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The Search, The Find
What To Be Aware Of
For those who are seeking to join a Seminary or a religious order, there is great news. There are quiet a few Seminaries and orders out there for you to meet, explore and get-to-know.
You don’t have to jump into the first one you find.
Take your time, allow yourself the opportunity to get to know the seminary or religious group; then go to at least a few others, compare them, ask the same questions to each one, pray about it, share your experience with a friend, spiritual director, your Pastor, a Sister or a person who is walking with you on the journey. It is true that your desire to give yourself to God is burning within you and is strong, but remember that this is a life decision and an important one at that. Take your time, no need to rush! Breath!
In a previous article I wrote about the “components” of a religious orders. One of those components that will be helpful for you on this search is the history of the community or seminary. It is kind of like looking at the groups resume. How long have they been around? How much experience do they have as a seminary or as a religious community? What kind of works have they done in the past? What are some of their success stories? Do they have a charism statement? Do they have a mission statement? Have they developed a constitution or a rule? Has the constitution or rule been approved and by who? There are many other questions that can be added, but these will give you a good start in getting a clearer picture of the seminary or religious community.
Now I will be a little blunt. The reason why I am bringing this up is that some groups are not who they say they are. By the grace of God, there are not many of these groups out there. But it is possible that you will run into them during your journey.
These groups will speak wonders about themselves and their life as a community. Many times they will want you to enter yesterday, they will make great promises to you, they will begin to pressure you to make a decision. If it begins to sound “to good to be true”, it is! If this happens to you, thank them for their hospitality and move right along with your search. Realistically religious life or entrance to a seminary is a process, a sacred journey; it takes time for you and the group to decided if this is God’s will for everyone involved. Your vocation is a treasure to the Church, it is important that it be placed in a solid, healthy religious environment.
You want to make sure that the community or seminary you are considering are “healthy” in all the sense of the word. As they are looking at you, you can take a closer look at them. You want to make sure that the group has experience in what they are doing. You want to make sure that they have a good solid, Christ-like formation program (that is kind, fair, theologically / canonically solid or academic / theological program in the case of a seminary). You want to make sure that they are in good standing with the diocese, neighborhood or town they are in. You can call the diocese and ask for some information regarding the community.
There are other healthy signs you can look for: How does the group interact with one another? Are they serious all the time? Do they laugh and joke around a bit? Did you sense some tension among the members? What was your experience of their prayer time? There are many “grades and shades” of healthy, it will be important to get a sense of that before you commit to the group, community or seminary.
May I repeat what I said before, your vocation is precious before the eyes of God and a gift for the entire Church. Nurture it, share it, allow it to grow, find good guidance. This kind of journey is not one to be walked alone, but with good companionship. In caring for your precious gift, be thorough with the search and I am sure you will come up with a great find!
Sr Elizabeth SDS