Discern Your Franciscan Calling
In our constitution we have this phrase that ‘our prayer is rooted in life and our life is rooted in our prayer’. If that is the case for us as Franciscan Sisters, then we should be able, just by being ourselves, to be an example of religious life. Bring Christ to the people around us.
- Sr. Hannah
“How Can I become a Franciscan Sister?” … “How do I Discern my Vocation?” … “What are the Steps to Become a Franciscan Sister?”
These are some of the questions that may have led you here. You’re not alone! Other Catholic women are also exploring consecrated life, and your questions are a healthy sign that God is working in you.
Vocations Questions like this that might have brought you here are good questions – Vocations 101 – and they reflect how your spirit is open to God. Know that other young adult Catholic women are also asking these questions as they begin or continue to discern their vocation.
St. Francis, too, had questions about his vocation. At first he thought he was called to ‘rebuild the Church’ stone by stone, but soon he discerned it was more a matter of ‘heart by heart.’ Discernment can be a challenging process. Francis’ discernment process took a little time, and yours might too.
“Everything that Francis did in his day was to make gospel values and Jesus and God real for people of his time… I think that’s why Franciscan sensibility today has relevance. Because it challenges us today to bring people to a sense of Jesus and God. And there’s more to life than the here and now.” -Sister Nancy Kinate, OSF
Francis was deeply inspired and guided by the Gospels. He took God’s word seriously and spent much time in prayer and reflection. That is fundamental to wholesome, balanced discernment.
So, in discerning a Franciscan Sister Vocation, you might begin by asking yourself “Why do I think God is calling me” to become a Consecrated Religious? What are the good reasons that you feel called?
Then, consider talking with someone who is wise and faithful in his or her own vocation: in your own family, or a trusted spiritual advisor, perhaps a parish priest, maybe a Campus Minister or a leader in your Catholic Young Adult Group.
Ask them if they think you might be called to be a Sister. Listen carefully to how they respond, and consider what they are saying in light of your sense of vocation, and your gifts and talents and desires.
The experience of others may be helpful and encouraging, but always bear in mind your vocation is your own: precious, and unique to you.
Do you have life experience in one of the ministries where we serve? That’s not absolutely necessary, as orders grow and change, and adapt their ministries. But practical and relevant skills are a connection. Or maybe you just are inspired by St. Francis? You are not alone!
So, consider your calling in light of your own life so far, your education, areas of study, and life experience. It doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t be serving in a way you’ve never considered – we often help our sisters become educated or prepared for new ministries. In the meantime, reflect on how God may have been preparing you for a religious vocation.
God often calls women to religious life with gentle insistence. The signs may be unmistakable. But they may also be subtle as a whisper – much like Elijah heard God’s voice in the merest of breezes. You won’t hear a whisper unless you’re quiet, so time in silence, prayer and reflection is essential to hear God’s call.
If I met a young woman who was thinking about religious life, I would first have her stop and think and pray about everything. She needs to quiet down. Stop for…probably a weekend at least, if they have that time. Quiet everything around them. And then reflect inside. I mean that’s a problem today. The vocation’s there but there’s so much noise around them that they can’t hear it. –Sr. Elena
There are different ways to live a Franciscan Vocation, so there is a diversity of Franciscan communities. Other religious orders in the Catholic Church you’ve probably heard of include Jesuits (like Pope Francis), Dominicans (like St. Dominic) Carmelites (like St. Therese) and others. Each has a special ministry and calling. Some new congregations come into being for a very specific purpose in history. (Sisters of Life)
Others, like us, are involved in different ministries, though we always continue our core ministries in Catholic Education, Catholic Health Care, Parishes and our own Community Services.
Some basic questions might also be: to what type of order do you think you are called? Each religious community has its own charism; that is a special spiritual gift.
“Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of all, and to the needs of the world.” -Catechism of the Catholic Church in Article 799
What initially attracts you to a Community might just be the ‘surface’ ministries. The deeper calling may be more subtle but is at the heart of God calling you, and will be discovered and discerned as you live out your vocation. Just as a Community will shape and challenge and influence you, you will also have an effect on the Community you join. Ultimately this response to Jesus is personal and collective.
As Fr. Mike Schmitz pointed out “Discernment Requires action. Lots of people like talking about discernment… get counsel, get advice. At some point though, you need to act. Discernment isn’t jumping off a cliff and saying ‘I’m going to trust God.’ But about taking one step “if I need to know any more I’m going to investigate’”.
Maybe you think God is calling you to a ‘contemplative’ way of life – living a prayerful life in a cloistered convent or monastery. Those religious are called Nuns. Visit SISTER OR NUN page for more information
We Franciscan Sisters take discernment very seriously. We regularly offer discernment retreats and vocation events. Our Sr. Jacqueline Spaniola, OSF often leads ‘Discernment of Spirits’ Retreats designed to provide young adult Catholic women such as yourself with discernment tools and the skills to understand what God through the Holy Spirit is telling you.
Next, if you’re interested in becoming a Franciscan Sister, or maybe just want to learn more, ask yourself why: what do you know about different Franciscan communities and how they serve? What have you discovered about them so far?
We Franciscan Sisters are available to talk almost anytime. We like to travel! So if you’re not too far away from one of our Mission sites some of our Sisters could meet with you.
For instance, if you’re in southern California, such as the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Dioceses of San Bernardino, Orange, or San Diego you’re not far from our Sisters in Arizona.
If you’re in Colorado or South Dakota or Iowa or Nebraska, consider connecting with our Nebraska Sisters on the far east and west side of the State.
Mississippi and surrounding states are in proximity to our Sisters in Greenwood Mississippi.
Ohio and surrounding states are close to our Ohio Sisters.
If you’re in the St. Louis area or Southern IL, you can connect with our Sisters at Our Lady of Guadalupe Convent in St. Louis (314-449-6812)
And of course, there are many of us Sisters in the Upper Midwest and Michigan. We even sometimes travel to Minnesota or Illinois for retreats or visits from our Motherhouse.
Maybe you’d consider one of our upcoming discernment retreats or events. You are invited! Call or text Sr. Julie Ann at 920-323-9632.
So, if you’d like to learn more, see the Becoming A Franciscan Sister for some Discernment advice and reflections, and more on the process of formation.