Wednesday, September 06, 2006

What IS the procedure?

February 8, 2006

For the next three days, I will have approximately ten trillion less questions to answer around the convent—or at least it will seem that way with the candidates away on retreat! (See reflection of Nov. 12 for a reminder of who the candidates are) On Saturday, the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, we will have a simple, private ceremony during which they will take the next step in the adventure of religious life and become postulants. I decided to take Rosann’s suggestion (she’s the editor for this daily “eletter”) which was to “write about the procedure. People are interested in that.” What she meant was the procedure by which the young women who join us become Sisters. We all grow up in families of one sort or another and so we have a pretty good idea of the procedure for marriage and family life. But how does one go about becoming a Sister?

Once a young woman begins to realize that God may be calling her to Himself as a consecrated religious, that is, to be His spouse, and she gets over the initial shock and begins to say “yes” to what she believes to be a “calling,” she then has to find out where she is to live-out her religious vocation. In decades past, it would have been most common for young women to simply enter the nearest convent. In this age of advancements in transportation and communications, young people search far and wide for a place that’s a “fit.” It begins with a letter or a phone call and it’s not unusual to have a few nervous “hang-ups” before the young woman works up the courage to actually speak to the Sister on the other end of the line! (I guess some aspects are comparable to the married vocation!) Then she makes a visit to the community and gets to know “the family.” As she is evaluating them, they are evaluating her—it is very much a process of mutual discernment.

Our 10 candidates entered the convent back in September because they (and we too) are reasonably sure that God is calling them to the Consecrated Life, and more specifically, to live that consecration out as Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal. The process from candidacy to final (life-long) vows is a minimum of 7 years in our community. Unlike the married life, in the religious life there is a very long runway before the plane takes off. Candidacy is like boarding a plane. They pack their bags (very light—“carry-on” only!), find their seats, and proceed to get a lot of instructions from the flight attendant about emergency oxygen supplies and exits. This is a period of living the life and continuing to ask the questions, “Is this what God is calling me to?” “Can I do this?” and “Do I want to do this?” Postulancy is the next step and it isn’t that much different than candidacy—they’re seated on the plane and now their buckling their seat belts and trying to listen to everything the flight attendant tells them and put their trust in The Pilot. One very practical difference is that postulants all wear gray jumpers and white blouses, putting aside their lay clothes. (All analogies break down somewhere!)

The step from candidacy to postulancy allows these young women to get a real “day-in and day-out” experience of our life: the rhythm of the prayer life, the intensity of living in community, and the excitement and challenges of the apostolate. Then, after having gone home and “back into the world” for two weeks, being reminded of what they are giving up, they may freely choose to proceed in this path of formation toward becoming a Sister.

Please pray for them during these next 3 days of retreat that their hearts be open to all that our loving God wants to give them, and especially on Saturday as they “buckle their seat belts and get ready for take-off!” Stay tuned for some photos of the new postulants sometime next week!

Sr. Clare Matthiass, CFR
A peek into the formation of a sister... found here.

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