There has been an interesting discussion on another forum about how to contact communities, especially cloistered communities. Some of these don’t answer immediately, a few not at all.
I do agree that I think snail mail is the best. A* real letter* on reasonable stationery will attract attention in this day and age. And I think that it’s good to address the community, as you don’t know who is going to open the letter and who will answer it. I think that it’s important to give relevant details regarding one’s observance, education, current work, and position in life and why you’re interested in *their community. I don’t think that it’s necessary to include health problems in an opening letter–you might not be interested in joining after further correspondence or visits. If you are attracted to their prayer life, foundresses (founders) and saints, I think that this is important to include in the opening letter, to indicate why you are writing this *community.
It’s very important to include your contact info, with email address, excluding telephone, IN the letter, AND on the envelope, both front and back. Those sticky address labels are useful for this, if you have them. Imagine the letter getting lost, but the envelope included in a big stack of mail or trash, facing down obscuring the address, or the envelope lost with a letter with no return address or email.
I personally don’t like the religious sign-off in letters of this kind. It may be appropriate for religious, but for inquiries, it sounds prissy and forced. Just my preference.
I don’t know how often you should write non-responders ( I would wait at least 6 weeks before deciding), but would write them at least twice. After that, you might reverse the process and try e-mail or a phone call. I do think that communities should respond, if only with a “No”. If, after all of this, they don’t respond, you can write them off. There may be something major going on- a merger, a closing, major shifts in the structure of the community.