Missionary Sister

Hello, is it possible to join a religious order that is primarily based in the United States and then later work as a missionary sister and teacher in the developing world? :slight_smile:

If you want to do this, do you specifically have to choose an order that has a ministry in the country where you want to minister or is it fine to choose any order and transfer later? :stuck_out_tongue:

You can’t just change orders. Vows are a serious commitment. You can’t just decide “I think I’ll go do x ministry now” when you’re already in vows. A vocation is not about where you want to go whenever you want, it’s about what God wants you to do. Part of the vow of obedience is that you go where your superiors send you whether you like it or not, not where you might want to go.

There are orders that do work both in the developing world and domestically as well.

Dear Eternal Rest,

There are many communities in the United States that have missions in developing countries specifically in South America and Africa. Typically women who join these communities receive the majority of their formation in the United States and are given “mission” experiences either in the US or in other places throughout their experience. The process of being sent to a mission is different in all congregations because the vow of obedience is expressed differently. In some congregations you receive a piece of paper with your assignment on it and you go - there is no talking about it. In other congregations sisters and their superiors talk with one another about a ministry and mission that would be a fit for that sister. In other communities the process of missioning is primarily the superiors but the sister is free to give input as well.

In my community each sister fills in a preference sheet that indicates what she is able to do - for instance - I couldn’t teach Kindergarten because I am not certified to teach at that grade level so on my preference sheet Kindergarten is not checked off. However; we can be asked to do something we don’t prefer and unless there is a serious reason that we can’t do it, we say yes to the obedience.

When discerning a religious vocation you should pay attention to what the desires of your heart are. If you feel God is calling you to a missionary congregation - look at all different kinds - see where you feel at home. When it is time for you to receive a mission you have to be willing to accept that your assignment may not be in the developing world - but it is where God wants you for that time.

As an aside - it is possible to transfer communities after final profession but it does not happen often and it isn’t something one should be thinking about when discerning making a life commitment to God within a particular community. There is a lot of time before final vows for sisters to discern if the commitment to that congregation is truly where God is calling them.

What are your thoughts on Blessed Mother Teresa?

Mother Theresa didn’t enter one community with the intention of leaving and starting another. She discerned that God was calling her to do that at a particular time. That is different than entering a community and going through formation thinking that one will transfer or begin a new institute.

Does that make sense at all?

There is one community that sounds to me like a gift from Heaven. They are medical missionaries. This is from their website: “There is an unlimited numbers of mission sites thruout the world and as we grow in numbers as a community we will expand our missions to the areas where our Lord has called us. “You will Receive Power to Witness for me from Judea, Samaria, to the Ends of the Earth.” Acts1:8” Little Workers of the Sacred Hearts, Medical Mission.

What is the best way to find out their policy of overseas vocations?

On this vocations website, someone let me know about a priest who wanted to minister in Sudan so he simply traveled their and entered seminary in Sudan. If there is a particular country that one wants to work in, is it better to move there and join an order in that country or to join a local order that has a focus on overseas missions?

Yes, that is a good point. However, is there any way for us to really know what Mother Teresa wanted to do when she initially joined the community? Both St. Therese of Liseux and Therese Neumann both initially wanted to do missionary work in developing countries, but it didn’t work out for them because of illness. That is why St. Therese of Liseux is the Patron Saint of Missions. Isn’t it also possible that Mother Teresa initially always felt a calling that way, ignored it, but over time it became stronger?

Mother Teresa is very, very rare case. It in incredibly unusual for one to be allowed to leave their community and there has to be a very good reason. You don’t join a religious community unless you aspire to be there forever. That doesn’t always happen of course, some discern eventually that that is not their calling.

St. Therese followed her vocation. That was not to be a missionary, regardless of her own desires. She followed the will of God, not her own will. And that is what you should do too.

A strong desire to do Catholic missions and medical service in the developing world is rarely a trick of the devil, as why would the devil inspire that desire? According to the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, God generally speaks to you through your desires. Given that, it seems this probably IS my vocation, which is why it makes sense to ask questions regarding the practical efficacy on this forum. Whether something is “rare” or not is not an indication of the will of God, who has created a billion souls that are all completely unique and distinct from each other. And it is extremely rare for someone to by crystal clear regarding what IS the will of God for someone’s life. Generally speaking, you won’t find THAT out with perfect certainty until Heaven.

I didn’t say it was a trick of the devil. Just sometimes we want things that are not what God wants. That doesn’t mean the things we want are necessarily bad, just not our calling. I want to be a mother. There is nothing bad about wanting to be a mother But that is not my vocation. I have to sacrifice my own desire for motherhood to do God’s will.

Religious vows are a serious commitment. If you think your vocation is to be a missionary, then follow that. But you cannot go into religious life planning to forsake your vows, and that is something God would definitely not call someone to do. There are communities that would allow you to work both in the US and overseas. That is the way to fulfil your vocation, if this is what you believe it to be.

No, no. Your desire to do mission work is GOOD. And you are right, it is rare that someone has a perfect knowledge of what, exactly, God wants them to do for the rest of your life. If you have a desire to do some type of teaching/medical work here at home, but also the desire to do missionary work, it just means you have to further discern.

There are several options. Perhaps you would get involved in a ministry in your home country, and God would perhaps lead you to a greater knowledge that this is your calling. Or join a lay missionary group and work in mission territory for a year. Perhaps that experience will lead you to a greater clarity.

There is nothing wrong with having multiple desires. You should follow the stronger ones, explore them more deeply, and pray about it. You will gain more clarity in prayer and in time.

It is true though, that one should never enter a religious community with the intention of leaving when one becomes more interested in a different ministry. If both desires persist, maybe you should look into a community that serves both in your home country and in the missions, ask what there policy is (whether the person has any choice about where to serve, or whether it is purely up to the superiors) and then just put it in God’s hands. Maybe God will ask you to give up one desire as a sacrifice to Him and follow your superior’s decision, even if at the time it isn’t pleasing to you. God gives so much grace to us through obedience, ESPECIALLY when it is very hard :slight_smile:

May God bless you in your discernment. What a joy to feel called to give up EVERYTHING, even our own will, for His greater glory! Praised be Jesus Christ!

In Christ through Mary,

I suggest that you find a good spiritual director and get to know some of the religious orders and lay societies that focus on missionary work. There are lots! In fact, you may be able to serve in missions as a lay person, working alongside religious, as you discern whether this is the right vocation and the right order for you. (Google “lay missionary” and you’ll get lots of information.)

Every consecrated celibate must choose to do without motherhood or fatherhood; being a nun in a developing or developed country will not affect the likelihood of being a mother. A closer comparison with regard to discerning the will of God is in your choice of being a nun in U.K versus the rest of the world and the specific order that you choose versus other orders.

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