The process of discerning religious life is an exciting journey!
In the journey of becoming a sister, there are several significant phases of initial formation. In my ministry with the Dominican Sisters of Peace as Coordinator of Formation, I have the wonderful opportunity to journey with women in the various stages of formation until they make perpetual profession. I do this in concert with other Sisters who serve as formation mentors, community members and guides along the way. Whether a woman has just entered as a candidate or has become a novice or has taken first vows, each distinctive stage of her journey is unique. Each stage deepens her self-knowledge and her understanding of the call, the congregation, and her relationship with God. I love being a part of this wonderful process.
Recently, I had the wonderful opportunity of visiting our Dominican Sister of Peace novice, Sr. Phuong Vu. Sr. Phuong is part of the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate (CDN) in St. Louis, Missouri and shares this novitiate experience with a Maryknoll novice, Sr. Rolande Pendeza Kahindo (the Maryknoll congregation is part of the Dominican family).
Phuong and Rolande are mid-way through their novitiate year. The novitiate year is a very busy and special year of immersion into deepening the understanding of the four pillars of Dominican life: prayer, community, ministry, and study. The novices also connect with the wider Dominican family and interact with novices from other religious congregations who are in the same place in their journey.
Celebrating this mid-year mark in the novitiate and sharing some of their experiences with members in congregational leadership and with formation representatives is an annual event for every novitiate group at the CDN. I remember well doing this during my own time in the novitiate over 13 years ago. This year as a formation representative, I was blessed to be present for this wonderful sharing by novices Phuong and Rolande as they did their group presentation about their time at the CDN.
In their sharing, Phuong and Rolande spoke about how blessed and grateful each felt for all that they have learned and experienced. They spoke of how loved and supported they felt by their communities, from their CDN co-directors and from the extended family of sisters and the Dominican family. They spoke about the wonderful learnings they have acquired from their studies that include theology, preaching, the vows, human development and conflict resolution—to name just a few. They talked about learning to live in a diverse community and about the skills needed for good community living, especially good intercultural community living. They spoke about the rich prayer and reflection day experiences that helped support them as they engaged in ministry as tutors/mentors in an economically challenged school.
Phuong and Rolande also shared about what challenged them and about times of fun and laughter. Their presentation spoke volumes about how they are integrating their learnings during this grace-filled time of their canonical novitiate year.
Finally, Phuong and Rolande collaborated on creating a beautiful ritual as part of their presentation. They helped plan the Mass where the entire group celebrated together. And celebrate we did, with drums, shakers, spirited singing and preaching. Each novice played an essential role in the Mass, from Phuong being a lector and writing the intercessions to Rolande breaking open the Word with us with her preaching and leading us all in a Congolese inspired rendition of the Our Father. We were all so very proud!
Walking the journey with women who desire to live religious life as a Dominican Sister of Peace is a blessing. Being with our novices who will help carry on the Dominican tradition fills me with deep gratitude and hope for the future.
I invite you to enjoy some of the pictures from this wonderful event that I was privileged to attend.
I also ask you to continue to pray for our novices at the CDN, Phuong and Rolande, as they continue to journey into this grace-filled year at the Collaborative Dominican Novitiate.
Perhaps hearing this story about Phuong and Rolande’s journey stirs something in you and makes you think about religious life. If so, I invite you to contact one of our Vocation Ministers to explore what being a Dominican Sister of Peace might be like for you.