Exploring a Vocation
How will I know?
How do I know for sure what God’s plan for me is? What do I really know about religious life or becoming a nun? How can I grow closer to Christ? What qualities should I look for in myself to consider becoming a Sister of Bon Secours?
In each pivotal life decision, there comes a time of deep contemplation and reflection; a time when we must lovingly peel back the layers to discover our truest and deepest desires; a time when we must quiet the mind and open our hearts to hear the whisperings of the Spirit; a time of trust that the Lord will lead us where we are most needed; a time of discernment.
When reflecting on the qualities to look for in religious life you may think about your own:
Growing in Faith: The Inquiry/Discernment Phase
If you are considering religious life, the first phase of your discernment experience begins when you contact, Sr. Pat Dowling, our vocation director, to learn more about what that life is like. Sr. Pat will listen to your thoughts and answer all your questions. As you continue your dialogue with Sr. Pat, she will invite you to visit us and to attend a “Come and See” vocation event that is offered several times a year. It is an opportunity to visit with our sisters and other women like you who are exploring a call. It is a wonderful time to share your stories, ask questions, and enjoy the process of getting to know one another. It may be held in a community of sisters located near you or at our Provincial House in Marriottsville, Maryland.discernment process. You will talk with each sister regularly and Sr. Pat, yourself, and your companion sister will meet together to discuss your progress. During this phase, which can last up to two years, you’ll continue to live in your home and conduct your day-to-day affairs as before. You’ll meet regularly with your spiritual director, and you’ll be given reading materials to acquaint you with the Sisters of Bon Secours, our values, and charism.
During the Inquiry/Discernment phase you’ll also have opportunities to participate with the sisters in community events and celebrations. You’ll be invited to visit regularly and share prayer and community life, as well as participate in live-in weekends, or extended live-in experiences with the Sisters of Bon Secours where you will live with us for a week or up to a month to familiarize you with living in community.
You’ll end this phase with a formal request to become a pre-candidate and begin the application process.
Exploring a vocation
Discernment is a mutual process. Together we will explore your call to religious life and whether the Sisters of Bon Secours are the community where you’ll best be able to share your gifts and grow. As in any coming together as family, it is important for you to discern whether you feel comfortable about the community and the community members must know in our heart that you will be happy and fulfilled with us.
During this process, you will live in your home and continue with your day-to-day life while you explore whether you have a call to a religious vocation. You will continue visiting us, and meeting regularly with your spiritual director, companion sister, and Sr. Pat.
This discernment process requires a commitment of your time, your energy and yourself. You’ll take part in regular, prayerful reflection on questions such as “Where is God meeting me and drawing me in the events of my life and in the world around me?” You’ll explore everything from your style of decision making to multicultural awareness, to your relationship with family, friends, and God.
Vocation discernment is a means of coming to an informed decision before God of what you are called to. Should you and the community through mutual discernment agree that this is indeed where you are meant to be, you will be ready for the next step of becoming a pre-candidate and completing the application process for entrance as a Candidate.
1. Inquiry/Discernment Phase
- No fixed duration of time, but usually within two years
- Initial exploration of personal call
- Regular spiritual direction
- Opportunities to meet and pray with sisters and associates
- Participation in Come and See Vocation weekends
- Introduction to the charism of Bon Secours and story of Josephine Potel and our Foundresses
- Regular meetings with vocation director
- Matched with a sister prayer partner
- Regular meetings with companion sister
- Ends with a request for pre-candidacy
- Acceptance as a pre-candidate (a period of six months to two years)
- Continues exploration of personal call
- Continues regular spiritual direction
- Meet and pray with sisters and associates
- Continues discussion on charism of Bon Secours and Foundresses
- Continues meeting with vocation director
- Continues working with prayer partner
- Continues building relationship with companion sister
- Attends community and associate gatherings
- Attends Come and See Vocation weekends
- Invites family to visit with Sisters and visa versa
- Begin formal application process culminating in entrance
- Period of six months to two years
- Begin with ritual of entrance,celebration with community, family and friends
- Symbol: Our Lady of Bon Secours medal and Bon Secours history books
- Celebration: with Bon Secours community, family and close friends
- Transition to candidate director
- Introduction to community living
- Lives and prays with the community in depth
- Attends formation weekends with other candidates
- Serve in full-time ministry
- Regular spiritual direction
- Introduction to scripture, religious life, Church and sacraments
- Period of two years (usually), including a canonical year and an apostolic year
- Begin with ritual of reception
- Symbol: The Bon Secours Bon Dieu Cross and Constitutions
- Celebration: with Bon Secours community, family and close friends
- Canonical year involves participation in an Inter-Community Novitiate (ICN) that includes in-depth study of the Gospels, history of religious life and Bon Secours charism, constitutions, vows and spirituality and participation and an Inter-Community Novitiate (ICN)
- Apostolic year provides ministry experiences with Sisters of Bon Secours
- Study of the Social Teachings of the Church
- Experience life in community
- Continued meetings with novice director and mentor
- Continued spiritual direction
5. Temporary Profession
- Period of three to six years
- Begins with profession of first vows in community of Bon Secours which indicates full membership in the community. Also celebrated
with family and friends
- Symbol: Professing and signing of vows and sign of commitment medal
- Liturgical celebration with Bon Secours community, family and close friends
- Continued study and reflection on religious life as a Sister of Bon Secours
- Continued spiritual direction
- Continued integration into community life as a Sister of Bon Secours
- Continued participation in apostolic service and/or academic preparation as necessary
- Encouraged to study theology spirituality and take personal development programs.
- Continued gathering with others in temporary vows
- Continued meetings with mentor, local community and formation director
- Opportunity for extended retreat time and preparation prior to perpetual vows
6. Celebration of Perpetual Vows
- Public ceremony within liturgy celebration with community, family and friends
- Symbols: Professing and signing of vows
- Receive silver ring inscribed with date of commitment
7. On-Going Development as a Vowed Member
- Continued growth and development of the ministerial, personal and communal life of the Sister
- Encouraged to pursue theological and spiritual studies and personal development programs
- Pursue new opportunities that are supported by the community
Sister Chris Webb’s reflection from on her time in the Novitiate (authored in Spring 2005)
There is something different about waking up today. The sun seems brighter, the breeze gentler, and the songs of the birds remind me once again of the beauty of God’s creation. After a few quiet moments of just being with God, my day begins. I drive to the hospital where I am a chaplain, reflecting on the ministry God has called me to. As I walk from the parking lot to the hospital, I am reminded of my oneness with God and all those I work with every day. I enter the Same Day Surgery (SDS) unit greeting the staff, members of the surgery area, and the patients around me, aware of those who need a smile or a little pat on the back at the moment I say good morning. I am there to do just that. As the morning goes on I will visit patients on the floors.
Yesterday, I sat with a family who had decided to sign a “Do Not Resuscitate” order for their family member. I walked this journey with husband, father, father-in-law, and grandfather and will continue to do so as long as I am needed. At noon I attend daily Mass, grateful to have this opportunity to pray for the patients I have seen and thank God for all the goodness I received this morning. After lunch I make a run through SDS again, and find an elderly person waiting for surgery. She is there alone. I sit with her holding her hand as we pray for God to guide the hand of the doctors and give her strength to accept the challenges that the day brings.
My afternoon is filled with activity visiting the Renal center where I visit with some of the dialysis patients. Their lives on dialysis have taken so much from them. I hear the frustration, the concerns, and often the isolation. After one more stop to see a home healthcare patient, I head home stopping to do some grocery shopping on the way. If I get home first I will fix dinner and then get in a bike ride before spending some quiet time praying with the community and maybe watching a little TV.
As this wonderful day settles into evening, I thank God for the graces to say yes at the call of my name this day and every day. It is great to be alive and to serve God with the Sisters of Bon Secours.
Sister Chris took her first vows as a religious on November 1, 2008
Listening to the voice of the Spirit speaking through your experiences and circumstances (listening to your heart).
Gathering facts. Identifying your abilities, limitations, (spiritual, mental, physical…). Exploring and reflecting on your life skills and experiences, and gathering information about all that surrounds the choices available.
Reflection/observing your feelings in relation to God
Noting, interpreting, and reflecting on the feelings and desires you experience. Asking yourself if you are prayerful, adaptable, compassionate, articulate, healthy, and trusting. Are you at peace when you reflect on religious life? Do you feel happy and enthusiastic? Can you friends and family see you as a sister?
Observing the direction of your own desire
As you reflect, discovering if your desire comes from God or self.
Decision and confirmation
Making the most loving choice. Do I experience peace and joy over time; satisfaction that I am making the best decision or, do I experience unease and a sense that I should search further?
Purpose of Call
Exodus 3:14; Judges 6:12-23; Psalms 20-38; Luke. 1:13-17;
1 Peter 2:9
Hosea 6:1-3; Psalms 27 (26); 24:3-6; 105:1-4; 42:2-5,12; 84:2-4; Isaiah 55:6-13
Gen. 12; Ex. 3; 19: 3ff; 24:16; 1 Sam. 3; 2 Sam.7; Isaiah 6:13;
3 Ruth; Jeremiah 1:4-10;
Matt. 4:18-22; Matt 28:16-20, Mark 1:16-20, Luke 5:1-26;
John 1:35-51; Acts 9, 1 Peter 2:9-17
Psalms 25(24); Romans 11:33-36; Ephesians 1:3-14;
1 Corinthians 2:7-12; 1 Peter 1:1-10
Communication of the Spirit
1 Sam. 10:6; 16:13; Isaiah 2:2; 42:1; John 15:16, 26; 20:22; 14:16; Mark. 3:13
Jeremiah l:4ff; Romans 8:30; 1 Corinthians15:9-10; Galatians 1:15
Demands Faith and Obedience
Genesis 12; Matthew 4:18-22; 16:24-26; 8:18-22
Creates Newness in Person Called
Genesis 17:4-8; Luke 1:13, 31-32, 59-63; John 1:42
God’s Divine Providence
Exodus 19:3; Judges 6:13-14; Ezekiel 3:7-9; Jeremiah 1:7-9;
Matt. 10:1-8; Mark 3:15; Luke 9:1-2; 2 Corinthians 3:4-6; 4:7; Ephesians 4:11
Rom. 9:7; 1 Corinthians 12:lff; Colossians. 3:15; Ephesians 4:1-12
Rewards: Matt. 19:27-29; John. 15:15; 2 Cor. 2:15-17
Prayer for Perseverance
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
Is. 41:8-16; 42:5-9; 43:8-12; Matt. 28:16-20; Luke. 9:2; 10:1-9; 24:46-48;
Acts 1:8; 10:42; 5:20, 42; 6:6; 13:2; 7:1, 52-53; 8:12; 4:3;18:10; 2 Cor. 2:14-16; 1:18-19
Isaiah 42:1-8; 49:1-7; 50:4-10; 52:13-53
Proverbs 22:1-2, 16, 22-23; Psalms 73 (72); 40:5; 18; 107; 72; Isaiah 66:1-2; 11:1-5; 61:1-4; Matt. 5:1-12; 6:19-34; 8:10-20; 11:2-6; 19:16-22;
Lk. 1:46-55; 4:18-21; 6:20-26; 12:13-21; 14:12-14; 16:1-13,19-31; 20:45-21:4;
Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-35:1 Cor. 7:29-31; 2 Cor. 6:2-10; 8:1-15; James 2:1-9
Wisdom 3:16-28; 4:1-2; Matt. 19:12; 5:38; 1 Cor. 7:1, 7-8, 32-35, 36-40; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7; 1 Timothy 4:10-12
Deut. 4:32-40; 6:4-6, 13-19; Is. 29:13-24; 53; Ps. 50 (49);
John 6:35-40; 14:21-24; 8:38-42; Acts 4:19; 5:27-32;
Eph. 6:1-10; Philippians 2:5-11;
Romans 16:25-27; 13:1-7; 1Peter 1:1-2; 2:13-19
Discernment in Prayer – Paying Attention to God
William A. Barry, SJ; Ave Maria Press
Discernment: Seeking God In Every Situation
Chris Aridas; Living Flame
Discernment: The Art of Choosing Well
Pierre Wolff; Triumph Books
Faithful Listening: Discernment in Everyday Life
Joan Mueller; Sheed and Ward
Following God’s Call: Scripture Meditations for Vocational Discernment
Judette Gallares, T. C; Cenacle and Claretian Press
God’s Passion Our Passion, The Only Way to Love…Everyday
Pierre Wolf, Triumph Books
Listening to the Music of the Spirit: The Art of Discernment
David Lonsdale, SJ; Ave Maria Press
Paying Attention to God: Discernment in Prayer
William Barry; Ave Maria Press
Seasons of Strength – New Visions of Adult Christian Maturing
Evelyn and James Whitehead; St. Mary’s Press, Winona
The Art of Christian Listening
Thomas Hart; Paulist Press
The Discerning Heart: Discovering a Personal God
Maureen Conroy, RSM; Loyola Press
Thoughts in Solitude
Thomas Merton; Noonday Press
Vocation Anonymous: A Handbook for Adults Discerning Priesthood and Religious Life
Kathleen Bryant; National Coalition for Church Vocations (NCCV)
Weeds Among the Wheat
Thomas H Green, SJ, Ave Maria Press