Franciscan Footprints

Process of Formation for the Sisters of the Third Order of Saint Francis

Process of FormationBecoming who God meant us to be is a process and formation – a life-long journey!  Each day, each moment of our life, we are learning and growing.  Every activity we undertake or goal we strive to achieve requires a training or a learning period.  This is true also for someone entering religious life. The process of formation has several stages that incorporate you more deeply into what is expected in religious and community life.

The first step is the candidacy – getting to know the community.

Candidate

The “candidate” stage has no set time limit. During this stage the candidate becomes more familiar with us by visiting and meeting with the Vocation Director to keep discerning God’s call. A candidate continues to live independently. When she and the Vocation Director feels she is has the needed qualifications, and is ready, she can begin the application process to enter the community.  My “candidate” stage was approximately 9 months between my first contact with our vocations director (a phone call) and submitting my application.

The Postulancy and Novitiate, the first stages in formation, begins the transformation of a young woman desiring to consecrate her life to God into a member of a religious community, living and giving her every moment, word, action and thought for God’s glory and honor.

Stage 1: Postulancy

A candidate entering the postulancy begins a formation program that will be very concentrated for the next two to three years.  The postulancy is a period of six to eighteen months. The postulant gets to know the community in a much deeper way by praying, working and living in community. I call it a “permanent guest.”  She continues to discern with the Formation Director. As a Postulant, she is given the opportunity to work as a volunteer in our healthcare apostolate.  She begins to disconnect herself from worldly attachments and think more of “heavenly things.”  (Think: no cell phone or Facebook and limited computer time.) She will also start learning about the structure of our healthcare ministry and to see our mission, vision and values lived by all those who work with us to care for God’s people at the most vulnerable times of their lives.  After a period of approximately six months, she may seek permission from her Formation Director, Major Superior and her Council to move to the next stage of Formation.  Postulants usually enter our community in February or August.

Stage 2: Novitiate

The novitiate is a two-year process. When someone becomes a Novice, they may take a new name in religious life (see previous blog article.)  The first year of the novitiate, referred to as the “canonical year,” is a time of intense prayer, study and reflection on the Franciscan way of life. During the second year of the novitiate, the novice may, again, volunteer in our healthcare apostolate. The novitiate period is a time to deepen my relationship with Christ and to further discern my vocation.  All in preparation to profess vows of consecrated chastity, poverty and obedience with the Franciscan Sisters.  I just began my canonical year.

Stage 3: Temporary Profession

Temporary Profession covers a span of five to nine years. During this time, the sister lives as a vowed member of the community while continuing study, ministry (working in the healthcare apostolate) and discernment of a life-long commitment. She practices and commits herself to the vows of obedience, poverty, and chastity. Temporary vows are taken for a two-year commitment then renewed for three years.  After five years of temporary vows, they may be renewed annually for up to four more years, or, if she and the Director of Formation think she is ready, she may write to the Major Superior and her Council to request to make her perpetual vows.  If her request is approved, the sister may profess her perpetual vows where she makes a lifetime commitment to God, in our community.

Stage 4: Perpetual Profession

This is the final step taken by a woman in our Franciscan community. She vows to God consecrated chastity, poverty, and obedience forever according to the Rule of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis and our community’s constitutions.

“By our profession, we consecrate ourselves to God and oblige ourselves to strive for perfection with all of our strength.  We promise the live our life for Him alone, keeping the flame of love burning in our hearts, like a vigil light, uninterrupted for the greater honor and glory of God,” (The Spirituality of Our Pioneer Sisters.)

Becoming who God meant us to be is a process and formation – a life-long journey!  And the first step and continuous step is: PRAYER.

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