WHERE DO I EVEN BEGIN?
The best place to begin is with prayer. This cannot be emphasized enough. Talk with God and stay in conversation with God every step of the way. Pay attention to how God is speaking to you. We often experience God’s voice as a nudge, an itch, or an urge to “do something”. Bring those longings to God and ask, “God, what do you want from me? How do you want me to respond?”
In addition to regular conversation with God, find good people to talk with! Sometimes we are hesitant to tell others that we’re considering religious life. Perhaps you’re afraid of how others will perceive you. Religious life is rather counter-cultural! It is best to talk to a friend who knows you well and will listen carefully, providing love and support along the way.
Two other people who you will want to consult are a Spiritual Director and a Vocations Director. A Spiritual Director helps you grow in understanding your relationship with God, and a Vocations Director guides you through the discernment process. Both are there to support you and provide unbiased insight and guidance into how God is at work in your life. In addition, they can give you specific suggestions for prayer, passages from scripture to reflect upon, and articles to read. They may also provide introductions to others to assist you.
DEEPENING YOUR UNDERSTANDING
There are so many great resources for learning more about religious life! Especially at the beginning of your journey, simply allow yourself to be curious and learn. Read stories on line. Join a Facebook group for those discerning religious life. Find an open chat room facilitated by sisters. Explore various vocations websites. There are also some great documentaries available that recall the history of religious life and profile the lives of sisters today. (Just type the words “sisters”, “nuns”, or “religious life” into YouTube or Vimeo and you’ll be surprised by what you find!)
As your curiosity increases, find ways to meet and interact with sisters and nuns in person. This may include volunteering, talking with them at various conference and workshops, or on the phone, attending a Come & See Weekend, or shadowing a sister in ministry. Talking to and being with sisters provides a gold mind of knowledge for you on what a sister’s life is really all about at a much deeper level. As you get to know them, you will begin to see whether you can envision yourself as one!
You can also read stories in scripture of people who responded to God’s call! People like Abraham, Jonah, Jeremiah, Mary, and Peter, show us that fear and doubt were not uncommon. But God provided them with the ability to trust events in the face of uncertainty. When we recognize God calling us, those same feelings arise. Imagine Jesus saying to you “follow me” or “lower your nets” or “come and see”. What is it like to hear Jesus’ invitation, and how would I respond?
Finally, remember that discernment takes time. You are discovering who God fully intends you to be! This process requires patience, as you wait for God’s desires for you to unfold. So relax, and enjoy the journey as you deepen your relationship with God. Know that there will be signs along the way, fears and hesitations to work through, and moments of deep affirmation and consolation. God wants what is best for you and is filling you with conviction, strength and hope for your special journey in God’s care.
RESPONDING TO THE CALL
One last thing, you’re probably asking, “how do I really know if I am called to be a sister?” Well, one way to know is to ask God. Serously, ask God, “Is it your desire that I become a sister? Then listen for a response. And know that a response from God looks like something. It looks like JOY in that particular place where you are called to use your gifts. It looks like a deep sense of PEACE even in the midst of difficult circumstances. It looks like affirmation from God in prayer. Is there a desire within your heart too? When we experience these things, we know that we’ve made the right decision.