Last week, at the monthly Emmaus Discernment meeting for our discerners, some of them expressed their desire to know more about friendships in religious life. We all have a variety of different relationships: with God, yourself, family, and friends, and co-workers. In this blog, I would like to share about relationships with friends when one of us joins religious life.
Before Vatican II, (1962-1965) when individuals entered religious life, they were not allowed to connect with friends or family for their first few years in the convent. Today, there are still some myths saying that sisters in religious life must cut all ties with family and friends. It is not true. Sisters value their relationships with families and friends and are encouraged to maintain them.
Religious life now is different. However, communities are different in their expectations regarding friend relationships. If you enter a cloistered community, you will not go out to see friends or family, instead, they may visit you. If you enter a monastic community, friendship and family connections are physically limited. If you enter an apostolic community, relationships with friends and family are more open; but it also depends on each community. Some communities do not allow members to go home during the formation program for at least three to five years. Most religious communities, on the other hand, like the Dominican Sisters of Peace, allow members to visit their families and friends more often. When you choose to enter a religious community, you should consider a community’s guidelines about relationships with family and friends.
Maintaining healthy relationships in our community is important because one of our commitments is hospitality and we value these relationships. Besides being members of a local community, sisters have wide relationships with family, including extended families, co-workers, sisters, priests, and friends. Some sisters still have friends from their elementary school years. For me, since I entered religious life, I have friends across religious communities and generations. My friends are religious sisters and priests from various religious communities, and people I studied and worked with ranging in age from the 30s to 90s years old.
Having entered religious life, I enjoy a deep level of friendship with many sisters because we share much in common, and we enrich each other through our visions, life experiences, and shared ministry. I also have friends from different religions, from the colleges I’ve attended, from churches where I have volunteered, and with co-workers. We go out to eat and engage in activities together. While my friends may share different perspectives on life, we have built friendships based on trust, understanding, and support of one another.
If you feel called to be a sister, or want to know more about religious life, feel free to move forward. You will be blessed with a big network of support. If you have any questions, please contact us and don’t let your questions/assumptions or your fears block your way. It is a blessed call to live.