Last Wednesday, I posted a blog entry called "What It Means to be in Initial Formation." You can read it by clicking here. In that entry I wrote about the nature and process of formation itself.
Today, my focus is on the stages of initial formation for the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. My personal experience is limited to the postulancy and first year novitiate. I will do my best to summarize the other stages.
The postulancy is a time to live among the Sisters, and to continue to discern whether God is calling oneself to the religious life. Postulants enroll in classes at Silver Lake College to develop an understanding of Catholicism, spirituality, and philosophy. They may also take other classes toward their degrees.
Postulants participate in "Mission Experiences" in which they spend time with Sisters at our various mission sites. You can look at pictures from our postulants' recent mission experiences in Arizona by clicking here.
Postulants participate in the prayer life of the community, as well as daily recreation.The length of postulancy is typically 9-10 months, depending on the needs of the young woman in formation. Canonically, it cannot be less than 6 months, and a person can stay in the postulancy for a second year.
The novitiate is two years in length. When a young woman becomes a novice, she receives her religious name and begins wearing a white veil. The novitiate is a time to deepen one's relationship with God and to continue to discern God's direction for one's life.
In the first year of the novitiate, novices study the Old Testament in the Fall and the New Testament in the Spring. They learn about the charisms, constitutions, and history of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity, as well as the Franciscan Rule and history. They also spend time helping out around the Motherhouse. (This year, I worked in the kitchen and bakery, as well as sacristy.)
In the second year of the novitiate, novices take classes at Silver Lake College to prepare for their apostolates and to continue to study theology. They also study the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
Novices participate in the prayer life of the community, and in addition, they pray midday and night prayer together. There is a chapel in the novitiate with a tabernacle. Novices have daily recreation as well. They also have "mission experiences (staying with Sisters at our various mission sites)."
When a young woman professes vows for the first time, she recieves a black veil. The temporary profession is renewed every year until the Sister is ready for perpetual profession. Temporary profession ordinarily lasts between three and six years.
During Temporary Profession, the Sister is either working toward her degree, or begining her apostolate (her ministry). She lives at a mission site with other Sisters. In the summers, the Sister resides at the Motherhouse for the Temporary Profession program.
When a young woman makes final vows, she becomes a permament member of the Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity. She receives a ring. Her formation is not over though! Everyone is called to continue to grow throughout our lives.