- What is discernment?
Mature applicants take their time to inquire, obtain information, think and pray, and often seek the wise advice of others. This is a process that is called discernment. It requires one to know one’s self, God’s lead, and information about the religious community or diocese.
- Who do I contact to guide me with my discernment?
Among persons who could assist with your discernment are: the Vocation Director, or a contact at a parish or campus discernment group. Check with the Vocation Director of your diocese or of the religious order you’re interested in to get started.
No doubt a Vocation Director is vitally important to assist in discernment if you have a strong attraction for religious life and/or the priesthood. Before getting to that point along the path of initial investigation, any discernment groups or vocational retreats can give plenty of good food for thought and prayer.
- Where Can I Find Support?
There are huge numbers of persons praying for those discerning. Some parishes have adoration and prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, specifically for an increase of vocations. You might ask friends and family to support you in prayer. If you have a spiritual director, ask him/her for prayerful support. Spend time before the Blessed Sacrament and befriend Jesus especially in this time of sincere discernment. Prayer is both a wonderful and necessary support.
You can also connect with others discerning a vocation.Probably the best place to check is with your local parish or with your diocesan Vocation Director. Some religious communities offer discernment groups and/or discernment retreats. As a rule of thumb you should check with the Vocation Director of the group that attracts you. Some universities offer discernment retreats through campus ministry.
- How Will I know if a Religious Vocation is Right for me?
You may be wondering, "Why should I choose a religious vocation over another vocation like marriage or the single life?". This is an excellent question with which many persons wrestle; they’re attracted to church ministry, and yet they are also attracted to marriage and children. We should not say that one vocation is better than another. All vocations are good, have positive aspects and allow a pathway to holiness. And all vocations have their challenges.
To know if a religious vocation is right for him or her, a person must prayerfully discern what is in his or her heart. One listens to the Lord’s lead. He or she also pays attention to the comments of others, who say things like, "You’d made a great priest/brother/sister."
It is good to remember that the Lord calls us to a particular vocation. He said, “I called you, you did not choose me.” The breath of the Holy Spirit will be with you to see, understand, and produce the wonderful spiritual fruits and gifts that grow during the formative years.
Think of a seminary as place where men aspiring to the priesthood will plant the seeds of their vocation. (The word "seminary" comes from the word "seminate" or seed.) They see if they grow and become even more joyful. The formation staff will gladly encourage candidates along the way and over the years. The same is true for the sister and brother candidates.
Apostolates during the academic year and during the summer will provide fertile soil to tests one’s aptitude for ministry. Many years are given for a person to flourish and thrive. After several years of “trying it out” in formation the candidate will eventually step forward for ordination and/or perpetual or lifetime vows. Time will tell. The Holy Spirit will accompany you along these years of journey that are called initial formation.
More than ever, adults are entering formation after some years of working in a lay person's career after college. Many of those with a religious vocation weight marriage, and yet found a deep attration to the total giving of self for the good of the Church. Many found living and working with fellow community members to be very compelling. We encourage you to listen to the vocation of other priests or religious. You may well identify with them and learn that you're not alone in your thoughts and concerns.
In whatever path we choose in life, may it lead us closer to God in the ways of Holiness.
- What are the Financial Costs?
This is best answered by the religious community or diocese in which you hold a particular interest. Some institutions require you to pay most of the costs (room, board, books, travel and incidentals) during initial formation. Some religious communities will have you pay costs until you enter the novitiate. After taking vows, the community will completely pay all your bills.
- What if I have financial debts?
Most religious orders will require that you are free of all financial debt before entering, with the exception of college tuition loans. There is a chance that either partial or complete assistance may be available for college loans.
Personal debt for such things as a condominium or car would not be paid by most religious communities or diocese. Should you have college loans, ask the vocation director if the community or diocese will pay the interest on your loans while you are in formation, and if they will pay off your college loans once ordained or having taken final vows.