Vocation Discernment – Now and Then

Blog by Sr. Mai Dung Nguyen

“Sister, why did you become a Dominican Sister of Peace?”

“What do you see as the future of religious life in your congregation?”

“How do you respond to the needs of our time?”

“How does your community function?”

These are some of the many questions that discerners ask. The process of discerning a vocation today is different from what most religious sisters experienced in the past, including me.

When I was discerning, I often asked senior sisters about their vocation stories. I learned that in the past eighty, sixty, or fifty years ago, most sisters entered the convent at a young age, around 16 or 18 years old or even younger (in Vietnam, for instance). They did not experience much life outside their families. No vocational discernment program was established for them at that time. Their decision to enter a convent was based mainly on their connections with sisters, their impression of some of the sisters they encountered, or their attraction to the mission life of religious sisters.

Then, about twenty or thirty years ago, the process of discerning a religious vocation changed. Many congregations began to have Come and See events or allowed discerners to stay with them for a few days or a week. To respond to the needs of discerners at that time, the Dominican Sisters in Kentucky, who are now the Dominican Sisters of Peace, opened a house of discernment in Boston for discerners to live with sisters up to a year while participating in their discerning program. I decided to move into that house. I was impressed by their vision for mission and how the sisters interacted and shared life daily. After that year, I decided to stay.

Now that I am involved in the vocation ministry, I realize that there are many discernment programs around the country. Let’s take a look at the discernment programs the Dominican Sisters of Peace offer as an example of the variety of discernment opportunities available to discerning women. First, discerners meet with one of our vocation ministers monthly to seek clarification of their calling and to cultivate their call at a deeper level.  Second, they can also attend monthly Emmaus groups, Discernment Prayer groups, online Mini-Retreats, Come and See weekend retreats, Mission for Peace programs for 3- to 5-days, and mini live-in experiences.

The congregation also launched a congregational website to share our mission, and the vocation team created a vocation website, specifically for discerners. All of these programs and our websites are designed to help discerners develop their spirituality and to learn more about themselves, and their calling.  Today, discerners and sisters have many more opportunities to learn about and know one another at more profound and intimate levels.

At her studio, Sr. Thoma Swanson, OP shares her drawing with a visiting discerner, Terry Schell, and a temporary professed sister, Sr. Ellen Coates, OP.

In journeying with discerners, I find that most women, who come to the Dominican Sisters of Peace, are diverse and unique in many ways by age, race, career, and life experiences. Those who say “Yes” to becoming a Dominican Sister of Peace found themselves at home with our sisters. They are inspired by the joy, the peace, the faith living, and the strong commitments the sisters have. They desire to live this life and share in the congregation’s mission with sisters. At the same time, our sisters enjoy sharing their vocation stories and having conversations with these discerners or newer members because of the fresh vision, new fire, and new energy they bring to the congregation. Together, discerners, newer members, and professed sisters all create an environment for spreading hope and enthusiasm and for motivating and awakening us to the new possibilities for religious life in the present and for the future.

Reflecting on this history of vocational discernment through the years, I see a common thread of mutual affection between professed sisters and new members.

If you feel a call to this mutual affection for the church’s mission and for your vocation call, contact us or participate in our Come and See event this March 4-6, 2022. Or, click here to register now for this weekend event.

Posted in God Calling?, Vocations Blog

One response to “Vocation Discernment – Now and Then

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.