Conversations with Myself: Having nun of that!


We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.
Mother Teresa

Thinking back on my childhood, I remember always having a great fascination and admiration for nuns. The few nuns I came across and the pictures I saw in magazines and newspapers, they always looked so calm and serene. I wondered what it must be like to be a nun and wondered if I would ever be able to live a life under vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to God. Would I ever be able to dedicate my life to serving one Almighty God, leaving mainstream society and live my life in prayer and contemplation in a convent?

In my early teens, I started giving this some serious thought seeing as I had grown up in church. My maternal grandmother was a devout Baptist so I spent my time with her going from one church prayer meeting, mother’s meetings, choir practice, home Bible study/prayer group etc, sleeping on the church pews or with my head on her lap, while waiting for her to finish with her duties.

When I questioned my mother about the life of a nun, she said that besides a nun having to be completely dedicated to God, she must be a virgin and must be committed to continuing to live a life of chastity for the rest of her life. According to my mom, you would not be accepted into a convent if you have had sex already (even if it was only once) and definitely not if you have already had a child or children. You would also not be accepted if you have been married before. Would I be prepared to do this? Never get married to a man and have children of my own? Mmm . . . some serious thought needed here!

One day I had an opportunity to find out what it was like in a convent and grabbed the opportunity with both hands. An aunt of mine (also a devout Baptist at the time) needed to visit someone at a convent regarding reading classes they offered to the community. Before my aunt could say another word, I firmly planted myself in her car and off we went.

Entering the convent was eerie to say the least. The silence hit you like a ton of bricks. We had to walk as quietly as we could, speaking only in whispers – we happened to arrive at the convent when the nuns were all in their rooms busy with their “quiet time” (praying, reading the Bible and meditating). Initially I thought: “ok, maybe it’s not so bad. I can do this” but by the end of our visit, I seriously had second thoughts about this. I did not doubt my faith, but I started doubting my ability to live in silence for a large part of the day and night. I would have no problem with leaving mainstream society to live my life in prayer, meditation and Bible study but the silence would kill me. I am generally a very quiet person , not loud and outspoken, but I do like a certain amount of “noise” around me and the silence I found in that convent that night, scared me.

Leaving the convent that night, I thought about my experience often. I tried to picture myself living in the convent at different times of the day. I would thrive in the way life is structured there – time to eat, time to sleep, time to work in the community and be of service to others, time for prayer and meditation and reading the Bible – yet it was the time of total silence that scared me. Why? Why is total silence to earie for me?

I’ve never thought of myself as being scared to be alone, on the contrary, I quite like my own company and being alone. I think what scares me is being in such a large building with so many people, and yet having total silence. That does not seem natural to me. Then there is the whole process of becoming a nun. Have you ever thought about the process one needs to follow to become a nun?

On the day you enter the convent, there is usually a welcome celebration with family, friends and the community to begin this phase of your life. This phase can last from six months to two years. It’s a time to discover living the life of a nun is really for you.

You will bring the rich experiences of your life and live with a community of Sisters, in a neighbourhood setting near one of the ministries. You will share prayer, household responsibilities, enjoy meals together and participate in leisure activities, including community celebrations and events. You will begin working in a ministry after having a discussion with the Vocation Director about your unique gifts and talents and the opportunities available such as Health Care, Outreach to the Poor, Human or Social Service, Education, etc. You will also have time for spiritual development, retreats, workshops and travel for community events.

During this time, you will receive guidance in methods of prayer and will learn more about the spirit of Bon Secours and the meaning of religious life to broaden and deepen the understanding of your relationship with God, with your ministry, with others and the world.

When you are ready to move on to the next phase of formation, the novitiate, you will have a discussion/meeting with the Candidate Director and make a request to the leadership team.

In this two-year Novitiate phase, you will begin a privileged time when the community offers you the opportunity to study, ponder and assimilate the spirit of the Gospel, especially the vows, and the spirit (charism) and mission of Bon Secours. It’s a time of deepening your relationship with Christ, during which you, the novice, and reflect on the grace and responsibility of your personal consecration to Him. You will spend your Novitiate with other novices. One year will be spent in intense study and spiritual preparation. The second year allows you to integrate into your life what you have learned about Bon Secours, the vows, community, ministry, etc. The Novitiate programme will include classes and instruction that will give you a deeper knowledge and understanding of your life as a Sister of bon Secours. You will also be able to study sacred scripture prayerfully so that the Word of God may become a motivating force in your daily life and work. You’ll study the mysteries of Christ in the Church, the principles of religious life, the vows as well as the history and spirit of Bon Secours.

The Novitiate phase ends with you formally requesting to make the temporary profession as a Sister of Bon Secours. Your vows are made during a Liturgy celebrated with the sisters, your family and friends. At this time, you receive the Bon Secours sign of commitment that all professed Sisters wear.

Temporary Profession of Vows:
This is an exciting time when you live your life and mission as a Sister of Bon Secours, participating fully in vowed membership, ministry and/or academic preparation. You will be learning how to balance the challenges of living in community and more fully integrating your deeper spiritual awareness and understanding God’s calling into your daily life and ministry.

You will live as the Sisters live. You will make time for prayer and reflection. You will share household duties with the other Sisters you live with including cleaning, shopping and cooking. You will work daily in your ministry. Evenings and weekends may find you relaxing at home, attending an event that relates to your ministry or participating in a community celebration or gathering that may mean travelling to another community for a “Come and See” Vocation or other event.

You will attend the General Assembly when all of the Sisters come together annually to discuss where they are as a community and where they are going. You will have time for retreats and will be encouraged to attend workshops and take classes in theological and scriptural studies, spirituality and human development, or advanced curriculum to augment your chosen profession.

Temporary profession by vows are always made or renewed for a clearly determined period of time, usually until final vow. The total period of temporary profession is not less than three years, nor longer than six. It is a balanced period of living community life, ministry, prayer, and study as needed; a time for you to penetrate more deeply the demands of the Gospel and your vocation in order to integrate them into your life in a concrete and responsible manner.

At the end of this phase of formation you will spend two to three months in intensive spiritual preparation to prayerfully prepare for making your final vows. You will formally request permission to become a nun.

Perpetual Profession of Vows:
This last phase of formation begins and ends with a joyous celebration as you freely give yourself to God. As a vowed member, you will continue your growth and development of the ministerial, personal and communal life of a Sister. You will be encouraged to pursue theological and spiritual studies and you will continue to discern how God is calling you to use your professional gifts and talents in ministry.

Wow, I had no idea that it took this much work to become a nun. You really must be pretty sure of your decision before you embark on this kind of journey.

After reading about the process to become a nun, I’m more convinced than ever that I do not have what it takes to become a nun and am now, more than happy with my decision not to become one.

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