, irrespective of whether a person goes to Mass, or is involved in a parish or some community, is to take time to nurture your spirituality - time for quiet and prayer. God speaks in all kinds of ways - what we need to do is to tune in to God - and we can't do that if our lives are continually cluttered with noise or busyness. God's words, found in one of the Psalms, have an eternal truth in them ... "Be still and know that I am God."
Over the years, I have dealt with many young adult Catholics who are not "practising" at this time of their life - for many reasons - and yet the thought of religious life or diocesan priesthood has strong appeal to them. They are reflective, prayerful people who, somehow, haven't found what they're looking for through going to Mass, or through their parish's life. God is certainly speaking to them. The challenge for them is, of course enormous, as the call to religious life or priesthood is a call to be an active member of the Church and to be a practising Catholic. Time-out from the Church need not be permanent, and there have been many people who have entered religious life and diocesan seminaries after some time out of practising their Catholic faith.
I hope that this reply has been helpful
Thank you for your question. In regard to your age it would depend on many circumstances as to whether this would be an obstacle to entering religious life. For example it might depend on how your general health is. Would you be well enough to work perhaps in a 3rd world country if you chose to enter a missionary congregation? It might also depend on existing commitments you may already have - for example children. The best option would be to approach a particular order if there is one you have an interest in. Then you could ask what their requirements might be as each congregation would be a little different. I hope that is helpful Maureen.
That is definitely a frequently asked question There is no hard and fast answer for you as each Congregation will have their own rules but perhaps the following observations might help.
Over the centuries of training new members, Religious Orders have found that older candidates do find it difficult to adapt to the process of formation and the rigours of living communally. It is a natural part of maturing that after about 35, people become settled in their lifestyle and become less malleable. This can be a challenge for older candidates and sometimes even be a source of pain. Of course, age is just a number and we both have met people who are flexible and open to growth right to the end of their days. At the same time, there are many 20 year olds whose growth has stagnated as well. So the "35" age rule is a rule of thumb.
Secondly, for many religious orders, especially active apostolic ones, an important consideration is not only the benefit to the candidate in joining the group but also, what can the candidate do for others? When you make provision for five or six years or so of training, some people may not have the health or energy to do much for the wider community by the time they are finished
The best way to know for certain is to make contact with the Congregation that attracts you and ask them directly. Most will have a clear policy in place for older candidates and will let you know where you stand.
Hope this is helpful
In the last 2 years I have felt that I am being asked by God to consider more with my life. I am trying to figure that out. One way that I have approached this is to become more actively involved within the church. I am an active member of the Legion of Mary, Eucharistic Minister and Catechist and helper with the Sacramental Programs as they come up. As the time has gone by I have felt that these ministries are an integral part of my journey of faith. I do feel that there could be more to this in so far as considering a church vocation but how will I know for sure?
Dear Mary Anne,
Thank you for your question. As you say, discernment is not easy and in our world today there can be so many choices and decisions we are called on to make and so many different options and directions before us. It sounds like you have already taken the first steps in discernment by becoming so involved in your local church and listening to what God is speaking to you through these ministries. Mary Anne, I feel that the process of discernment is very much like a journey. There are times when the way seems clear and straight-forward and at other times we seem to lose our sense of direction and have to feel our way forward in the dark. As with any journey it is always more enjoyable and exciting if we have good travelling companions to share the journey with. One such companion on the journey of discernment can be a Spiritual Director or Mentor. Someone who can walk with you on your faith journey and help you discern the direction in which God may be calling you. There are people trained in this area of Spiritual Direction or you may already know someone who could fill this role for you. Perhaps you know someone in a religious congregation you could approach - a sister, brother or priest? Another option is to ask your Parish Priest if he may suggest someone. You mentioned that you will keep praying - this is the most important element in discernment. Allowing ourselves to be open to the God's voice which can speak to us in so many different ways and through many different people. In the meantime be assured of my prayers also. I hope this has been of some help.