The most important thing you need is a personal love of Jesus Christ. Then you would need the desire to live and work with other people to help build the Kingdom of God.
Practically speaking, you must be a baptized Catholic woman who is practising her faith. You must be free to make vows – which means that if you have previously been in a marriage relationship, you must either be a widow or have a decree of annulment. You need to be in reasonably good physical and mental health and free of serious debt. (Don’t let student loans put you off – talk to us about your situation.)
The most important thing at this stage is to pray. Ask the Lord to show you the way – ask often and with real confidence. Then listen. At the same time, it also makes a lot of sense for anyone thinking about religious life to talk it over with other people. A spiritual director, a university chaplain, a parish priest – any of these people might be very helpful to you as you work your way through your discernment.
The work (and it really is ‘work’) of considering how you should live your whole future, is a work of discernment. It is not easy, but as you begin to know yourself and your relationship with Christ better, you will find that it is work that pays off in increased freedom of mind and heart. It can be helpful to join others who are also searching for their way. One way to do this is to join a Samuel Group (Samuel@ukvocation.org). See also www.compass-points.org.uk. A helpful website is: www.ukreligiouslife.org.
There are several things. If you live near any of our communities we would be delighted to welcome you. We enjoy sharing our Assumption life with people who come to visit us, whether for an evening or for a longer period of time.
We also have sisters who are ready to meet and talk with you regularly as you search for your way and we organise regular events for seekers.
Assuming that you have had a chance to get to know us a little bit, you would talk with our vocations director about your decision, and then write a letter to our Provincial Superior asking to join the Assumption. She would then decide if she could invite you to enter our formation programme.
There are three distinct stages: postulancy, novitiate and first (or temporary) vows. Each stage is designed to encourage personal growth – intellectual, spiritual, and experiential – as a woman moves toward full membership of the Congregation.
The postulancy is a kind of apprenticeship. There is a sister who is particularly responsible for walking with the postulant. With her and with the community, the postulant would be initiated into our way of common prayer and helped to strengthen her own personal way of prayer. She might continue with her job as she entered progressively into our ordinary life – participating in the Liturgy of the Hours and the Eucharist with us, working on some part of the community’s apostolate, joining the community for its weekly meeting, taking her turn cooking and so on. During this time she would also be working on discerning if the next step in the process, the novitiate, is right for her. Postulancy is a flexible stage, usually lasting between one and two years.
Novitiate is a two year stage. The first year, also known as the canonical year (because it is required by Canon or Church law), has a very different feel to it from the postulancy stage. It is a time of solitude – the novice concentrates on a life of prayer and study. Along with intense personal work on her own heart and spirit, she would be getting to know the Bible, the Church, and the Congregation more deeply. The Novice Mistress is a key resource for this stage of the journey, but the work of personal formation always remains the novice’s own responsibility. In other words, novitiate is not like a course to be passed, but rather a special, graced time for the novice to receive God’s plan for her as she develops an attitude of discipleship.
The second year is also known as the apostolic year. Novices are involved in different forms of the apostolate, while continuing the inner, spiritual work begun in the previous year. These are usually short term placements, set up to give the novices a chance to experience the mission of the Congregation and often to work with the poor.
=Usually the noviciate for those entering our English province is in Paris, together with novices from the various European countries. Not knowing French is not a problem, but a good amount of time would be spent during postulancy learning the language.
After the two years of novitiate, the sister makes temporary vows for three years. During this time, also known as the Juniorate, she will do formal theological studies for at least two years, and then take her place in the overall apostolic mission of the Congregation. It is a time for integrating all the different aspects of our life and discovering how to draw strength for the mission from a deep life of contemplation. Most people renew their vows after the three years for another two years. Then, if it seems right both to them and to the community, they request to make final vows.
Sisters from different European countries meeting together before they made final vows