New beginnings! The Formation Team discovered a hidden treasure in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). We began to imagine a new approach to Vocation-Formation ministry based on that model. Eagerly, we took on the task of developing and implementing the vision.
The challenge was twofold – the first, outreach to women who might be called to religious life, inviting those interested to explore their call. The second task was complementary - motivating province members to become actively involved in the process.
The Vocation Director’s first outreach is to women participating in diocesan vocation programs in areas where there is a DW presence. Come and See programs are offered as follow-up for those interested. To facilitate this initial inquiry stage, a contact-Sister meets with the newcomer, invites her to visit her community and accompanies her to other province events to allow her to begin to know experientially who we are.
If the participant desires to go further, she requests to become an Affiliate. A second Sister accompanies her. With a reflection sheet to guide her, each month the Affiliate reflects on a period of her life journey and records key memories in a journal. She then meets with her Sister-companion to share her discoveries. The Affiliate deepens in self-knowledge, even as she discerns the path of the Spirit in her life. Following this stage of the journey, if she wishes to continue, she writes a letter of request to the provincial. Simultaneously, her Sister-companion reviews her experience of their relationship and sends her recommendation.
During this period and the Candidacy Stage which follows, seeker also participates in three weekend sessions each year with their Sister-companions and the Vocation Director. Three fundamental themes are treated: self-knowledge, our Founders and spirituality. Candidates continue to meet monthly, this time with a Sister-mentor. Included in this stage is a six week experience of community living. The candidate may then seek admission to the pre-novitiate by writing a letter to the provincial who reviews it along with the recommendations of her mentor and the Formation Team. The Provincial and her council review her journey thus far prior to admitting her to the international novitiate.
Last year a Formation community, an active group of four Sisters was established to receive pre-novices. The group also represents the province in other Vocation Ministry activities and occasionally hosts sessions for various discernment groups.
This year our challenge is to engage more Sisters and Associates in this endeavor so vital to the future of the province.
Sister Barbara O’Dea, DW