I’ve been thinking about religious life and don’t know where to begin! Is there some way to figure out if this is the life for me?
Although hearing and deciding to answer God’s call for your life can be and is challenging, the good news is that there are several things you can do to work through this process. In being open enough to even ask questions, the process has already begun.
So what happens during this process? Is this process only for religious life?
As with most things in life, figuring out the life you’re called to is a journey. We don’t just wake up one day and have a magic answer, although sometimes we wish we did! When trying to discover God’s will for your life, you work through a process called discernment. It’s a way of sorting through all of your choices to discover what will truly make you happy, help others, and most of all, bring glory to God. Priests, sisters, married people, and even single people have to go through this to see what God wants for their life.
What are some of the things people do when they discern?
Well, the most important thing to do is pray and spend as much time as possible talking with God. This is the way to have a conversation with God and to directly ask Him questions, share ideas, and concerns. And just as in conversation with a trusted and close friend, this is also a time to listen to whatever He may want to say to you. Frequently going to Mass, receiving the Eucharist, and receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation are also really important parts of this journey since they’ll provide the nourishment you need.
Are there others I should or could talk to while I discern in addition to God?
Yes! One of the beautiful things about discernment is that it is a journey and there are other travelers on the path. You’re not alone! You can always speak to or ask questions of your parish priest, the priest who hears your confessions, or a spiritual director- even people from your church community. If you know any sisters, don’t be afraid to ask questions or to ask them to share tips with you. You may even find brochures about different communities. On them, you will find the name and contact information for their community’s vocation director. She will be able to give you information to help you discern. Also speak to people who are married or single- ask them how they figured out what God was asking of them. After all, the only way to find things out is to ask questions. Remember though, that listening is just as important as asking- sometimes even more important!
If I’m thinking about religious life, should I speak to different people with different stories?
Yes because part of the purpose of discerning is to consider the alternatives God makes available for our lives- in this case, the alternatives available for your life. A good idea when praying or sharing with God is to make a list of your alternatives and write down all the pros and cons. Then once you have your list, prayerfully consider the effect of each alternative 5 or 10 years from now.
It sounds like I also have to spend some quiet time by myself. Why? How would that help me figure out what I’m supposed to do in the world?
Well, first of all, because you’re worth spending time with- you have been “wonderfully made!” But also because it’s really important to get to know yourself- what are your likes, dislikes, strengths, abilities, weaknesses, or dreams? These are things others may be able to see but only you can answer. Plus they are all things that must be considered. Knowing you love to travel might help you discern a call to a missionary community or knowing that you love to be near children might help you discern a call to a teaching community. Having a good idea of who you are will help discover the life God is calling you to.
Maybe I can do this! Is there anything else I should know?
Just this- once you have come up with some options, act on them! Pray for the courage, openness, and generosity of heart to follow through with your choices and where you feel in your heart God may be leading you. Remember, it’s a journey so sometimes there will be bumps on the road or detours, but if we have our eyes truly focused on God, the journey will be possible and worth it!
FORMATION IN OUR FMIJ FAMILY
THE STAGES OF FORMATION
The Stage of Vocational Guidance and Discernment:
During this time, a young woman who has expressed interest in becoming a sister in our Institute is guided by a sister of the Institute, in order to help her to discern her vocation, discern the will of God for her life, and to make a free choice to carry out His will faithfully according to His plan. The stage of vocational guidance usually lasts from six months to one year.
The Stage of Postulancy:
The postulancy program offers to the young woman an opportunity to live in one of our fraternities and to further discern and verify her vocation to our FMIJ family. During the postulancy, the young woman continues a journey of self-knowledge through dialogue with the sisters, spiritual direction an authentic sacramental life and personal prayer. The postulancy program lasts from 6 months to two years, according to the needs and individual program of the postulant.
The Stage of Novitiate:
The novitiate is a time of further initiation into the FMIJ Community, in order to follow more closely Jesus Christ, poor, chaste and obedient, through study of our FMIJ Constitutions, studying and living out in a deeper way the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and a radical living of community life in the fraternity of the novitiate. The novitiate program is two year program.
The Stage of Temporary Profession:
After completion of the novitiate, a young woman professes the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. The vows are renewed annually for five years, after which time, she may profess vows for life. During the stage of temporary profession, a young woman may enter into full-time ministry and/or continue her studies. During the years of temporary profession, a young woman continues her initial formation, deepening further her commitment to live religious life in our FMIJ family, through prayer, sacramental life, regular spiritual direction and continued study of Franciscan Spirituality and the life and charism of our Mother Foundress, Mother Mary Joseph Micarelli.
Perpetual profession concludes the time of initial early formation. By perpetual profession, the sister is fully incorporated into the FMIJ Religious Family, and shares fully in it’s apostolic work, at the service of the Church, loving Jesus in the neighbor and the neighbor in Jesus.
Frequently Asked Questions
Requirements for being an FMIJ Candidate:
Young women should…
Be 20-35 years of age
Be in good physical, spiritual and psychological health
Have a basic general education (college or work experience after high school)
Have a capacity to build interpersonal relationships and live in relationship with others
Have a deep desire to belong totally to Jesus while serving the needs of God's people.