Becoming A Cloistered Nun…
Rome wasn’t built in a day and nuns are not made overnight. The process takes 9 to 12 years before a lifelong commitment is made to be Christ’s bride in vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience as a Handmaid “For Christ in His Priest”.
This consists of initial contact and the beginning of asking questions by both the inquirer and the community. This Getting Acquainted stage consists of ongoing correspondence and includes a Questionnaire and Come and See visits. Email and regular mail are our preferred means of communication. Ultimately, our goal is to help a woman best discern God’s will for her at each stage of the journey.
Aspirant – 1 to 2 years
This time is dedicated to spiritual and human formation. To meet the needs of the candidate, the starting time for Aspirancy begins when the woman seriously wishes to pursue discernment of the Handmaid vocation. There is further exploration of the vocation through correspondence; guided growth in the prayer life, various correspondence lessons and spiritual reading; and development of a schedule suited to her current lifestyle. The Church allows for some flexibility in how Aspirancy is structured to take into account the circumstances particular to each Aspirant. Some periods will be accomplished by correspondence while the woman continues to live in the world. There will be other visits and at least a 3-month extended stay and a discernment retreat.
When the woman comes to live formally at the monastery as an Aspirant, she is clothed in a simple wine-red tunic, the color of the Precious Blood, with a blue kerchief and cincture and Miraculous Medal as she entrusts her beginning steps in religious life to the care of Our Lady.
Postulant – 1 to 2 years
This stage with the community allows for gradual and progressive passage from secular life to assimilating the fundamental elements of contemplative monastic life. It is a time of both human and spiritual formation and a deepening of her baptismal commitment.
In anticipation of wearing the full habit and veil as a Novice, the Postulant now wears a rabat (a waist length cloth worn over the back and chest) as she adapts to more monastic clothing and ways. A black cap is worn with a black mantilla with a blue stripe as a tribute to Mary. The black symbolizes the death to self that is necessary in a life wholly dedicated to Christ and indicates a willingness to carry one’s cross daily in following Christ for the sake of his priests. The wheat colored turtleneck symbolizes the Eucharist as she finds her prayer, work, and studies directed toward a life revolving around the Blessed Sacrament. The Postulant now wears a Queen of the Clergy medal around her neck as she enters further into the Handmaid charism of a life given for priests.
Novice – 2 years
A time to continue discernment of the call to the Handmaid charism while growing in relationship with Jesus and verifying the real ability to live the life with generosity and joy, living fraternal life with the sisters in this particular monastery. Studies include Scripture and lectio divina, writings of the Fathers of the Church and of the Founder. Personal and community liturgical prayer and authentic devotion to the Blessed Mother are emphasized.
Upon entrance into the Novitiate the Sister receives her name in religion and her title reflecting a particular mystery she will especially honor. She is invested with our habit of wine-red color, a symbol of the Precious Blood, that was designed by our Founder. The white veil is symbolic of the Eucharist. The garb is an evident sign of complete consecration for the sake of the kingdom of heaven and a sign of detachment from merely earthly and human interests as well as poverty lived joyfully in confident abandonment to God’s providence. A leather cincture is worn about the waist and a side Rosary is worn at all times.
Junior Sister – At least 5 years
The Sister begins insertion into the full life of the community with the temporary profession of the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience as she continues her spiritual, doctrinal, and practical formation according to the Handmaid charism. During this period, also called First Vows, the Sister gains a deeper sense of duty and responsibility as she practically learns to live the vows in day to day life as she spiritually matures towards a life of greater charity.
Upon profession of first vows, the Sister wears a trinitarian emblem, designed by Father Gerald, over her heart. It’s triangular shape honors the Trinity, its blue outline pays tribute to Our Lady, the gold chalice represents priests, living chalices of the Precious Blood, and the dove above the chalice represents the Holy Spirit.
Solemnly Professed Sister and Ongoing Lifelong Formation
Saying “Here I am!” doesn’t mean a woman is finished! This is just the beginning of a lifelong “configuration to the Lord Jesus and assimilation of his mind and heart in the complete gift of self to the Father”.
In the formal ceremony in which a Sister solemnly professes lifelong vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience the Sister receives the ring of a bride of Christ. The ring, also designed by our Founder, is a simple silver ring depicting a chalice in between two hearts. The chalice represents the priesthood and the hearts the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. She is also given, and wears for profession day and jubilees, a crown of thorns that symbolizes her willingness to be identified and conformed to Christ crucified so that his priests may be holy.