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What Happens When Nuns/sisters Leave The Order?

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cmaD2006
[quote name='laetitia crucis' date='25 March 2010 - 05:54 PM' timestamp='1269550498' post='2079977']
The conversation that followed was one that I shall never forgot. Basically, my superior said, "How could you not know not to say anything? Are you [i]stupid[/i]?...You had no concern for your Sisters, you are [i]selfish[/i]! -- You are endangering their vocations! You cannot trust your own judgment! You are a [i]poison[/i] spreading through the house!... If you hadn't said anything, we could have saved your glory."

Needless to say, after that conversation, I didn't say a word about leaving to anyone. If asked, I would remain silent. There was such coldness. Those words burned into my very soul and cut deep. I felt pretty destroyed after that... destroyed, stupid, ashamed, and above all, remorse for having been so "stupid" and "selfish". I believed everything she said (even though I didn't understand how they could be true -- I believed her because she was my superior) and in turn, I hated myself for all those "reasons".

That time period was probably the darkest and most painful that I have ever experienced.

....

To this day, I pray no one else [i]ever[/i] goes through what I did that first time around. If it wasn't for the grace of God, and Him bringing certain people in my life to help me heal (especially Fr. Roger Landry), I think I would have been utterly broken and irreparable.
[/quote]
LC -- I honestly thank you for having shared your experience; they are experiences that do shatter our existence.

I do have to agree with one thing ... when God permits such "dark and painful" experiences, He does give the grace for us to continue to be faithful and He also brings into our lives people to help heal.

In the first community that I was with -- I have to be so thankful for them; for my formation directress help me see that I needed to leave (I had seen everything beforehand in prayer except one item that she brought up). I was able to share with the community that I was leaving, and I have had their support. I was able to call them to let them know that I was entering another community, and I hope someday to go and visit them just to enjoy their company.

I still had my difficulties dealing with leaving, but once I was done grieving the loss I remember the community with much and deep love.

I haven't discussed much my experience on phatmass with respect to the second community ... suffice to say that it did leave me utterly broken; yet for the sheer grace of God and because of a few key people who have been helping me heal have I been able to keep walking in faith.

Finally, you can only know if you are meant to be in a particular community by trying. You may stay for a lifetime, you may stay only through parts of formation ... you may even stay through to perpetual/final vows and yet for whatever reasons need to leave (I recently have had a good sister friend leave a community after 25 years). Just know that God is with you no matter what -- even through the darkness that we all encounter at some point in our life. He is always faithful, regardless of the twists and turns in life.

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laetitia crucis
[quote name='cmariadiaz' date='25 March 2010 - 07:53 PM' timestamp='1269557630' post='2080092']
LC -- I honestly thank you for having shared your experience; they are experiences that do shatter our existence.

I do have to agree with one thing ... when God permits such "dark and painful" experiences, He does give the grace for us to continue to be faithful and He also brings into our lives people to help heal.

In the first community that I was with -- I have to be so thankful for them; for my formation directress help me see that I needed to leave (I had seen everything beforehand in prayer except one item that she brought up). I was able to share with the community that I was leaving, and I have had their support. I was able to call them to let them know that I was entering another community, and I hope someday to go and visit them just to enjoy their company.

I still had my difficulties dealing with leaving, but once I was done grieving the loss I remember the community with much and deep love.

I haven't discussed much my experience on phatmass with respect to the second community ... suffice to say that it did leave me utterly broken; yet for the sheer grace of God and because of a few key people who have been helping me heal have I been able to keep walking in faith.

Finally, [b]you can only know if you are meant to be in a particular community by trying[/b]. You may stay for a lifetime, you may stay only through parts of formation ... you may even stay through to perpetual/final vows and yet for whatever reasons need to leave (I recently have had a good sister friend leave a community after 25 years). Just know that God is with you no matter what -- even through the darkness that we all encounter at some point in our life. He is always faithful, regardless of the twists and turns in life.
[/quote]

Thank you for sharing parts of your journey, too, cmariadiaz. Personally, I find it really helpful and even consoling that... well, that I am not alone in what I have gone through (even though I honestly wish no one else experienced such things either). I hope that makes sense. I was a little apprehensive about sharing what I did, but I prayed about it since this thread was posted yesterday and as crazy as this might sound, I believe this is something the Holy Spirit led me to do. He wouldn't leave me alone until I replied. (Haha - He's very persuasive, isn't He?)

Also, I think you are absolutely right when you said, "You can only know if you are meant to be in a particular community by trying." -- so, so true! I suppose, in a way, it's like having to go through a really difficult break-up... only then to find the right person later on. You can learn so much that first time around -- about yourself, and about what God is calling you to.

Some are fortunate enough never to go through that initial break-up; they find their true love on the first try. I have met several Sisters that have had that kind of fortune in finding their communities. Sometimes I envy that, but most of the time, I am truly grateful for the time given me for meeting so many amazing communities and learning about different charisms and spiritualities. I sincerely love learning about vocations to the religious life and religious life itself. There's still so much to learn!

And praise God, He is always faithful.

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Totus Tuus
My input is probably not as valuable as others', since I was only in the convent for a year, but I too had a painful experience that did not make much sense. My story is a little different, and I don't actually want to share it, but despite being able to say a last minute good bye to my sisters, it took over a year to find closure, and it wasn't through the community, it was on my own in prayer.

But like others have said, you learn valuable lessons in community that you honestly can't learn anywhere else. There may be faults and communities might not handle the whole aspect of leaving "correctly," but it really is what you make it. Emotional scars can last a long, long time, there's no doubt about it, but God has been so good to me and taken such good care of me that I have no doubts He writes straight with crooked lines.

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HisChild
[quote name='Totus Tuus' date='25 March 2010 - 07:14 PM' timestamp='1269569643' post='2080236']
My input is probably not as valuable as others', since I was only in the convent for a year, but I too had a painful experience that did not make much sense. My story is a little different, and I don't actually want to share it, but despite being able to say a last minute good bye to my sisters, it took over a year to find closure, and it wasn't through the community, it was on my own in prayer.

But like others have said, you learn valuable lessons in community that you honestly can't learn anywhere else. There may be faults and communities might not handle the whole aspect of leaving "correctly," but it really is what you make it. Emotional scars can last a long, long time, there's no doubt about it, but God has been so good to me and taken such good care of me that I have no doubts He writes straight with crooked lines.
[/quote]


I would have to say I resonate with what you just wrote. While I wasn't there for a year, when I left it was confusing and painful. It took me quite some time to get over it as well, something that only happened on my own, with the grace of God.

I'm not the same person who entered. It changed me. And yet, I'd have to say I like this 'me' better than the one before.

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cmaD2006
[quote name='HisChild' date='25 March 2010 - 11:24 PM' timestamp='1269570282' post='2080241']
I would have to say I resonate with what you just wrote. While I wasn't there for a year, when I left it was confusing and painful. It took me quite some time to get over it as well, something that only happened on my own, with the grace of God.

I'm not the same person who entered. It changed me. And yet, I'd have to say I like this 'me' better than the one before.
[/quote]

Totus Tuus and HisChild -- thanks.

Its time for a

:grouphug: :carebear: :flowers:

:)

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nunsense
It seems to me that communities are a bit like individuals; they each have their own 'personality' and handle things their own way. Some of this depends on the superior of course, but it is also the traditions and customs, and basically the 'character' of each community. I have been in three Carmelite Monasteries, one laura of hermits and two newly formed religious communities. Each experience of leaving (or being asked to leave) has been totally different. I won't go into detail about all of them, but the interesting thing is that I have kept regular contact with those communities who treated me well when I left (or was asked to leave). I still feel like a part of the 'family' with some of them, so it isn't 'the Church' that is the problem here, it is simply the way that different communities handle this situation. And they all differ; it isn’t only the ‘old ones’ or the ‘traddies’ that can be cruel.

I do think that some communities feel threatened when anyone leaves, that’s why all the secrecy for some of them. This seems to show a lack of trust in God, as far as I am concerned. There is a bigger problem involved if simply having one sister leave causes the others to start worrying about their vocations. After I had been at one monastery for only two weeks, another postulant left. Everyone was terrified that I would want to leave too and tried to reassure me, but her leaving had nothing to do with me, and had no affect on me at all. When I did finally leave (eight months later) it had nothing to do with anyone else except myself! I also think though, that some communities can feel 'hurt' if someone leaves, as if they are being rejected, just as the woman can feel hurt and rejected if she is asked to leave. We are all human after all.

At one of the communities where I entered, there was a solemnly professed sister who was thinking about leaving. They didn’t hide the fact or get all secretive about it. We all knew what was happening and then they offered her three years exclaustration to go back into the world and think about it before being released from her vows. She had entered as a young girl and didn’t know how to do anything, and saw everything as a major adventure. She came back for special events and we were all so glad to see her and prayed that she would return. She told me once that she didn’t want to leave because she loved everyone so much, but she needed to do this for herself since she had entered so young. In the end, it took a lot less than three years for her to decide - months only actually, and she did choose to come back; but she asked if she could come back as an extern sister, and this was allowed. Even was happy in the end, she feels a sense of freedom, and the community didn’t lose her. That community understands about 'family' and treats each sister as an individual. They also manage to stay 'friends' with women who come to try their vocation and don't stay. In fact, one woman who lives nearby, goes regularly back inside the enclosure (with permission from the Bishop) to help nurse the elderly nuns, even though she decided not to be a nun herself.

I just think that there is lot of room for improvement in this whole area of how departing women are treated, whether they choose to leave, or are asked to leave. Some things take time to change, so we may have to wait awhile, but I think how a woman is treated can make a difference on how she views the Church after she leaves (some actually leave the faith). It is very easy to blame the Church for the failings of a community or a superior because they are supposed to represent Christ to us. I know for myself that I have had to deal with a lot of pain in the past six months because I felt rejected, not just by the superior or the community, but by God Himself, even though I knew in my heart that this wasn't true, but hurt feelings can be very strong (call it self-love or hyper-sensitive, the fact is that emotional pain hurts just like physical pain).

Now I try to see things a little more objectively and tell myself that the Church had nothing to do with this feeling of rejection, and Jesus had nothing to do with it either, and even the person who made the decision wasn't being personal, but she was doing what she thought was the right thing to do at the time. Sure, God knows all and sees all, but sometimes He allows things for our own good, painful as they are at the time. In my situation this last time, the main problem for me was the same one that others experienced, the secrecy. I didn’t get to say goodbye to anyone, and that hurt most of all. I compare that in my mind with another monastery I left, where they all lined up in the hallway to kiss me goodbye and offer me prayers. I still write to them and love them all. Charity isn’t as common as it should be in monasteries…. But when it is there, the fragrance is so sweet.

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Cherie
To everyone who shared your stories, I want to thank you sincerely for doing so. It's not easy to talk about sometimes, and while of course everyone's story is personal and there are certain aspects that one would still like to keep private, still, it's very good for someone (like me) who went through something that without God's grace could have been considered traumatic to hear others' testimonies. It really makes me feel like I'm not alone, and is a little glimpse of God's love and mercy despite difficult situations. I know you weren't writing them for me, but nonetheless, I am very grateful!


[quote name='nunsense' date='26 March 2010 - 06:55 AM' timestamp='1269600935' post='2080449']

I do think that some communities feel threatened when anyone leaves, that's why all the secrecy for some of them.
[/quote]

I agree. That seemed to be my experience.

Another thing I will admit is that I have tried to keep a "healthy" contact with my Community (just a bit of contact every few months), trying to be charitable and show them that despite my leaving and certain hurtful things, I am still grateful for them and my time spent there, not to mention the fact that I consider the Sisters my family -- and originally, they were open to it. Recently, however, although they agree we are on good terms, they made it clear they don't want any regular contact. I'm honestly not sure why, but maybe it's for the best.

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nunsense
[quote name='CherieMadame' date='27 March 2010 - 12:00 AM' timestamp='1269608437' post='2080514']

Another thing I will admit is that I have tried to keep a "healthy" contact with my Community (just a bit of contact every few months), trying to be charitable and show them that despite my leaving and certain hurtful things, I am still grateful for them and my time spent there, not to mention the fact that I consider the Sisters my family -- and originally, they were open to it. Recently, however, although they agree we are on good terms, they made it clear they don't want any regular contact. I'm honestly not sure why, but maybe it's for the best.
[/quote]


That's sad because there is something nice for both sides in keeping up a good relationship, I think. Sometimes women who have left become benefactors for a convent, while the sisters can offer prayers for special intentions for the woman. I don't stay in touch with all of the communities I was in, but with the ones that I do, it is so nice to know that the link is still there. Once again, it seems to be some kind of fear, although perhaps they think they are doing you a service by having you 'move on'. I don't know.

I don't write often to everyone, but I do like to hear the news from time to time, and I let them know what I am doing too. And last year, when I thought I needed somewhere to go because of a visa problem in one country, I contacted a former community in another country, who invited me to come as a guest for a retreat. This kind of thing is nice. I am sorry that your community has decided not to continue contact with you. Try to see it in the most charitable light possible if you can. I don't think anyone ever really intends to be cruel or hurtful, so we have to assume good motivations if at all possible.

It all teaches us to focus on God after all. Nothing drives a person into prayer better than suffering. When it gets hard for me because I don't know where I belong, I remind myself that Our Lord had no place to lay His head and then I feel as if I am sharing my sufferings with him while also sharing His and it doesn't all seem quite so hard to bear.

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Cyprian
I was never a Nun. But I can tell you that the "leaving" without the "goodbye" impacted many, and not just fellow Nuns. I recall (and this was just before Vatican2) there was a beautuiful young nun who taught in our school - we were little. On nice days this lovely nun would take us to the park - just across the street from the school/Church. A young man was usually parked in front of the school in his convertible , watching her, and each time she ignored him. Well, one day this lovely, kind nun was simply not at school. She was not my teacher so I did not know her all that well. But I recall that her little students were devastated - rumor had it that she had left the Order. Of course, no one in authority said aything about all of this, and we simply went on with school. In those days, no one really expected an answer. I am not passing judgment, but I can tell you that the lack of a "goodbye" was hard those little ones.

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HisChild
So, Cyprian, I'm confused. Are you saying this man parked across the street watching her had anything to do with her leaving? I guess I'm not able to make the connection, based on what you wrote. :huh:

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Cyprian
[quote name='HisChild' date='26 March 2010 - 08:52 AM' timestamp='1269611562' post='2080535']
So, Cyprian, I'm confused. Are you saying this man parked across the street watching her had anything to do with her leaving? I guess I'm not able to make the connection, based on what you wrote. [img]http://www.phatmass.com/phorum/public/style_emoticons/default/huh.gif[/img]
[/quote]

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CatherineM
Years after I graduated, I heard that the principal of my former parochial school who was a Carmelite was going to return the next year as a lay principal. There was a lot of talk, but it apparently worked out just fine. I'm not sure it would have been allowed while I was a student.

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Lilllabettt
Thank you to everyone for sharing your stories. I am personally grateful.

For me, when it happened, it was kind of a surprise. I didn't see it coming. Although in retrospect I probably should have. I didn't say goodbye; it was a secret. Actually it was a secret for a few days, during which time I stayed in my cell until arrangements could be made! I had anger and hurt, but the predominant feeling was scariness ... I had to go live in a place where I'd experienced abuse before; my old friends had scattered to the four corners. And I was so sick. I wondered how I would be able to find a doctor, or buy medicine. How could I get insurance with this pre-existing condition. I remember thinking, I can barely make myself a turkey sandwich let alone find a job like this. What is going to happen to me? I really thought it was likely that I would die. And (this is bad) that upset me only because I knew it would hurt like hell.

But now I am grateful, not only for the time I had in religious life, AND for people making the decision that I should leave, but also for the experience of the pain itself.

God took care of all my needs in the midst of that deprivation. It was a real miracle, and something I cannot attribute to any human power. I can never deny His mercy now. That is a gift I doubt I could have received any other way.

I think some communities don't know what to do or how to act with someone who has left. I think it can be such an uncomfortable situation, socially, it makes them nervous... since its so hard to know what the "right thing" to do is ... I certainly didn't know what to say or do. I know for certain I said and did the wrong thing at many points.

I know of a (progressive) community where the process of discernment is very out in the open, and they do keep in touch with their former Sisters, inviting them for service days and for reunions, etc. I think there's a lot to be said for that. It's healthy, mutually respectful, and emphasizes that there's nothing shameful or embarrassing about having left religious life. Edited by Lilllabettt

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laetitia crucis
[quote]God took care of all my needs in the midst of that deprivation. It was a real miracle, and something I cannot attribute to any human power. [b]I can never deny His mercy now.[/b] That is a gift I doubt I could have received any other way.[/quote]

Lilllabettt, I just wanted to say, "Thank you" for what you've shared -- especially the bit above. Beautifully said and so very true in my experience as well. "I can never deny His mercy now." -- Amen.

Also, one of the ladies from my former parish was in a community much like the one you mentioned in that last paragraph. She told me about her experience in religious life, her discernment, her leaving, and her community. It seems they are very, very similar to what you've described. The lady I know (who is pretty much a grandmother to me) goes to their annual class reunion with those that are still in the order and those that have left. All of them keep in touch frequently and seem to have such a bond of Sisterhood, you know? I always thought that was really kind and caring.

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kavalamyself
This is my story. I tried to shorten it, but I thought the truth is better. What's the quote from St. Catherine of Siena? Speak the truth, silence kills the world? So...here it is:

I entered a Monastery a while ago that I absolutely adored. I felt it was the perfect environment for me, the nuns were warm, welcoming, encouraging - all the nuns that I had (I see now) childishly wanted in religious life. I was given a name, a beautiful entrance ceremony and began to live the life.

Slowly, so slowly I can't even name it - things began to change. The Mother Abbess became angry, strident and controlling (I know that the Mother Abbess of any community has responsibilities, but this was different - she began to point out my faults to in a public manner (even during times we weren't supposed to talk - like after Grand Silence), which to me, was crushing - my Spiritual Director now believes she might have been attempting to make me stronger, but to me, it had the opposite effect - it was mortifying.

The Novice Mistress followed her lead and mirrored her actions; some of the postulants, clearly wiser and smarter than I, left quickly, without even saying goodbye, and I was sort of stranded - alone. I stayed, not fully comprehending that the Monastery hadn't really been able to retain vocations. Now I know that many Abbeys and Monasteries attract people anxious to live the life, but actually retaining the postulants is a different story.

The original warmth that I experienced was replaced by coolness and the core group of nuns made it clear to me they were there first, it was their Monastery and I was to have no part of it. Obviously, if I had been in a healthy/ok Monastery, they would have separated the novices and postulants so this kind of thing wouldn't happen. But by the time things "got bad" - I was the only novice left. Their attitude was done quietly, almost secretly. In short, their doors had been opened, but not their hearts.

Most painful, most crushing, most upsetting was that the Council had a secret vote about me (after I had settled in!). Never ever was anything about me discussed with me in private by the Novice Mistress or by the
Mother Vicaress or even by the Mother Abbess! I am still not over this pain.

What was the most cruel of all was that I had been assigned to arrange a shrine leading into the Chapter
room. Sister Sacristan (with the approval of Mother Abbess) had wanted the shrine to reflect the changing
liturgical season and I had been instructed to take everything down, clean it and replace it with the different colors (and new flowers).

It was at that time the Council had their meeting (in the Chapter room). Why didn't they close the door? I can't imagine - I can't tell you! I stood outside the Chapter Room door and I heard every last word of their conversation, their complaints about me, their voting me out of the Monastery - everything! One of the nuns there is very hard of hearing, so they spoke loudly - to me, it felt as if every last word was directed right at me - a pain and wound so deep in my heart, I could barely breathe. The things they complained about were awful - I was too fat (I am heavy, but to hear a nun say that!), etc. One of the nuns I knew was a hoarder (hard to believe a nun in a Monastery could be, but she was! and she complained loudly that I "invaded her privacy!) The complaints were so childish and hurtful. (And, I think you know that the Abbess later left - after me - to MARRY a Jewish man! Not even of our faith!) Knowing that Monastery fell apart to an even worse degree after I left made me hurt all the more. Truly.

I felt faint - honestly. They hated to have me at recreation, I talked too much, I asked too many questions, I ate all of the candy, I was too light hearted, I changed too many of the statues, I wasn't learning the Divine Office fast enough, perhaps I was crazy, I had been warned, time and time again, said the Novice Mistress - which was a terrible shock, since I had never been corrected about any of that, and I had never even CONSIDERED the possibility of being "kicked out!"

One of them was confused (so many voices, I couldn't really tell who was who at times - they were talking over one another) and thought I had already left, [i][b]and rejoiced at my being gone[/b][/i] !!!! Right while I was
outside the door!

I hadn't been talked to! I stood out there mostly in shock because of the lies! I heard the Mother Abbess and The Novice Mistress lie to the others and say they had worked at correcting me! At first I thought perhaps it was a light hearted joke, and as their voices became louder and more shrill, I realized they were
serious. I began to shake and cry. I couldn't finish the shrine - I ran to my cell and I collected all of my things. Quickly.

All I could think of was I was a failure, a failure - a miserable person with no reason for living. Why hadn't I left with the other postulants? Why hadn't the Mother Mistress taken the time to speak to me? Why hadn't the other sisters done so? Even one!? All it would have taken would have been a simple note slipped under the crack in my cell..."don't ask so many questions, lose weight, can I help you with the Divine Office..." or whatever!

Anything! How could they have let me go on with my happiness at being a Bride of Christ when they were hating me? And how could NUNS hate anybody in any event? Couldn't they have some sense of compassion at my newness; my happiness and my stumbling? How could NUNS in a Monastery sit around and gossip and be so cruel to let me hear their very thoughts?

Why hadn't they closed that door?! How could they not have remembered that I had been assigned a task right
outside the very room they were having their secret meeting!? I realized this cruelty was intended to be bone crushing.

It was worse than bone crushing, it was soul crushing. I can honestly say - without dramatics - that at that moment, I wanted to end my life. I felt iif I couldn't exist in the Monastery that I had grown to love, it wasn't worth living. I felt that if I could be so stupid to misread all of those Sisters' intentions.. .if they hated me that much!...and I didn't know it.....and I lived with them!...how could I go on? I was under the horrible impression that they were my Sisters. They hated me!

I wrote a goodbye note. I couldn't face any of them. I told them that I heard their conversation and their vote
to kick me out. I told them a vote wasn't necessary, I would not stay where I was not wanted and I apologized for any problems I so obviously caused them. I told them that I had wished I had been instructed as to my behavior, as I did not realize my very presence was so upsetting and horrible for the community.
I left without saying goodbye. I had nowhere to go. The only thing I took was my spiritual journal, which has been of invaluable help as I have attempted to put this entire situation into perspective.

I called the priest who had been my spiritual director before entering. He had received all my letters outlining my happiness, the details of my entrance, my new name - just stupid little notes I wish I could have take back and burn! How horrible! I could barely talk, I was so upset - crying and sputtering. I was
still wearing the shabby postulant's dress I had been given as mortification for admiring one of the professed nuns' Feast Day habits. He took me to the retreat center his order owns, and I lived there until I could "get my act together."

I can tell you all that I know my story isn't the norm. I have been in a lot of therapy, and even met with the Vicar of Religious of that diocese. I know the Monastery is in bad shape (obviously) and that the core group of nuns were obviously too isolated. It is one thing to be accepted into an order or a monastery - it is another to be "accepted spiritually" and in the hearts of the community. After the Abbess left, they got appointed some kind of "outside" adminstrator. I'm not sure what that is called.

I am doing well now. It has taken time, and even writing about this makes the whole thing seem so fresh, and painful. All in all, I can tell you that I was too young, I didn't ask enough questions BEFORE entering, I was entranced by the habits, and I did make a lot of mistakes. If I done a little more homework, I would have known that a lot enter but a lot leave and sad to say, unlike some other communities, those who leave are NOT on good terms with the community.

I still want to enter religious life, but to be honest, I am a little afraid of cloistered life after my experience. Both my spiritual director and therapist have talked a lot to me about accountability and responsibility. It's not that hard for a really tightly knit community to become unhealthy though please nobody here think I am saying that cloistered orders are all like the one I stupidly entered. This concern is mine and mine alone, and I do believe that there are lots of really cool healthy orders that are out there. The one question I am sure to ask now, though, is if they have an extern sister and how much interaction do they have with outsiders. Since I know I am drawn to contemplative life, I think I will probably end up as a Bennie, since they don't have Papal enclosure and I would probably feel more comfortable with that - given my story.

Kavala

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