I’m new to the forums, but I’m in the middle of discerning a vocation and could use some help answering questions I have, so here we go! Question one: I’ve been searching for communities the good ole fashion way (google) and here and there I’ve stumbled upon blurbs that mention that one should not join communities that are not members of either IRL or CMSWR. Why is this? Is there something wrong with an order if it is not a member of either of these organizations?
There is a third organization out there called the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR). The first word of their name is of great importance–leadership. The members of this organization are leaders of women’s religious communities, the majority of whom are non-habited but are faithful to the Magisterium.
The LCWR is currently under scrutiny by the Vatican due to a formation manual which is comprised of some very disturbing material, most of which is not only non-Catholic, but non-Christian as well. This is known as heterodoxy.
An interpretation of the blurbs you’re finding online is to look at the IRL and CMSWR “just to be on the safe side.” LCWR is under scrutiny, so while they’re in this process, others think it’s just safer to look at communities belonging to the other two organizations. They’re known as being orthodox.
The Holy Ghost works on attraction. Go where you’re attracted. But first and foremost, go and read the great rules upon which the community constitutions are based, and see what attracts you.
Then ask yourself these questions:
Marriage or religious life?
active or contemplative?
If active, what are they doing?
If contemplative, is it cloistered?
Habit or no habit?
For some, having a habit is important, and for others, it’s not. But that’s not the point right now. Finding your spirituality, then finding the interpretation of that spirituality is what’s important right now.
You should join the community that God has chosen for you.
Look at their charism, apostolate, founding and history, and meet their current sisters. Listen to your heart - see if you share the same charism as the community. Do you desire to be a contemplative? a monastic? an apostolic?
I see a trend with discerners now who have a list all ready for God of what they want in a community and they seem to have great difficulty in discernment because they are afraid of joining an unfaithful or disobedient group. They end up missing a lot of the heart work because they are too busy checking off a list of prerequisites.
The truth is that ALL communities are made up of imperfect and downright sinful human beings. Some sins are more obvious than others and no community or religious is perfect. Don’t look for the perfect place - you won’t find it!
Look for the place where your heart finds a home along with the hearts of the women already vowed to that community - where you are enriched by their spirituality and charism and enlivened by their ministry and lifestyle. The gift in community is not in uniformity or in total conformity to one another but in the diversity of the gifts within each sister that find a place in the fabric of the whole community in spite of differences of opinion and experience.
Finally, some things in communities are neither good nor bad but are the result of culture, histor, or common practice - communities are like families and none are the same. Give each community you meet the chance to show you who they are before passing judgment on them. If a community doesn’t do something you’ve seen other communities do… ask them why. If a community does something you think is wrong… ask them why. God gave you a brain and wrote his will on your heart - you’ll be able to find the place where he has desired you to go if you listen to them both. He wants you to be happy and holy.
I can add little to what the two previous posters said so very well.
Don’t be afraid to look at various communities and visit them. I began my search for my second vocation with active communities and ended up very happy in a Poor Clare Monastery.
Don’t close off your options, be open to where the spirit leads you. As they said ask questions. If you are at the start of your discernment process you might wish to look at various sites like Vocations Placement or Religious Ministries to get some great information.
There is a great sticky note at the start of this forum regarding “Orthodox Orders a Reminder” it states well some things to keep in mind.
You will know soon enough as you investigate various communities if they might be a good fit for you.