W284 N404 Cherry Lane -
Waukesha, WI 53188
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The question of embracing the consecrated life is an important one . . . And once it is made, then the journey begins! But how does that journey really, literally begin?
All communities of consecrated life have times of formation, which give new members time to grow and become acquainted with the consecrated life in general and with their specific community. As you might imagine, each community does this a little differently, but most follow a fairly common pattern of formation. This article is meant to give you a sample, a closer look at the times of formation that we follow as Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary.
The candidature is an initial time of introduction in which those young women who have decided to enter our community are invited to come and live at our provincial house or main movement center. The candidature gives the young woman an opportunity to live in close proximity to our sisters, to organically grow into life in community, and to further discern her vocation. The time of the candidature depends on the individual and her circumstances, but it normally lasts from a few months to a year. This time period also enables other young women to join the forming course community.
The postulancy is the first formal time of education in the community. During the postulancy, which normally lasts for 6 months, the postulants live together in the provincial house. In this time of working and living together with the sisters, the postulants can get to know the community. Likewise, the community also gets to know the postulants and can further help in vocational discernment. In addition to some hours of daily work, the postulants have time each day for classes and study.
What is a COURSE?
A “course” refers to the group of young women who enter our community at the same time. A course not only has its times of education together, but it also becomes a small “community within the community,” and a vital part of each sister’s life for her time of formation and beyond. Because of the importance of the courses, our community does not officially begin the time of postulancy until a sufficient number of young women (at least 5-6) have expressed their intention to enter.
The novitiate, which lasts for 2 years, begins with a 6-month period of “closed” novitiate. The closed novitiate includes the preparation for the reception, when the novices receive our Marian dress. The time of closed novitiate is spent mainly in prayer, study, and classes. It is a time of introduction, as the novices are introduced into the life of a Sister of Mary and the principles of our community.
After the closed novitiate, the novices live and work in one of our house communities, and meet regularly for study days and weeks of instruction. The 2-year novitiate ends with the first Incorporation, when the novice receives the brooch bearing the image of the Mother Thrice Admirable, as a sign of her full membership in the community.
Our way of committing ourselves to God via the community is also a gradual one. At the first Incorporation, we seal our contract/consecration for 1 year. After that year, the sister can then choose to renew her commitment for 2 years, and then for 3 years. At the end of those 3 years, the contract/consecration is then sealed forever. This gives both the sister and the community the opportunity to prayerfully and carefully discern God’s will with regard to her vocation.
Our formation continues with two 5-month tertianships one 3 years and the other 6 years after the end of the novitiate. The tertianships continue the education of our novitiate, and are times of increased prayer and study. They also enable the course community to grow together in unity and depth. The second tertianship ends with our final incorporation, when we pledge ourselves to God through the community of the Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary forever.