Religious Life – Then and Now

Blog by Sr. Maidung Nguyen

Once in a while, I receive comments such as:

“Entering religious life, my daughter cannot pursue her dream for a higher education.”

“What time is the curfew in the convent?”

“You are surrounded by elderly people. Is it boring to live that way?”

What is your experience of religious life at this time?

People have lots of questions and oftentimes hold many misconceptions about what it is like to live the religious life as a sister.

Religious life is a real blessing, sanctified by God. Of course, religious life has seen many changes through the years.

In the past, women had to stay in the convent or monastery, living a more closed life and were bound to an institution. They entered religious life at very young ages, still maturing and growing in their faith and life. They had to adapt to a rigid schedule and rules, which at that time was thought to help them grow spiritually.

Now, those who enter religious life are older, from diverse backgrounds, and better educated with extensive life experiences. They go through a more thorough discernment process that provides them with greater clarity in believing that their call is from God. They want to share their love and passion for mission beyond their families. What inspires so many women to join religious life today is the charism of the congregation, the variety of ministries the congregations offer and the meaningful ways the sisters live.

Elder sisters bring a lifetime of experience, having pursued a faith journey, already marked by hope for the future. Living in community with elder sisters, our younger sisters benefit from the wisdom that comes with age, and receive encouragement, and inspiration to follow God’s will and to engage in varied ministries. They find elder sisters to be models of humility and faith-centered living. Thus, the experience of intergenerational living in a religious community today brings with it an exchange of joy, love, and mutual respect between sisters of all ages.

Now, women today work with sisters from other congregations and laypeople of faith to meet the needs of our time and to build a future of hope through trust and collaboration. Sisters in a younger cohort group have many opportunities to connect with their peer groups across congregational boundaries. Encouraged by congregational leadership, they have many chances to articulate their visions, blessings, and challenges to support and share mission together. With the support from elder sisters, younger members are encouraged to reimagine and envision religious life, with the possibility of giving birth to many vibrant movements. One elder sister remarked, “I wish I could live longer than 100 years of age to see such things happen.”

As a sister in the younger cohort group, I often feel joy, peace, and gratitude for this grace-filled journey and for my vocational call, which provides me much energy and enthusiasm. I often feel like Elizabeth when she greets Mary, “Why am I so favored that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” (Luke 1:43-4) I often leap for joy as I live this life as a religious sister.

 

If you want to know more about this way of life, sharing mission together in a collaborative and interconnected spirit with other sisters, or if you want to know more about sisterhood in general, contact us, visit our vocation webpage, or join us for a three-hour Advent Mini-Retreat on December 12 from 2-5pm EST.

Posted in God Calling?, Vocations Blog

5 responses to “Religious Life – Then and Now

  1. Beautifully expressed, Mai-Dung! The freshness of your vision and the expansiveness of your love and joy are gifts that we treasure!

  2. Maidung,
    I really enjoyed your reflections and want to affirm your comments about the joy in living in a diverse community, whether it be diversity of age and/or culture.

  3. Great blog, Maidung. Many thanks – keep them coming. And, a very Happy Thanksgiving to you and those you love!

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