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.
(1) 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?
(2) 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?
(3) 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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m mid-20’s now, so probably not that old. I do strongly feel that whatever my calling is, my education is a part of it. The ancilla theologiae is hardly a waste for the religious! One of my first draws to the Catholic Church was being able to see my love of the development of mind and thought as a part of my service to God, instead of something apart from it. I have a special fondness for St. Anselm as a model of the kind of life I would want.
I understand there are also “lay orders.” Would this be something to consider as part of the process of discernment, or to take on while I am waiting for other things to clear up?
If you’re interested in education, you may be interested in the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia or the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, they are both teaching communities. Their age limits are about 30 I think - “old” in religious life and “old” in the world are very different things! They are both fabulous communities and are thriving with young vocations, I have friends entering both this summer.
A lay order would be something to consider if you do not feel called to religious life. So it’s something to keep in consideration if you’re still unsure what you might be called to, but you can’t be in both a lay order and a consecrated religious (as far as I know).
I’ll have to look. I’m almost certain that I’m not supposed to be working with children - it’s a great calling, but it leaves me feeling like I’m lacking in the sort of depth of theology I aspire to. I think I would see my role as primarily that of a scholar of theology - hence part of my insistence on finishing my education, I couldn’t imagine doing my work without the training! I could see doing some evangelism or apologetics, but I think it would be directed towards more advanced studies. That is actually a big problem I had with researching Catholicism, I had more advanced questions than anyone I could find to answer them.
The Religious Sisters of Mercy have a great focus on education - all the sisters are educated to a very high degree, as far as I am aware all do post-graduate studies. That might be more suited to what you are interested in.