Stages of Formation in Religious Life
A young woman interested in becoming a Dominican Sister of Mary, is not presumed to have arrived at our doorstep already a Saint – or even an outstanding character on the natural plane. What is anticipated is that she has the necessary dispositions to persevere in the path of growth in virtue. The stages of formation in our community (along with a divine call and an openness to grace) set the candidate down the path to becoming a “living image of the church, virgin by the purity of her faith, bride by loving fidelity to the will of Christ in fervent charity, mother by self-sacrifice for the salvation of souls [and a] living temple of God by her life of prayer”. (Fr. Paul Hinnebusch, O.P.)
Aspirancy & Postulancy:
This is the period of one year following entrance into the community in which the young woman gets to know the community and the community gets to know her. She takes part in all of the daily prayers and activities of the convent and attends classes to enlarge her knowledge of religious subjects including Scripture, the Catechism, Church documents, theology, philosophy, and Dominican spirituality at the Motherhouse. She is guided in making the gradual transition from the lay life to the life of the novitiate. At the end of the year, if both the Sister and the Community discern that it is God's will for her to continue, she receives the Dominican habit and a religious name.
A Sister is a novice for two years. During this time, she continues her religious studies and human formation. The Novice also studies the vows, the Rule and Constitutions governing the community and makes a second meditation together with her fellow Novices. One of the Novitiate years is primarily dedicated to study and development of the interior life and the other is dedicated to introducing the Novice to the apostolic life of the community. Since this is such an important time in the life of a young religious, no studies or activities are undertaken which do not have as their primary purpose the formation of the Novices. At the end of the two years, if the Sister and the community discern that it is God's will, she professes vows of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience for three years.
During this time, the Sister renews her vows after three years for another two years, for a total of five years under temporary vows. During this time, the Sister receives guidance in the actual living of her vows. This guidance is both spiritual and apostolic, doctrinal and practical. She may begin to pursue any degrees necessary and begins to participate regularly in the community's apostolate. At the end of five years, a Sister may be invited to final vows or to renew if necessary.
He has pledged His troth with His ring and adorned me with His priceless love. He has placed His sign on my brow that I may admit no other lover. (Mass of Profession)
While her official formation has ended, mindful that the gift of faithful perseverance in religious consecration is a grace given by God that must be cultivated, the Sister actively accepts her responsibility to deepen her own living of the vows and her personal growth in charity. Formation is a pursuit that never ends until the glorious day when she meets her beloved in His Heavenly Kingdom.