[quote="DarkLight, post:1, topic:295605"]
I've thought for a number of years about wanting to be in some kind of full-time service to the church. I'm newly coming into Catholicism from a denomination that just didn't have that sort of opportunity for women, unless you wished to marry a pastor or missionary. So I'm definitely excited to have options available all of a sudden. Here's my thought and questions.
quote=DarkLight;9662310 I hear a lot about "discernment" but am not sure what exactly this entails. Our local priest is very kind but not the best help for this. What kind of process would you look for?
Discernment is basically the process of being open to God's will and trying to hear Him and where He is calling you. Some people chose to seek a spiritual director to help them through their discernment. There isn't a set process as such, it varies for everyone. Most often people use the term discernment to refer to one who feels called to the priesthood or religious life and is further investigating that call.
quote="DarkLight, post:1, topic:295605" I would definitely want to finish my education. I am currently going for a degree in philosophy. Assuming no other setbacks, this is going to be 7-8 years all told. Is this a normal time to wait, or would it be an issue?
If you are a new convert, you usually have to wait about 2 years before you can be accepted by a religious order. There are good reasons for this, it makes sure the individual feels generally called and it's not the the "honeymoon" of a new conversion (which can happen a lot). One thing to consider with education is that debt is usually an impediment to the religious life, so if that is a vocation you are considering then you should take that into account. People wait all kinds of time after feeling called, for some it takes longer and for others it's much shorter. You don't say how old you are and that's another thing to consider - older women can find it harder because many religious communities have upper age limits.
quote="DarkLight, post:1, topic:295605" What different kinds of ministries are there? I've tried a little research but the number of different things out there is too overwhelming, and I don't understand the different levels and whatnot.
As a consecrated religious, there are two main "types": contemplative and active religious. Contemplative religious are dedicated to prayer and contemplation and are usually cloistered, active religious have a ministry "in the world" such as teaching, pro-life work, youth ministry, etc.
I'm afraid I don't know a huge amount about lay ministries, I am becoming a religious so I know more about religious vocations, but there are many people here who are involved in various different ministries in the Church.
If you have any more questions, feel free to ask me. God Bless.