You’re wondering: how do you become a nun? The steps for entering a Religious Community are less familiar than the steps for getting married (even though no one calls it that). We’ll describe the process for incorporation into a Religious Community by making some analogies between that and getting married. First you have to get to know religious.
“Getting to know you”
The first stage of the process is “getting to know you.” We compare this to the “getting to know you” phase of dating. People usually meet the person they may eventually marry in social groups in which they “get to know” a variety of different people.
Of course, the first inkling to thinking about Religious Life comes by way of a sense that you feel drawn to follow Christ more closely. You feel an inspiration to join with others who are like-minded to live a life of prayer, community, and service to the People of God and to the church. Prior to actually entering a community you usually take some time to get to investigate the kinds of Religious Communities that serve the church.
So what are those differences? One is the size of the community. Some are large international groups with members who serve in many places across the globe: the developed world, in developing areas and in mission lands. Other communities are rather small and serve a particular geographic area.
A second difference is the kind of community life that members live. Some live in contemplative communities. That is, their primary focus is prayer and the common life. Others live in apostolic communities. For these, the primary focus is service or ministry while living the common life and sharing common prayer. Our focus here with be apostolic communities.
A third difference (at least among apostolic groups) is the kind work that sisters do. In some communities everyone shares a similar work. Traditional forms of work for sisters include education and health care. Other communities, while having some members who continue in the tradition works, have expanded beyond those to other forms of pastoral ministry including work in parishes, work as chaplains in hospitals and nursing homes, work with the homeless and others who live on the edges of society: those living with HIV/AIDS, the incarcerated, immigrants and those oppressed by human trafficking.
All of those aspects of Religious Communities can be described pretty concretely. And that is a good place to start. But when you are trying to decide about a particular community, you also need to see if the community “fits” you. Do you feel comfortable in their space? Do you like the people you meet?
One other thing, just like dating, both sides are making decisions at this point: an individual tries to get to know the community and the community gets to know the individual.