For the person wondering whether she may be called to religious life, inquiry is just a beginning. It is a time of searching, a time of exploration, a time of questions, a time with no commitment.
When a person makes initial contact with a sister in our Congregation, a conversation can begin and both can enter into a time of getting to know the other. What happens next – and how – is very much decided by the person who makes contact and dependent on her needs. The time of inquiry can involve contact by email, phone, text message, as well as face-to-face conversations and meetings.
If the person feels she wishes to further explore life as a Dominican Sister, she can ask to begin the Pre-Novitiate.
The Pre-Novitiate is a time for the person to get to know our Congregation a little more and to experience our prayer and our life in community and in ministry. It offers possibilities to meet and spend time with sisters, to visit our communities, to learn of our various ministries, to attend gatherings, and to stay in some of our communities for short periods.
During this time, a sister is asked to accompany the person discerning, to journey with her and to explore with her where she feels God may be drawing her. Primarily, this sister’s role is to be available; to support the person through face-to-face conversations and meetings and by email and phone. This sister also acts as a link with the Congregation, looking for and arranging opportunities for the person to get to know us better.
Again, this is a time of no commitment, either on the part of the individual or the Congregation.
If after some time, she feels drawn to a deeper exploration of life as a Dominican Sister, with the agreement of the sister accompanying her, she can seek to begin a more formal discernment as a novice. She writes a letter to our Congregation Prioress, asking that she might be to be considered for entry into our Congregation’s novitiate.
While entering a novitiate may seem a big step, it is a natural next step and something that one is ready to take. It is a way of allowing the person to see if Dominican life ‘fits’, with no commitment either on her part or on the part of our Congregation.
Novitiate is a graced time. At the deeper heart level, it is a time to experience an inner quiet that allows further questions to surface and to be examined. It is a period of growing and deepening in one’s relationship with God, of falling more deeply in love with God, for asking ‘who is God to me and who am I to God’, and for discerning if it is in this way of life that one can be one’s best self and live as God desires.
On a practical level, novitiate is a time of initial formation. It offers the person the time and opportunity to experience living in community; to discover how it is for her to live with others; to live the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience; to learn how to pray alone and in common; to participate in some of our Congregation’s ministries; to undertake some study of aspects of our charism and our history; and to learn how to hold each of these aspects of life as a Sister in a healthy balance.
Ours is a two-year novitiate, a period of discernment for both the person and for our Congregation, particularly her formator (novice mistress) and the novitiate community, those sisters who live with or know her best.
If this discernment leads the person to take another step, she writes to our Congregation Prioress and asks to make First Profession.
At First Profession, a sister makes vows for a period of three years, beginning a period of temporary commitment to our life. After making First Profession, she will move from the novitiate to another of our communities.
Temporary profession is a time of ongoing discernment and formation and a time to grow further into life as a Dominican sister. During this time, a sister may be asked to undertake studies or to engage in a particular ministry.
A sister in temporary vows is supported by her Prioress, by her community and by a sister who is asked to accompany her in her discernment. Towards the end of this three-year period, the sister along with her accompanier reach a decision
as to the next stage she will take.
If a sister is not ready to make Final Profession, she can renew her vows, allowing herself time to discern further, or she may ask to make Final Profession
To make Final Profession of vows is to commit oneself to live as a Dominican Sister for life and to become a full member of our Congregation.
Acceptance for Final Profession means that, after the time of discernment and formation, both the sister and the sisters of the Congregation can answer a
wholehearted YES to the question: Might God be calling you to life as a Dominican Sister?