[quote="LilyPearls, post:1, topic:312836"]
If I don't decide to be a consecrated lay woman of some sort, I will become a woman religious. But how do I choose between active and contemplative religious orders? I love serving the poor, but when I'm volunteering at a local ministry I get annoyed when people keep talking to me and so I can't pray and work at the same time. I don't show this annoyance of course, they have no idea I'm praying and most people chat away. I stay cheerful. But I still love to serve those in need. So how do I choose between active and contemplative life? How do I know where God wants me? What sort of signs do I look for? I love service but I love to pray.
And then there's some voice in my head saying that contemplative life is lame and that we're not good Christians if we don't do practical service for the needy. But that may just be my protestant roots showing through.
Perhaps consider a community with some balance between an active apostolate and the contemplative life? The first thing, in my humble and not so learned opinion, is whether you are attracted to a particular spirituality within the Catholic Tradition. If so, you can take a look at communities who practice that spirituality to see if there is a charism of living which is attractive to you.
I understand where you are coming from in terms of wondering if the contemplative life is less than practical, but consider whether you are doing the world more good through your works, your prayer, or some mix of both.
If there is a vocations director in your diocese, you might consider speaking to them. You also might look into groups such as Imagine Sisters, as they might be able to help you. imaginesisters.org/
This thread has some positive stories on women religious which may be of interest to you.