Many faith-filled women have gone before you on this journey. It begins with an awakening to a call, followed by prayer, exploration and discernment. It continues with the sense that the Sisters of Notre Dame is “right for me.” You would then be invited to begin a program of formation. During this time opportunities for prayer, ministry, community living and study provide a solid foundation for making a life-long commitment as a Sister of Notre Dame.
Awakening to a Call: This awakening sometimes begins with a recurring question,” Is there something more?” Perhaps it is a tug toward God that you sense but, do not completely understand. An experience of service to the poor or marginalized may leave you thinking, “This is what I’m called to do.” Or perhaps you find your story in the story of a religious sister and are inspired to ask, “Is God calling me to religious life?”
Which of the experiences described above have some similarities to yours?
How have you experienced “awakening to a call?”
Discernment: Once you sense God’s call, seek out someone you can trust with your story. A spiritual director or vocation director is often a helpful guide when you are trying to sift through your experience of being called. The director’s role is to help you listen to God so you can respond with a peaceful heart.
Remember the story of Samuel. Spend some time reflecting on the story (1 Sam.3:1-10.) Notice how Samuel shares his experience with Eli. Notice how Eli directs Samuel to listen to God.
Identify a person who is experienced with vocation discernment and may be able to help you with your own.
As your discernment journey continues you will have the opportunity, along with your director, to prayerfully ponder the inner movements of your heart: your desires, feelings, experiences of consolation (a sense of God’s nearness) and desolation (a sense that God is far away.)
Pay attention to the desires, feelings, and experiences of consolation and desolation that arise when considering a vocation to religious life. You may want to record them in a journal.
The psalms are prayer poems in which the psalmist pours out his/her heart, with its desires and feelings. Slowly read one or more of the following psalms. Perhaps just reading a line or two is enough. Notice what the psalmist shares with God. You may be moved to create your own prayer poem based on your desires and feelings. (It doesn’t have to be long.)
Praise and thanksgiving – Ps. 111, 92
Waiting – Ps. 130
Trust – Ps. 91, 131
In times of worry, loneliness, doubt and fear – Ps. 37, 73, 62, 26, 23
Asking for healing or guidance – Ps.6, Ps. 27: 1, 14; Ps. 32:8
God is always near – Ps. 139
Reflect on times in your life when you felt alive, at one with yourself, with God and with others.
Pay attention to what drains you of life and energy. Share this with your “trusted guide.”
Without judgment, identify areas where you need to grow. Be honest about your limitations and what you don’t do well. (God calls us to love, not to be perfect).
Try to imagine yourself in ministry as a religious sister.
A call to religious life is a call to a particular congregation. Each congregation has a spirit and a mission all its own. Part of the discernment journey is to discover where you feel at home.
In order to get to know a congregation, it is important to gather information about the group, its founding story, its spirit and mission, its ministries and community life. A congregation’s website can be very helpful for gathering basic information. Conversations with community members, visits to community houses, ”Come and See” events, service programs with a congregation, and live-in opportunities can provide rich experiences of daily life in a religious congregation.
Contact communities that you may be interested in to find out how to get to know more about the sisters and their life.
If you want to know more about the Sisters of Notre Dame, contact our vocation director. She can answer questions, provide discernment support, offer prayer helps, retreats and service opportunities. She can also arrange a live-in experience with the Sisters of Notre Dame in Cleveland or in Florida.
Application process: If your discernment leads you to the Sisters of Notre Dame, then an application process begins. You will be asked to complete application papers, have a physical exam, complete a psychological evaluation and get five references.
If you keep your heart open to God through prayer and get clarification from the vocation director for any questions or concerns that may arise during the application process, you will find yourself ready to begin the next phase of your vocation discernment journey.