How can I know if I have a vocation to religious life?
The vocation stories of many religious give evidence that the initial desire to become a religious surfaced in different ways. For some, contact with sisters they knew is what attracted them. For others, their was the desire to devote their lives to help people in need. In other cases, they wanted to love God above all things by total dedication to make God known and loved. And for each of them the desire persisted; it just wouldn't go away.
The important thing is to be clear as to the motive that will finally animate the desire to consecrate ones whole life to God in this way of life. One cannot enter the community to avoid life's difficulties or to find security. As in all walks of life, religious life has its share of joys and sorrows. There are requirements which correspond to the nature of the commitment. A period of probation provides ample time to discern whether or not God calls.
Can a person who has been sexually active enter the community?
Past sexual activity is not in itself an obstacle. But the one wishing to live as a religious will have to discern in the course of the period of formation, her willingness and capacity to love others as a celibate woman before pronouncing her vows.
We acknowledge that a life of celibacy and chastity in the following of Jesus is a gift of God. It implies psychological maturity. There are means to help us live the vow of chastity: developing a relationship with God in prayer, giving of ourselves in the service of others and developping healthy relationships with members of the community and other persons.
Contrary to a belief which is so widespread in our culture, happiness and full human development are possible without sexual activity.
What is a vow?
A vow is a commitment, a promise made , not to human beings but to God. Because religious life is a call and a gift offered, we want to freely respond by giving God the best of ourselves in a solid way. Vows signify a covenant between God and ourselves which we do not want to take lightly. We pronounce three vows: poverty, chastity and obedience. What each of these entails specifically is spelled out in our Constitutions. The following paragraphs give a summary of each.
Ideally, the vow of poverty expresses our intention to have God as our only treasure. To do this we put all our goods in common, except patrimonial goods, and we adopt a simple life style. The detachment fostered in us by living out this vow allows us to share with others more freely and makes us more available to serve the poor according to our mission, wherever needed.
Ideally, the vow of chastity, by the total gift of ourselves, is a way to choose Jesus Christ as our unique love. Like Jesus, we continue to love our family and friends with tenderness and interior freedom, never forgetting, however, that our mission sends us, first of all, to the poor and to our new family, the members of the community.
Ideally, by the vow of obedience, we strive like Jesus to do the will of God in every circumstance. We seek to know this will in dialogue with those in charge and with our companions. We also find what God wants in the promptings of the Spirit within us, through Scripture, the teachings of the Church, our Constitutions, the signs of the times and finally, in the policies established for the good functionning of the community.
What must I do to become a Sister of Providence?
It is important to start out by sharing your desires, motivations and aptitudes for religious life with a person you trust and that has some knowledge of religious life and is synmpathetic to it, a priest, a religious or someone else.
If after a time, the attraction for religious life persists, contact a Sister of Providence designated further is this web site in order to get to know the community and women who are members. These contacts will help you clarify your understanding of this way of life and verify if this is always what you feel God wants you to do with your life.
How long does it take to fully become a member of the community?
Since what is proposed is a choice for a life time, the final decision is taken only after experiencing a series of stages :
- The pre-novitiate: A time to get to know the community with the possibility of living with the sisters. A span of one year.
- The novitiate: A period of two years to allow time to deepen the meaning of vocation with its multiple dimensions such as the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, comunity life, prayer, our role in the Church and other areas. It is a time for serious discernment on the part of the candidate and the community who must also verify if the candidate has the necessary aptitudes for this way of life.
- Temporary profession: To yearly commit to the three vows and to fully participate in the life of the sisters. This period can last from 3 to 9 years depending on the time needed by each individual to make a final commitment or to decide to leave the commuity.
- Final profession: When at a given time, between the 3 and 9 years of temporary vows, the sister feels certain that it is within this community that God calls her, she may pronounce the three vows again but this time do so, not for a year, but for a lifetime.
What is the difference between an apostolic community and a monastic community?
To begin with, the most fundamental reason for the existence of both communities is to seek to live in intimate union with God. The difference lies in the way to arrive at this.
The monastic life is cloistered and the members are physically withdrawn from society. Contacts outside the monastery are almost inexistant except to provide for the basic necessities of life. Several hours a day are devoted to prayer, meditation and reading. The religious work for the upkeep of the house and to earn a living. Strict silence is kept most of the time. They usually provide hospitality for persons wishing to take time for retreats.
An active apostolic life, like that of the Sisters of Providence, is one where the members engage in works of charity and pastoral care in areas of health, education and social services. They live in small groups in appartments or houses or in large buildings depending on the needs of the mission and of the sisters. Their life is not cloistered or withdrawn from society.
In this way of life we seek God in the service of people in need. Everyday, as much as possible, the sisters consecrate approximately two and a half hours to prayer and spiritual readings.
What about the religious habit?
The sisters are free to wear or not to wear a habit. Most of the sisters do not wear one. For some the choice to wear one is that they want to be a visible sign of consecrated life in the society. Others feel they can better live the vow of poverty by having a more limited wardrobe.
Those who do not wear a habit feel that a religious garb is for many people in society a barrier to spontaneous communication. Our attitudes toward people, especially the poor, and our life style seem to them a better expression of consecrated life. At the time of the foundation of the community, the sisters wore garments worn by women of that time.