The best vocation for any person is the one God intends for that person. Vocation to the religious life is not a “higher” calling, but it is a unique calling, one that has its own blessings and challenges. Vocation to the religious life is a serious undertaking that is not for the faint of heart, but for those called, it imparts deep blessing and fulfills one’s deepest desire. In order to test one’s vocation, a woman must be willing to risk offering her whole self for that discernment. The very first prerequisite is a sense of call from God, but of course, she may not be certain if her discernment is correct without testing the waters, and so, some initial correspondence and visits are essential. The first question a seeker should ask in testing a sense of call is whether or not she can fulfill that calling. To be available for such a call to our community, a woman must be a confirmed Episcopalian; active in a parish; free from familial, financial, and contractual obligations; and in good health. Ultimately, the question she must answer is :”What do you desire?” For a Benedictine, the answer is “I desire to give my whole self – body, mind, and spirit – to God in the context of this Community, living in obedience to its Rule, Constitution, and Customary.”
Our inquiry process includes:
- An initial letter and spiritual autobiography, expressing why one feels called, stating something about one’s family history, education, and job history
- At least one visit to the Community, during which the inquirer will participate in the Community’s work and worship, and will have interviews with several Sisters.
- An application form, a physical, and psychological tests (Ordinarily, women between the ages of 21 and 55 may apply for membership.)
- If both the Community and the inquirer feel that such a testing one’s vocation would be beneficial, the inquirer is allowed to be received into the Community as a postulant.
Postulants are encouraged to persevere through the full length of the postulancy (normally six months long) in order to put their vocation to a sincere and unimpulsive test, but are not obliged to remain in the Community; the relationship between the postulant and the Community may be terminated at any time by mutual consent. During the next stages of formation- novitiate (2 years) and juniorate (3 years), the candidate and the Community continue their mutual discernment, and the candidate receives much more in-depth training concerning the the vows; the Benedictine Rule and the Rule of the Community of St. Mary; the Community’s history, spirit, customs, and mission; as well as further training in scripture, church history, theology, chant and the study of the psalms.
The Sister-in-Charge and the Guardian receive all applications of aspirants and are responsible for their admission into the Community as postulants. If you feel you may be an inquirer to the religious life with our Community, please email Sr. Madeleine Mary at firstname.lastname@example.org or write her at: The Community of St. Mary, Southern Province, 1100 St. Mary’s Lane, Sewanee, TN 37375.