In regards to my other thread, it looks like the local Dominican nuns are very interested in me volunteering some of my time to help them with some odd jobs and errands. I tried to Google some information regarding proper etiquette when speaking to the sisters and being around their community, but am getting conflicting or scant information. I know the forms of address “Sister” and “Reverend Mother” for the superior, but I was wondering if anyone else can give me pointers in terms of proper forms of behavior when around them. They are a cloistered community and I want to show them the respect due to them. I don’t want to end up trying to chat up a nun who has taken a vow of silence or not showing proper manners in terms of their community. Also, if I do have a question while among them, to whom do I address it? I am excited to work with them but nervous to make a misstep at the same time. For starters, when meeting a nun do I like shake their hand? or just say “Pleasure to meet you, Sister ____?”. :shrug:
One of the best things about going to a Benedictine college was discovering and treating the monks as the ordinary people that they are. So relax, and do the work that you need to do in a professional manner as you would anywhere else.
Don’t interrupt prayers, just as you wouldn’t want your prayers or work interrupted. Be cordial and natural.
Just as you wouldn’t go into a person’s bedroom when visiting, you will be informed about restricted areas of the convent.
You’ll probably be there during the day time, so you won’t have to worry about the grand silence, which comes after Compline, the final evening prayer.
My husband’s Aunt was a Dominican Sister, not a cloistered nun, but she and her companions were just ordinary people who chose to dedicate their lives to God by joining a religious order. They are not “holier” than everyone else, and have their own struggles and personalities. Just behave with ordinary kindness and politeness and respect their rules. You probably won’t being interacting much with the general cloistered population. Just relax and be yourself, and if somehow you make an error, they won’t chastise you–they will be very kind about it. They don’t bite, and won’t throw you out into the street. They will be very grateful for your services. God bless you.
I’d just ask them, tell them you want to respect them, how they live and what they do, what are the things I should and should not be doing? How do you want to be addressed? Etc…
I promise they will be very pleased that you are trying to take them into account…
Congratulations, I am glad for you that they want your help.
I’d imagine that you’ll probably meet with someone who will tell you what you are doing and you can put your questions to her to a large degree, they will appreciate the humility. Usually in volunteering or in fact any work, you are given an induction or even shadow someone in your first shift. In volunteering, especially people are generally very grateful for help and I expect the nuns will know their life is different from yours and let you know what is required of you. One thing that works well in general in strange situations I find, (til you get used to things) is to watch a lot and say less. You can tell a lot from watching people before you speak.
At this point I am concerned with greeting. I am assuming I will meet an extern at some point. When researching their history I found an interview with one of the extern nuns from the particular monastery I am interested in. Her name is Sister Veronica Mary of the Transfiguration. Using sister as an example, would I formally greet her as “Sister Veronica Mary”, “Sister Veronica” or just “Sister”. Also would I shake hands as I would in a professional situation. They responded positively to my email and wanted to know more about me. Sister made a point of noticing my profile picture (in a choir loft in front of organ pipes) and made a point to ask if I was a musician.
Address her as “Sister.”
If you know her name, then address her as “Sister Veronica.”
Don’t overthink the situation. Be polite, courteous, and professional.
It is most likely that she will greet you at the door, and extend her hand in greeting. That will be your cue to accept the handshake.
It’s basically similar to any unfamiliar situation, such as traveling or going into a new business. A human resource or other liaison person would give you the rundown of expectations. They greet you by introducing themselves with their name, and extending their hand in greeting. In a foreign country, the greeting may be just a bow. Respond in kind. Being taught Southern manners, as well as having a military background, my interactions are peppered with “yes, sir” and “no, ma’am.”
Just replace the “ma’am,” with “Sister.” Again, relax.
Those who enter religious life are ordinary people like you or I. They simply have a different vocation, a different call on their life.
I don’t know all the rules but a good start would be to say “yes ma’am” and “no ma’am” when talking to them instead of just saying yes and no .
I am a convert. I had not met a Nun until about three years ago when Sister Mary Dominic came to Colorado to be with her mother who was struggling with cancer. Being me I just walked up to her with a big smile and said, “Hi sister. You are the first nun I have ever talked to.” She laughed and said, “I am the first nun that I ever talked to also.” When she had converted to Catholicism, she did not want to lose the special closeness she had found in Christ so immediately got in touch with a Dominican Cloister. I have never met a more delightful person.
And because of her influence I am beginning the study of becoming a Lay Dominican. It has been a wonderful journey for me.