Vocational Q & A
Glossary of Terms
Canon Law - the official body of laws for Catholics of the Roman, or Latin rite, contained in a work called the Code of Canon Law. The revised Code was promulgated in 1983.
Celibacy - this is a vocation in which one freely chooses to not be married "for the sake of the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:12). This vocation may be lived as a lay person or in a religious institute publicly recognized by the Church. For vowed women religious, religious brothers, and priests in the Latin or Roman rite of the Catholic Church, celibacy is required of candidates for the priesthood.
Charism - a divine spiritual gift given to an individual or group for the good of the community. Each religious order has a specific charism, a gift to be put to the service of the Church and the world.
Chastity - This virtue applies to all, the married and single, but is expressed differently according to one's state of life. This virtue, according to the Vatican's Declaration on Sexual Ethics, "increases the human person's dignity and enables him or her to love truly,..., unselfishly and with respect for others." The vow of chastity is one of the evangelical counsels (see Matthew 19:11) and one of the three vows (together with obedience and poverty) professed by religious in the Church.
Congregation - A particular form of religious life whereby men (priests or brothers) or women (sisters) live together and share a common mission and commitment of ministering to God's people. Each member of a congregation takes vows of poverty, chastity and obedience while living according to a specific 'rule' for each congregation.
Consecrated Life - Consecrated life takes many different forms but is characterized by living the Evangelical Counsels through the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. It's also known as religious life.
Discernment - this is a process of prayer, study and reflection that enables a person to discover one's path in life or to make a decision. Discernment is a process that frees and opens us up to God's will. It enables us to sort out which impulses and inclinations originate from God and which originate from our own ego or other influences. Discernment is often done with an experienced spiritual director or discernment director.
Evangelical Counsels - poverty, chastity and obedience. These are vows taken by those who enter religious life.
Formation/ Incorporation - The process of theological education and spiritual development that takes place during the initial stages of joining a religious order.
Novice - This word means "new." This stage is a canonical requirement for someone who is joining a religious community. Novitiate is the name given to the process as well as the place where novices live.
Religious - since all the baptized share a common relationship with God, all are called to be "religious" or holy in the broad sense of the word. Some men and women, however, choose to live a particular life-style called religious life. These people join a community of people that follows a specific tradition or spiritually patterned after the life and teaching of the founder of that community. (Such communities include the Resurrectionists, the Jesuits, the Franciscans, Sisters of St. Joseph, School Sisters of Notre Dame, and many others.) Many religious profess vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. There are religious priests, sisters and brothers.
Rule - A rule is a written plan of life and discipline, by which members of a religious order conduct their lives. Obedience to the rule is usually first followed after making a "simple" vow, and eventually taking a lifetime "solemn vow."
Sister - A sister is a woman who is a member of an apostolic religious congregation.
Vocation - through the Sacrament of Baptism, each person receives "a call" or vocation. All are called to holiness and to serve. This call can be lived out in a variety of ways - in married life, as a single person, in the religious life, or as a priest.
Questions and Answers
Q: What is a vocation and how is it different from a career?
A: A vocation is the way of life that we choose in order to live out our baptismal call. Religious life is part of a vocation. A career has to do with how we go about using our gifts and talents that have been given to us by God. A career is also part of a vocation. So, for instance, just the way you can be married, and that is a calling in the Church, and also be a doctor, and that too is a calling, you can be a religious Sister and also a doctor.
Q: Do I have to wear black and white dresses and cut off my hair in order to become a sister?
A: The Sisters of Divine Providence wear simple dress in order to model a life of simplicity. Some of our Sisters choose to wear habits and that is fine. Some choose regular clothes, and that is fine too. You can wear your hair in any simple style you like.
Q: Do all the sisters live at one convent?
A: The Sisters of Divine Providence is an apostolic community and this means that we go where we are needed in order to carry out the mission of making God's Providence more visible in our world. This may mean living in a large motherhouse with 100 Sisters, living in small groups of 3-7, living in pairs, or even when circumstances call for it, living alone.
Q: Do sisters sit in church all day long and pray?
A: Our schedules are determined by our ministry and our local communities. Every Sister, of course, reserves time for personal and communal prayer and daily mass, but there is always time for recreation, friends, and family.
Q: If I become a sister, will I ever see my family and friends again?
A: Of course. Sisters do have a responsibility to their communities, but are also encouraged to stay in contact with family and friends. This is seen as a healthy part of living community.
Q: Do I have any choices once I become a sister?
A: Once a person becomes a Sister, she still has many choices in her life. The difference is that a Sister will make choices in collaboration with other Sisters and with the whole community in mind.
Q: Will people think I cannot find a husband if I choose to become a sister?
A: Most people know that women choose to become Sisters because they are living out what they believe to be their call from God.
Q: If the life of a Sister of Divine Providence sister is for me, what are the signs?
A: If being a Sister engages your imagination and makes you feel energized, then you may have a call to religious life. That doesn't mean there might not be some hesitation and resistance as well. That is healthy. But if being a religious sister gives you also some sense of peace and you feel drawn to look into it, then by all means do so. Sometimes the only way to know if something is the right fit is to try it out...with visits and time spent with our Sisters.
Q: Why be a Divine Providence Sister?
A: The Sisters of Divine Providence need members in order to carry out their mission of making God's Providence more visible in the world through ministry to others. We are looking for healthy, single, adult, Roman Catholic women who are willing to give their lives in service to this important mission.