Vocations: Are You Being Called to Become a Sister?

Are you being called to help create a better future for the poor?

Do you feel that you may be called to a life of loving service for others, dedicated solely to the Lord?

There are many things to consider when thinking about becoming a Sister.  Please click on the + tabs below to learn more about becoming a Sister of the Sorrowful Mother.

How Do I Know I'm Being Called?

The first thing is to look inward and ask yourself some important questions:

– Do you feel a nudging to give more of yourself for others?

– Does your heart long to alleviate suffering?

– Do you want to share your talents to help the poor and all God’s people?

– Do you find that a career isn’t enough of a motive for your life? Do you want more?

– Does the idea of becoming a Sister keep coming back to you?

– Does your relationship with God sustain you, enliven you and invigorate you in a way that makes you want to share God’s love with others both inside and outside the community?

– Do you find yourself asking God for help?

– Do you have a sneaking suspicion that you are on the brink of a major life decision?

Are you still unsure about your role and your future? 

The next step is to e-mail or talk with a Sister. A Sister can help you talk through these thoughts and your questions and concerns about being called to a religious life. Sister Lucille Flores would be happy to chat with you. You can e-mail her at ssmvocations@gmail.com or call her at 414-640-1771.

How Do I Become a Sister?

Becoming a Sister is a step-by-step process. Women are guided through making this decision with the support of the Sisters and the communities they serve. The first questions to be asked can be found above under the How Do I Know tab.

It is important that women tune in to the voice within that is nudging them to become a Sister and pray to God for the grace to be open to God’s will. Women first need to gather more information so the commitment to this way of life is fully understood. Our Sisters are here to help guide the decision-making process.

1. Ask for information about the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother by contacting Sister Lucille Flores by e-mailing her at ssmvocations@gmail.com or calling her at 414-640-1771 (or you can contact any other Sister) and tell her about your interest in becoming a Sister or share your questions about religious life with her.
2. Review our international Web site at www.ssmgen.org, and share your comments and questions with the Director of Vocation Ministry.
3. Attend a Discernment Retreat and/or a “Come & Pray” program to learn more about the spirituality and charism of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother. These retreats and programs are set up on a one-to-one basis.
4. Spend 5-10 minutes in prayer each day. Sit in solitude with the Lord. Gaze upon the Lord in love and let God’s loving gaze touch your heart. Ask God for openness to His holy will.
5. Read and reflect upon the information you’ve learned and the materials sent to you. Share your thoughts and insights with any Sister.
6. Begin a Pre-Postulancy phase preparing to enter the SSM community.
Incorporation into Community: Phases of the Spiritual Formative Process

1. The Postulancy: the period of time that precedes the novitiate. The primary purpose of this period is to assist the person to listen more deeply to God’s call and to continue her growth in the Catholic faith. The journey is actualized through significant experiences in prayer, through the experience of community life and continued service to others, especially the poor. During this time, the postulant becomes acquainted with the spiritual values and charism of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother (SSMs) and develops a sense of belonging.

a. Time duration: usually one year but the Regional Superior can extend the time period up to two years with the consent of her council

b. Residency: in a local house of SSMs that is chosen by the Provincial after consultation with the appropriate persons

c. Financial Arrangement: the postulant is expected to be financially independent while learning to live within community. 
2. Novitiate:
a. The first-year novitiate is referred to as the Canonical Novitiate. The canonical phase emphasizes the contemplative dimension of the process of being incorporated into religious life. Solitude, prayer and studies assist the novice in continuing to detach from all that would prevent a total commitment to God. The focus is the deepening of one’s relationship to Jesus through the discipline of habitual prayer and the internalization of the Gospel values, Franciscan spirituality, and the charism of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother. To accomplish this goal, the program provides for adequate balance of prayer, study, service to the poor and leisure.
b. Time duration: one year  
c. Residence: the novitiate house with the Novice Director, other novices and professed Sisters  
d. Financial Agreement: The Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother assume financial responsibility for a novice.
3. Second-Year Novitiate: This year is referred to as the Apostolic Novitiate as more time is spent in ministry. The focus is the integration of the novice’s understanding of the mission of the Church through which religious give themselves in love to be send out to serve others. Ministry is mutually discerned.
Profession of Vows
Profession of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience follow the Novitiate. These three vows, based on Gospel invitations given by Jesus, are public acknowledgements of the acceptance and commitment to live the religious life as a Sister. Vows are made for a limited time, four to six years.
During this time, a newly professed Sister engages in full-time ministry (apostolate), with continued formative studies. Or she would be engaged in studies that prepare her professionally for the ministry to which she would be assigned.
Perpetual Vows
Perpetual Vows are made for life after a Sister is confident that this is the life she is being called to live.
Frequently Asked Questions

Who are the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother? 

We are an international community of women religious who were founded in Rome, Italy in 1883 by Mother Frances Streitel. We follow the Third Order Rule of St. Francis of Assisi. Our founding charism is to live an active contemplative life in order to be a transforming presence in the world of our day.
Our charism defines who we are and what we do:
“Through a dedicated life of apostolic service, vitalized by a contemplative spirit, we care for those in need, especially the poor, and in our own poverty seek the Lord above all.”
Who can become a Sister of the Sorrowful Mother?
A Catholic woman ages 20-45 who desires to live the Gospel as a Franciscan woman, is physically and mentally healthy, capable of living the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience; is able to engage in ministry on a full-time basis according to her qualifications, talents, gifts, educational background and the needs of the community in carrying out the charism and mission within the Church. She is to be able to contribute in our daily efforts to create a healthy communal lifestyle and participate fully in efforts to discern the Spirit’s call to women religious in the 21st century to meet the needs of the poor and oppressed and to address injustices and trends that thwart world peace.
How does one become a Sister of the Sorrowful Mother?
See the How Do I Become a Sister tab above for details about the steps on discernment and formation of becoming a Sister.
How long does it take to become a Sister of the Sorrowful Mother? 
A total of 7 years, but could be as long as 12 years: 1 year in the postulancy (may be extended 6 months), 2 years in the novitiate, and 4 years of temporary vows (can be extended up to 9 years).
Why become a Sister of the Sorrowful Mother?
If God is calling a woman to religious life, we invite her to consider becoming a Sister of the Sorrowful Mother for the following reasons:
• To imbue a vibrant spirituality that unites action and contemplation, modeled by Mother Frances Streitel, whom the Church, in a decree issued on March 27, 2010, lifted up as a model of heroic virtues, acknowledging that her faithfulness to the vows and her efforts to live the virtues were “rare.” Which virtues? The three ideological virtues of faith, hope and love (love of God and love of neighbor); the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude, and, what the decree described as “those annexed,” humility poverty, chastity, and obedience.
• To serve the Church in a variety of ways in keeping with the charism of the Congregation and the heritage passed on to us by our Foundress, that is, “…vitalized by a contemplative spirit, we care for those in need, especially the poor, and in our own poverty seek the Lord above all.”
• To know the richness of living a life of simplicity and hospitality, generosity and doing whatever it takes to serve those in need.
• To grow in intimacy with the Lord, self and others as did St. Francis, St. Clare of Assisi, and Venerable Mother Frances Streitel.
• To stand with those who suffer as did Mary at the foot of the cross.
• To become a part of something bigger than yourself.
• To live and work with others who share your passion for the Lord and the work of His Church: healing, teaching, comforting, strengthening, encouraging others on the faith journey and striving to seek God’s will above all.
• To embrace many different cultures, as we have ministries in the Midwest, Eastern, and Southern parts of the U.S., in the Caribbean (Grenada, St. Lucia, Trinidad), the Dominican Republic, Austria, Germany, Italy, Brazil, and Tanzania.
• To become your best self through retreats, workshops, studies, renewal programs and a variety of resources that enhance one’s spiritual growth.
What does it mean to be a Franciscan?
• That you want to grow in holiness as did St. Francis and St. Clare, detaching yourself from material things, living for the Lord alone, growing in intimacy with the Lord, engaging in an ongoing process of becoming one with the person of Christ (ongoing conversion), and developing an ability to see Christ in the “lepers” of today and in all of Creation
• That you follow the Third Order Rule of St. Francis of Assisi – you would study this rule as part of your incorporation into religious life
• That you would treasure the Church as your mother, the rock upon which your faith develops and expands
• That helping the poor and oppressed and sharing your faith with all persons would be a priority in your life
What vows do Sisters take? 
We take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
By our vow of poverty, we live the common life; that means that our salaries are pooled into different community funds to enable us to serve the poor and continue our ministries in the Church. We are given small monthly stipends on which to live and meet ordinary expenses.
By the vow of chastity, we “…follow Christ with undivided love. We give our entire being to God as an act of love….Our relationships with others are a vital support to celibate living….It is in community that we are called to share with one another our faith life, together making the Lord the integrating love of our life.
By the vow of obedience, we follow Jesus who surrendered His will to the will of the Father. We are open to be sent in mission to wherever there is need.
What do Sisters do for fun?
Many times what one does for fun depends on an individual’s interests. However, there are activities we all engage in communally such as playing board games, playing cards, listening to music, going to concerts and to movies, hiking and engaging in sports.
Other activities that lean more toward individual talents and interests that Sisters do in their free time include reading, arts and crafts, sports, writing, music, media, TV, cooking, or they engage in activities that are life-giving and energizing like visiting with friends and family, e-mailing, blogging, studying and researching topics of interest.
Do Sisters pray each day?  
Each Sister is asked to spend a half hour each day in meditation and personal prayer. Communally, the Sisters pray the Liturgy of the Hours in the morning and evening and attend daily liturgy. Fifteen minutes each day is also devoted to spiritual reading. Every Sister also is asked to arrange a week of retreat annually, to go apart with the Lord for an extended period of silence, contemplation and spiritual direction.
Why do some Sisters wear habits and others do not?

The Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother have the option of wearing a habit or dressing in lay clothes with the identifying community medal. Many choose to wear the habit as an external symbol of their consecration to the Lord. Those who choose to dress simply in lay clothes state that they want their living of the Gospel to be the sign of their consecration.
Should I go to college before entering religious life?

Pursuing a college degree would be a wise choice prior to entering any religious community, although some communities accept individuals without an advanced degree but who have extended experiences in volunteer ministries and employment opportunities. Being prepared for a ministry of service and/or being qualified academically for that service is an important step as you ponder whether or not God is calling you to become a sister. Many persons considering marriage also complete their college education first so they are positioned to enter a career for which they are duly qualified so as to support a family and not depend solely upon their partner.
Can I enter a religious community in a few months?
Some inquirers write to us and tell us, “My goal is to enter religious life by such-and-such a date.” Entrance into any religious community is a lengthy process. It means taking time to get to know that religious community and that community getting to know you.
The process begins in a variety of ways: telephone chats, personal visits, email conversations, Skype, studying materials sent to you, and attending Come and See Programs and Discernment sessions. As with marriage, a person dates several individuals until he/she knows “this is the one,” so, too, in choosing a religious community. The person takes times to acquaint herself with several different communities until she knows “this is the one,” and her decision is confirmed by the Vocation Director of that religious community. Entering a permanent commitment with a lifelong partner or with a religious community is not done quickly.
This getting to know a religious community continues after one enters the postulancy, the first step in training to become a sister. The postulancy is a 1-2 year period, followed by 1-2 year novitiate training and then a minimum of 4 years of temporary vows. Only then is a permanent commitment made to be a lifelong member. As you can see, that whole time is similar to the dating period that precedes marriage, as vows are not taken lightly in either vocation.
What does a Sister of the Sorrowful Mother do all day?
What a Sister does in ministry depends on whether she is a physician, counselor, teacher, healthcare professional, social worker, domestic worker, secretary, youth minister or coordinator, Director of Religious Education, a Pastoral Associate or many other variety of career choices in keeping with the charism and mission of the Congregation.
Apart from her ministry – usually full time – a Sister engages in:
• Communal prayer times (Morning Praise and Evening Praise with the Sisters with whom she lives)
• Personal prayer time – contemplation and meditation periods of 30-60 minutes a day
• Spiritual reading time (15 minutes a day)
• Daily attendance at Mass
• Sharing of, as well as preparing, meals with the Sisters with whom she lives
• Socializing/having fun times/leisure times usually with with Sisters with whom she lives but can be with others as well
• Exercising (whatever contributes to a Sister staying healthy for her own sake, the sake of becoming her best self and enhancing her ability to be a life-giving person in community and ministry)
Each day the Sisters also engage in personal and communal prayer time, the Liturgy of Hours (the Prayer of the Church), meditation/contemplation, sharing a meal and some leisure time with community members.
Where do the Sisters serve? 
The St. Clare of Assisi Region of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother has ministries across Wisconsin; in Tulsa, Oklahoma; Denville, New Jersey; and the Dominican Republic. Internationally we have locations in Germany, Italy, Austria, Brazil, Tanzania, and the Caribbean islands of Grenada, St. Lucia, Trinidad/Tobago.
Do Sisters get to visit with family and friends?
Where do Sisters live?
Sisters typically live in convents or homes within neighborhoods in the communities they serve. Sisters live together in community in the same home. Typically Sisters live in small groups.
Do Sisters own their own car?
No. A Sister is given a car to use for her ministry but the car belongs to the Congregation.
Do Sisters get a salary?
Yes. Their salary is pooled and contributed to different community funds to enable the Congregation to serve the poor and sustain ministries in the Church.
Can Sisters take vacations?
Sisters take both vacation time and make a retreat every year. These can be individual or group. Vacations are used to refresh the body and soul, while retreats are made for spiritual rejuvenation.
How is a Sister assigned her ministry?
Ministries are mutually discerned. A Sister may be asked to engage in a particular ministry because of an existing need identified by the community and communicated through one’s legitimate superiors or the appropriate authority persons. Or, a Sister may request to engage in a particular ministry that she recognizes as being compatible with the charism and mission focus of the Congregation and for which she is qualified, skilled and eager to serve. If mutually discerned and agreed upon by legitimate authorities, this Sister is then sent to take on that ministry.
Can a Sister choose her ministry?
The community of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother has a mission: “to care for those in need, especially the poor.” Within that mission, each Sister has the opportunity to train and develop her skills. However, the community may ask a Sister to a particular position based on her existing talents, giftedness and educational background. If additional training or education is needed to fulfill a ministry position, the community provides for that.
Can a Sister choose the location of where she wants to work?
The goal is that Sisters minister in locations where there are other Sisters so as to live in community. It is possible that an identified need surfaces for opening a mission where SSMs have no presence. In that case, effort is made to mission at least two Sisters to minister in that area. Exceptions can be made and are mutually discerned with the appropriate authorities whereby that need can be fulfilled, even if it means a Sister living alone and connecting with a larger community via social media, and whenever possible, in person.
How do Congregations or Orders differ from one another? 
By their basic charism. For instance, Dominicans are a preaching order—evangelizing is a key aspect of their gift to the church. Benedictines live a monastic lifestyle and vow stability, staying in one place. Franciscans are evangelical congregations, that is, they work to serve the poor and oppressed of society. This evangelizing mandate leads to missions throughout the world.
What is an Associate and how does that differ from being a Sister?
SSM Associates are men and women of faith who respond to their baptismal call to nurture and deepen their spiritual life in affiliation with the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother. They embrace the values of the Sisters, commit to the challenges of living the values of St. Francis and the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother in their everyday lives as married and/or single men and women. They do not live in community. They are committed to encouraging each other on their spiritual journey with mutual acceptance and respect. Learn more about the Associates Movement on the SSM Associates page.

What are the Entrance Requirements for becoming a Sister of the Sorrowful Mother?

  1. Age: Not younger than 20 or older than 45 at the date of entrance into the postulancy
  2. Marital Status:
    1. Single
    2. If previously married, the person may begin postulancy two years after a valid change in marital status, widowhood or annulment.
  3. Family responsibilities:
    1. Free of dependents or minor children
    2. No financial or legal responsibilities for a family member or relative
  4. Faith:
    1. Baptized and confirmed in the Catholic faith
    2. If a convert to the Catholic faith, one must live the faith for at least two years prior to entering postulancy
  5. Health:
    1. Must be physically, emotionally and mentally healthy, that is, able to participate in ministry and community life
    2. Must have completed three years of recovery after treatment of an addiction
  6. Education:
    1. U.S. Citizens: High School education with a year’s working experience following high school; prefer completion of an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree or its equivalent
    2. English-speaking Caribbean Citizens:
      1. Five General Certificates of Education *(GCE) or Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) subjects required
      2. An associate degree, bachelor’s degree or equivalent is preferred
    3. Spanish-speaking Caribbean Citizens:
      1. The ability to speak and understand the English language
      2. Secondary education or is equivalent
      3. An associate degree, bachelor’s degree or equivalent preferred
  1. Citizenship, immigration, and naturalization
    1. Birth certificate, naturalization papers required
    2. A valid passport required
    3. Other requirements: Consult the SSM Director of Vocation Ministry, Sister Lucille Flores, at ssmvocations@gmail.com
How do I know I will be satisfied with religious life, if I answer the call to become a Sister?
You know that you will be satisfied with religious life by saying “yes” to the call and entering a religious community and continuing to discern whether religious life is right for you or not a good fit. If it is not a good fit, if you are not happy or at peace, if the life is not a satisfying way for you to live out your baptismal call, you are free to leave at any time before final vows. You are in what is called the initial phase of spiritual formation for a minimum of seven years before making final vows.
Vocation Stories from the Sisters
Read the reflections from these Sisters about how they were called to and experience religious life as a Sister of the Sorrowful Mother…
“Many different parts of our Franciscan heritage inspire me, but the one that speaks to me the most, is the simple Prayer of St. Francis…”Lord, make me an instrument….” In the past I simply mouthed those words; now I pray the prayer more consciously. I realize that in that prayer lies the fullness of the “Kingdom of God” to which I am called to contribute to make a present reality. Hence, to the measure that I am at peace is the same measure that I give to the world….A Franciscan way of living, therefore, calls me into right relationship with God, self, creation and others, and I cannot think of a better way to do this, than to be in right relationship with myself. It is a challenge, yet it is possible. My prayer is that as a Sister of the Sorrowful Mother I will continue to strive to live simply and consciously, with a deeper love and respect for others, so that my example may speak for itself.”
–Sr. Gillian Angela Marie Jerome
“Franciscan Spirituality was fundamental for me to live my faith more joyfully, long before I entered the Congregation. During my novitiate, I had the grace to immerse myself in the places of Francis and Clare and to “absorb” their charism by the living testimony of their current spiritual children. The study of the Franciscan Sources and the Third Order Rule was very important to me to help to get closer to the heart and faith of Francis. His style of praying has also greatly impacted my way to pray. Through the study and testimony of Brothers and Sisters who follow in the footsteps of Francis and to reach Christ, I learned to love this spirituality even more and I desire to be guided by it throughout my consecrated life. My desire and commitment in my daily life is to be able to incarnate the Franciscan simplicity, joy, community and gratitude for all the gifts I received.”
–Sr. M. Monica Baneschi
“I have been attracted by the person of Francis since childhood; his ability to rejoice in everything, the joy of seeing God in the most humble of creatures; being trustful in his heart like a child who expects everything from his parents and knows that all his needs will be satisfied. All these aspects of the Franciscan Spirituality have accompanied me as a Sister of the Sorrowful Mother. In the last few years, Francis’ unceasing reference to the Mercy of God supported me very much. God does not disdain any of us and it is through our poverty that His grace and power shine. My continuous experience of God’s Mercy helps my heart to be more merciful to our Sisters and those close to me. All of this makes me think of Mary, and, in a particular way, of standing under the cross. In her moment of utter poverty and untold suffering she became a mother in the fullness of motherhood, welcoming in her heart all the sons and daughters who were entrusted to her by her dying Son.”
–Sr. Daniela Maria Alborghetti
“My vocation arose in Assisi, a place marked by Franciscan Spirituality which connected my experience with St. Francis. Growing in the charism of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother, I experienced some important aspects of Franciscan Spirituality. The constant reference to conversion by St. Francis, the journey to be humble of heart and to ever more welcome God’s love arises from a special relationship with the Father. My journey to truth is guided by listening to the Word and receiving the Sacraments, daily Eucharist and Adoration. In this my first year of temporary profession I am ministering to the youth. One of the most important aspects that I have experienced in this ministry is the loving and simple welcome, sharing of meals and prayer. The youth are willing and helpful; doing whatever is needed in the house. The simple lifestyle and the Providential support of friends and benefactors is concrete testimony for the youth. Living in this place full of Franciscan Spirituality allows me to live it more intensely, for example, by participating in important celebrations and being a guide for youth when they visit the holy shrines.
–Sr. M. Stefania Sangalli

“God was speaking very strongly in my head. Every evening my mother told stories of different people in the world who did not know Jesus…This was really the beginning of my vocation. I loved Jesus so much that I felt sorry that others did not know him. This desire was deepening more and more in my heart. Then I met the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother in Rome. They were very welcoming and announced Jesus by their simplicity, humility, hospitality.”
–Sister M. Teresina Marra

“I had the SSMs in school. In my little town of Villanueva, the Sisters were a quiet, yet powerful presence. One quality of the Sisters that was greatly appreciated was their respectful acceptance of who we were and of our culture.  I was attracted to their prayerful presence. Each morning I would sit in church and listen to them praying in their chapel, right off the sanctuary. As I saw them in the community among us and visiting the elderly, the sick, teaching us I grew more and more in my desire to BE LIKE THEM. I believe the deep, simple faith, and prayer at home, and the lives of the Sisters were what God used to call me to religious life.”
–Sister M. Lucille Flores
“I met the SSM’s at Mother of Perpetual Help School in Milwaukee where I attended grade school. I was drawn into prayer through them, especially for the four years I sang in the children’s choir. My parents were religious people, and I learned service and prayer by things I saw them do. My Dad drove the Sisters when they needed a driver. My Mom often sent food to our neighbors when we had family gatherings so those not able to get out could share our celebration. I witnessed their prayer and goodness. I was also influenced by the day of adoration held monthly in the parish, specifically for the purpose of praying that more men and women would answer their call to ministry.”
–Sister M. Charleen Weiler
“Sr. Rosalie, my Mother’s sister, an SSM, was always welcoming at St. Michael’s Hospital in Stevens Point. Sr. Kiliana and Sr. Cornelia visited our house when I was in 5th grade. At that time, I believed to be a Sister was the “best” thing I could be. Mom and Dad lived their faith fully and loved me. Teachers in school encouraged me. The parish with its liturgies and sacraments supported me. My older sister, Sr. Mary Michel, who entered ahead of me, attracted me and led the way.”
–Sister M. Helen Malolepsy
“When I was confirmed in the 8th grade I received a sense of “service.” It developed during high school. I wanted to be a nurse, but also serve God in a special way. I entered nurses’ training, followed one year of liturgical celebrations, and with association with the Sisters my call became more clear…with the help of one Sister I was able to “let go” of nursing to enter the convent. My family was supportive—we were good practicing Catholics. My Mother had a great love of the Rosary. I entered on the Feast of St. Anne.”
–Sister M. Sylvia Egan
“When in 8th grade a Sister asked who wanted to go to the Convent, my hand went up, much to my surprise and hers. But my hand stayed up and has gone up again as my vocation became more specific and at each crossroad I knew I loved Jesus in the Eucharist. And when he asked various things of me the love had to become action.The spirituality of my mother and father was foundational. The Sisters who taught us catechism were so awesome and spoke of how God was. The example of the Sisters…spoke to my heart—in great silence.”
–Sister Margaret Mary Troy
Reflections on What Drew Women to God

What Attracts You to Religious Life?

We have collected some thoughts and reflections on what attracts women to consecrated life. Most were collected through our personal interaction with inquirers; some of the below responses were collected from surveys we received from VISION magazine (vocationnetwork.org). Enjoy their reflections here:
Sister Roxanne:  What influenced her desire to seek religious life were “the many documentaries on the poor and suffering of the world, especially in Africa among children.” She “has also been inspired by the works of the Saints, especially Mother Teresa of Calcutta.”  She wants to become a Sister of the Sorrowful Mother because that “could allow me the opportunity to care/help for the poor and vulnerable and to make a difference in the lives of many.”
“I am attracted to religious life because I have a servant’s heart and want to spend all my time in prayer, serving God, and serving others.”
“Simplicity, prayer life, service to humanity, the silence of the convent.”
“I feel a stronger desire daily to be close to God in a more intimate way, and to help people through prayer and works. I think I would enjoy living in a community, I like company but also quiet time. Ultimately, I feel a call from God.”
“I want to be loved completely and perfectly and I know I can find that only in God. I want to learn to love perfectly and completely and I know I cannot do that without God’s help. I feel called to make radical choices to love and be loved that way and I think religious life might be the answer to that desire. I also have this fear that I am weak to the powers of this world – fame, money, status, security and I want to strip away those things that provide false comfort, false joy. I want true joy, true and eternal comfort. I think I might be able to find that better spending every day focused intently on loving Jesus Christ. Also, I am honestly just so curious about the beauty of religious life- it’s idea that’s crazy to me, but just won’t go away so I think it deserves serious thought and consideration.”
“I am attracted to religious life because it is ordered by prayer, attempted…community, and focused on imitating Christ’s example of poverty, chastity and obedience. These 3 things make absolutely no sense to the world…They are simultaneously fascinating and repulsive to outsiders because they are so strange! And because they are a wellspring of love.”
“The idea of giving my whole self to God and having everyday built around my faith is beautiful. I feel sometimes as if…religious life might be the only way to satisfy my thirst for Christ. Also, I love the idea of living with others who understand the depth of my faith and seek to live it out daily. I wish to additionally serve others and work as Christ’s hands.”
“Serving God and his people with the fellowship of others.”
From an aspiring doctor:  “First of all, I do not think the married life would suit the vocation I had in mind. Being a doctor and a mother is not what I would consider the best for my children or husband. As I considered this, the religious and single life became more and more attractive. I have always admired the sisters that I see as well as priests and religious. They always felt like living saints to me. I would love to be that inspiration to someone else.”
“…I desire an intense life of prayer, a life of service, a divesting of myself and a giving to others and to God…as completely as I am humanly able to do.”
“Seeing what Mother Teresa accomplished.”
“Loving Jesus.”
“I possess a strong desire to live a simple life of serving others.  I do not mind periods of solitude and am quite happy to spend the day in quiet contemplation.  I am happiest when caring for others and am not content living a life that is primarily self-serving.  I do not have a spouse or significant other and no children, yet I never feel alone and consider all around me to be family. I believe everything happens for a reason, although that reason is not always meant to be known.”
“I want God’s will to inform and define my will…I want to share God’s love with people.  I think it would be difficult to be a religious if I were merely seeking God’s love for myself. That’s not how it works.”
A 22-year-old says: “There is a joy and passion towards loving Christ and serving others in different capacities. I love seeing the solidarity alongside community. It’s wonderful.”
A 20-year-old says: “…two things: the joy that these Sisters I met absolutely completely and totally radiate and the vows: poverty, chastity, and obedience. I was just really drawn to the spirit of these Sisters I met. As for the vows: I like the idea of giving up the worries of the world (the security of my worldly possessions, are my clothes in style, etc.) in taking on the vow of “poverty.” In taking on such a vow of “poverty” it just sounds like a wonderful challenge to disconnect from materialism to embrace more of what truly matters in life: standing in solidarity with the least of our brothers and sisters and in doing so stretching and growing in our capacity to love. “Chastity,” on the other hand, is something I have been especially growing in my understanding of recently. The fact that we are all called to chastity in all vocations is something I don’t think I knew  about growing up. But the more I learn, the more beauty I find….[T]he thought of becoming a Sister is one of those things that, even when I’m thinking about others things,  keeps popping up in the back of my mind. If the idea didn’t bring to mind so many happy thoughts, I would find it annoying….Back to the vows: I also think “obedience” helps us grow in humility and challenges us to rely on Him. It might be difficult at times, but like I said, it’s but a challenge to stretch ourselves to become our best.”
“Actually I have  felt drawn to religious life for about 4 years. But it was just this past month that I knew for sure that He wants me to be His bride!”
“At many times through my life I thought about it, but really sort of ignored it because I wasn’t really fully aware of what God was trying to show me at the time. At one point last year I was in a class to learn about the new Mass parts when someone was sharing a story of something, when all of a sudden I heard and felt strongly in my heart, “You are going to be a sister” and all I wanted to do was cry. I had never felt such a rush of emotions before; it was beautiful and unexpected and scary all at once.”
“All the time.  But I also feel my education will help me help others in the best ways. I graduate in 2014. I volunteer at the hospital, and through my church I volunteer at the food kitchen. I tutor children in reading.”
“The deep peace and joy that I experience whenever I serve in the church and community in the parish where I belong.”
“I feel drawn towards a commitment to Christ, to put it simply, albeit maybe oddly, my heart isn’t at peace without His presence. I love the Lord, I love people…”
“Because I have never in my life experienced real pure love and peace within myself and because I have always had this need in my heart to do more work for those who need the Lord like I did before and I want them to experience his love just like I do now.”
“I know it is a good life but also a hard life. I feel there is more to life than getting married and raising a family. I want to serve God fully and let people see my love for Him.”
“The ability to serve others, love, and take the vows. The union/being close to God.”
A teen: “You get to spend lots of time with Jesus in prayer. Since sisters are married to Christ, I think I would have a more intimate relationship because I would be married to God. I really like the completeness and total self-gift to God. The saints say that religious life is the surest way to heaven.”
A 21-year-old:  “God’s love is the most powerful, attractive force in the whole world. I’m so drawn to the mystery of the Lord and the holiness of His ways, I want nothing more than to know Him and to make Him known to others. For there is nothing greater than that blessed assurance we gain from a life in Christ. I want to be a humble servant of the Lord and a help to His children on Earth.”
A 24-year-old:  “I am attracted to the discipline of prayer and life style. I like the idea of fidelity lived out in celibacy for God. I like the idea of abandoning the desires of the world and abandoning the pressures of what our society inflicts upon us.”
A 25-year old:  “Whenever I see a sister, my heart is eager. I’m interested in a sister’s praying, serving and devoted life. Being a sister is my deep dream and belonging to God is my thirst.”
A 29-year-old:  “The closeness to God and allowing him to be my number one priority. To focus solely on him and his purpose in my life. To live within a community where we help point each other to become closer to and more like God desires us to be each day. To be in ministry that will lead others to a personal relationship with God through religious education, personal example, and providing hope.”
A 38-year old: “To serve and do work for Our Lord.”
A 45-year old: “Because of God…spirtuality has been important to me. I feel like I’ve wasted all the years before now when I was not invested in the church. I’ve missed my true calling but mostly because of a lack of support or information on where to go. I love religion.”
A 55-year-old: “I am most content when in prayer or doing religious reading, or sharing in a group Bible Study, talking about the goodness of God, exploring the mysteries of the faith, immersed in His presence before the Holy Eucharist, singing/chanting/proclaiming his goodness. Over the past two years I have felt work and the pull of career and the usual concerns of daily life fading more and more into the background, as my only joy and consolation comes from the Lord. All other attachments are falling away. My desire and focus is on serving Him. It has become all consuming, burning desire within, crowding out the din of the world around me….”
A 53-year-old: “I trust the Catholic Church. I believe it is the only Church given to us by God through St. Peter. I like the fact that we are one, that we pray for the forgiveness of sins and pray for our dear Holy Mother and all the Saints. But the greatest lesson taught by the Church is to act like Christ to the best of your ability and when you fall short, confess and pray for God’s Grace. The Catholic Church has too many virtues to put down in this small space. I love everything about the Church.”
“I feel that God is calling me to religious life to serve Him more fully than I am able to do in secular life. I am attracted  to the religious life, in living in a community that comes together in prayer many times a day. In living in community, I would be living with like-minded women, all who want to serve God in wanting His will to be done.”
A 57-year-old: “It’s rewarding—my idea of enjoyable. I can help someone and feel like I accomplished something (even if it’s making them feel better before they die).  I can keep busy. I don’t have to worry about the financial aspect of the job. I can pray without criticism….”
A 64-year-old: “I have always been attracted to the religious life, but felt that what I was doing for God was enough. I kept ignoring my calling, and now I can not ignore the Lord’s voice any longer. I am so sorry that I am saying yes to God at this later time of my life. I do hope that what people are saying that the 60’s are the new 40’s so God will allow me to serve Him for the rest of my life.”
Still Uncertain About Your Call?
A letter from Sister Dorothy Ann to women discerning their call…
Being uncertain about your vocation, not sure whether you are called to religious or married life or the single life, is normal. Knowing which direction to take cannot be forced. What God wants of us is revealed in the nitty gritty of the choices we make. So, let’s say that you continue dating and as a result of those experiences, it becomes clear to you that you are or are not called to marriage; if you conclude that you are not called to marriage, you might then feel freer to focus most of your attention on seriously looking at the other vocations in life.
Living in the tension of not knowing is important. I suggest that, in prayer, you share your tension, all the feelings and thoughts that are going on within you, with the Lord as you consider all vocations. You could do that by journaling, writing the Lord letters in which you express these inner stirrings, the confusion, the questions, etc., you have about marriage, the single life and/or religious life. Eventually a clear picture will emerge in God’s time and place, not ours.
Do not rush the process or force clarity. Live in the mystery. Go about life, living it fully and intentionally, meaningfully and calmly as a student, if you are a student; as a participant in service and/or parish activities, in your area of employment, if employed, knowing that, as Isaiah tells us, “in quiet and in trust your strength lies.” (Is. 30:15). Keep seeking God’s will above all–He will show you what He wants of you as you continue to open yourself up to a variety of experiences and considerations, always seeking His counsel, calling upon Him for clarity, patience, humility and love. Be open to the possibility of intentionally remaining single, if that were God’s will for you. The key is: what does God want of you?
Since the Holy Spirit has whispered to you to consider religious life, it is possible that you are called to consecrate your life to the Lord. That, too, can become obvious as you search out information about religious life, browsing web sites, visiting convents, talking to vocation directors (face-to-face or through e-mail, telephone conversations, Skype), attending discernment sessions and/or “Come and See” events where you meet sisters, become acquainted with their charism and spirituality, listen to their vocation stories and ministry experiences, their living of community life, what makes them happy and joyful in their vocation, etc.–a sort of dating “religious life” over an extended period of time.
Many young women do not enter marriage or religious life until their late twenties or early thirties, so give yourself space to consider the vocation in life to which God is calling you without putting undue pressure on yourself.
I hope this information is helpful to you. Please feel free to contact our Director of Vocation Ministry, Sister Lucille Flores, at ssmvocations@gmail.com with any further questions you may have.
–Sister Dorothy Ann Dirkx, Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother

Interested in learning more about religious life? We would love to hear from you!

Congregation of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother
Third Order Regular of Saint Francis of Assisi
ister Lucille Flores
Director of Vocation Ministry, St. Clare of Assisi Region

Sister Lucille Flores
Director of Vocation Ministry, St. Clare of Assisi Region
Vocations Office
444 West Bradley Road,
Milwaukee, WI 53217
Congregation of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother
Third Order Regular of Saint Francis of Assisi
Sister Lucille Flores


The St. Clare of Assisi Region of the Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother has ministries across Wisconsin; in Tulsa, Okla.; Denville, NJ; and the Dominican Republic. Internationally we have locations in Germany, Italy, Austria, Brazil, Tanzania and the Caribbean islands of Grenada, St. Lucia and Trinidad/Tobago.

What It Means to Be a Sister

Watch the video below, which includes interviews with Sisters on the meaning of religious life. 

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