Community plays a critical role in your vocation call. Religious community parameters are crucial for you to live your vowed life fruitfully and meaningfully. God’s will can be magnified in you through these parameters. Thus, asking the right questions to reflect on, pray with, and to share with someone whom you trust is necessary in narrowing down which community is the right one for you.
When visiting a religious community, you may feel drawn to this community because of the way the Sisters pray or celebrate Eucharist. You may find a community that wears a habit more comfortable for you. However, there is more to consider when choosing a religious community.
Along the way, to follow God’s call, God may invite you to step out of your comfort zone and expand your horizon. Some communities you visit may both inspire and challenge you. This new discovery may disturb the way you have imaged religious life or of practicing your faith. Such experience may cause you to question your call or to be disappointed. However, perhaps these differences are expanding your expectations and opening you to new possibilities. Taking time in choosing a community with which to discern, calls for thoughtful reflection.
Below are just some suggested questions about community to consider:
- What are the ten top values of a healthy faith-community you value most? How do these values fit with the community you are looking at?
- What is the daily schedule of prayer, study, community, and ministry? How do you imagine living with this schedule for the rest of your life in a healthy way, not the one that is a burden?
- How do the sisters and the community live out their vows of obedience, celibacy, and poverty?
- How does the community live interdependently, intergenerationally, interculturally, and interracially? How do you see yourself living in such an environment?
- How does the community support its members for mission, on-going education and personal development, and healthy living?
- How much freedom and accountability do the members have? How are the voices of the members heard in the community?
- What are the mission and vision statements of the community, and how do the sisters live out these statements, day in and day out? How does your vision, dream, and gifts fit into these statements, making you feel you are a part of this community to share mission together?
- How do the members of the community respond to the signs of the time, including social justice issues, issues within the church, service to people in needs, care for creation, or creating a vision? How do these resonate with you?
- If possible, visit a community for a retreat, a mission program or a “live in” experience for a week or more. Then, reflect on that experience as you discern where you are called.
- Imagine you have decided on the best community to join. Live with that decision for a week. How do you feel about it? What is God saying to you as you bring this decision to prayer? How do you imagine yourself living in this community in ten years, twenty years, and the rest of your life?
Different communities fit different people. A community can provide good soil for you to live out your vocational call, to grow, and to bear good fruit. Yet, it is important to choose the community that seems to be the best fit for you. Surrendering to God’s will does not mean joining a community without having a serious discernment. Surrendering to God’s will means accepting the invitation to join a community in which you can share visions, dreams, gifts, and yet be transformed to become the best person God intended you to be. Choosing the right community for you takes time to discern. Be courageous, trust God, and invite others into your discernment journey with you. Reach out to a spiritual director, mentor or vocation director with whom to guide your discernment journey.
The adventure is just beginning.