Formation with the Dominican Sisters
This first formation period lasts anywhere between two weeks and one year and is adjusted to the objective needs of the Congregation and the local Church/culture as well as the subjective needs of a candidate. During aspirancy candidates begin to gradually participate in the life of the community, attending its prayers as well as helping with the external works. Candidates still dress in lay clothes. The purpose of aspirancy is to assist with the final discernment, that is, whether or not a candidate displays the signs of a vocation and is truly ready to begin canonical formation.
Postulancy is the time of transition when a candidate progressively abandons the way of life characteristic of a lay person and assumes a consecrated lifestyle proper to our Dominican community. The main direction of formation stresses the human and emotional maturity, interpersonal skills, as well as Christian and religious virtues. Postulants learn how to live by the Scripture and the liturgy of the Church on a daily basis. They attend classes in the theology of community life, consecrated life, morality, salvation history, and spirituality. The goal of postulancy is to choose once again in a free, more mature, and better informed manner to pursue religious life in our Congregation. During these six to twelve months, postulants wear white blouses and black skirts.
This crucial stage of formation officially begins with the ceremony of vestition when novices receive the white habit of our Congregation, black mantle, and a white veil, which is the sign of probation as a religious. Canonically, the novitiate lasts twelve months and reaches its peak at the first profession of religious vows. In the course of the novitiate, novices practice fully the lifestyle proper to our charism and learn how to harmoniously combine contemplation with apostolic activity according to the Dominican motto contemplare and contemplata allis tradere – “contemplate and pass on the fruits of contemplation.”
Formation focuses on the in-depth studies in the theology of religious vows: chastity, poverty, and obedience, history and spirituality of the Order of Preachers and our Congregation, as well as the Congregation’s Marian and Eucharistic charism, apostolate (education, preaching of the Word, and health care) and its Constitutions. In general, novices engage in active apostolate on occasion only.
Having professed the first vows, sisters begin their formation, called the juniorate. In our Congregation it lasts six years as a rule, although it maybe shortened to only three years or extended up to nine. The purpose of the juniorate formation is that the sisters deepen the sense of consecrated identity as Dominicans while engaging in the active apostolate of the Congregation, further their education, and fully practice their religious vows.
This phase of formation is divided into:
- “First Juniorate” – yearly formation in the novitiate community when sisters gradually become involved in the Congregation’s apostolate and slowly take over the responsibility for their own spiritual growth in faithfulness to the grace of vocation; sisters remain in the house of formation.
- “Second Juniorate” – lasts anywhere between four and seven years in various mission houses of the Congregation; sisters are already fully engaged in the apostolic ministry, studies, and co-responsibility for the community life.
- “Final Juniorate” – one year of immediate preparation to the final profession of religious vows in our Congregation; in its nature this stage of formation resembles novitiate when sisters spend more quality time in prayer, meditation, studies, and community formation.
As the Church and our Constitutions indicate, religious formation is an ongoing process that occurs slowly and lasts an entire life. For this reason, our Congregation undertakes various forms of permanent formation, such as formation sessions, days of recollection, retreats, etc., to aid and vitalize this process. According to our charism, the Eucharistic and Marian spirituality are the guidelines for specific formation applications.
Director of Vocations
Read Also on Our Website:
Vocation Aids Blog posts
“Discernment Retreat Renews Zeal for Participants,” Testimonies of those on a discernment retreat.