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ajhall

Discernment And Graduate Degrees

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ajhall

So I am discerning religious life and I feel seriously called to be a sister. I will be graduating in May with an undergraduate degree in marketing and have no debt (Thanks be to God!). I do not feel quite ready to enter an order, so I am trying to find something to fill in the time between now and when I start looking into orders. I recently applied to a graduate program in student affairs and am currently waiting to find out if I got an assistant offer, which covers tuition and provides a stipend (no debt). This degree could be helpful in the future because I know some sisters work on college campuses. However, I only applied to one school and am now doubting wether I will receive an assistantship or not. Having shared my doubs with my parents, I mentioned that I might want to do some sort of ministry program like St. Paul's Outreach, or Jesuit Volunteer Corps. Upon hearing this they suggested I get a graduate degree in ministry so I can make more money. They did not approve of me "living off the largess of others" with the other programs. They know I am discerning, but they do not know that I want to start looking at orders in the next couple of years. If I got a Masters degree in ministry I would get into debt, which is something I do not want to do because who knows how long it will take to pay it off? Do a lot of religious have Masters degrees? Am I selfish for not wanting to get a "real job" and doing volunteer work for a couple years?

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Kateri89

What if you compromised and did only a year of volunteer work (meanwhile praying and discerning the whole time)?  If after a year, you feel you should get your Masters in ministry then go for it.  But to be honest, I think it would be very helpful to start looking at orders now and simply ask the vocations directors this question.  This will help you get a clearer picture of what to do.

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beatitude

I disagree pretty strongly with your parents' advice, as having a graduate degree in ministry does not guarantee a good job in ministry. This can't be emphasised enough. There is a lot of competition in this field, and parishes and schools and chaplaincies aren't necessarily looking for somebody with the highest qualification anyway - there are other things to consider too, of which pastoral experience is a definite plus.

Secondly, volunteer programs aren't selfish. You work to earn your keep, and your keep will be simple. Seeing this as 'the largesse of others' is actually quite a prideful way to look at. I think there is a tendency among some people to turn total self-sufficiency into this glorious virtue, when in reality we're all interdependent. Few things bring that home like a Christian volunteering program.

 

Finally, it sounds to me as though you don't even know what you want to do, you are just trying to fill in time until you feel 'ready' for religious life. Does the degree in student affairs interest you at all? It might possibly come in useful if you become a sister, but then so might a knowledge of how to harvest potatoes. There is no telling what you could end up doing as a nun or sister. If you really don't feel ready to look into orders (although, to be blunt, you can't say that you know you're called to be a sister if you have no practical knowledge of how sisters live) then take a degree in something that you enjoy for its own sake and that might lead to a career you're happy with outside the convent or monastery.

As a sister in a community I discerned with (Little Sisters of Jesus) once told me, "Some of our sisters have never been to university and others have got doctorates." There are plenty of nuns with advanced degrees, and plenty who entered straight from high school. But the religious life is not a career move and we shouldn't think of it in terms of getting qualifications. It's not wise to compare yourself to any sister - her story and journey will be quite different from yours. The important thing is to listen to God and to go when called.

 

In your position what I would do is to find a good Catholic volunteer placement, because these can teach you about life in community (prayer in common, sharing tasks, etc.) and also afford you time to get know yourself and Jesus better. If it's a volunteer program with input from sisters or other religious, so much the better. Many of these programs have good spiritual direction, and as they generally only last for a year or two, it seems like a worthwhile investment of time. It seems like you just need space to breathe and think.

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TheresaThoma
Perhaps mention to your parents that doing a year of volunteer work would be highly beneficial to you for many reasons. I'm about to graduate as well and I have decided to take a gap year. From talking with a few grad schools as long as you are beIng productive in that gap year going back is no problem. To me it sounds like you need to take some time to really discern.
As for deciding on a grad degree or not looking into orders could help clarify that. See what they would want of you.

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krissylou

I don't know how St. Paul's Outreach is structured, but Jesuit Volunteer Corps is a "real job" in the sense that you aren't living off other people's generosity.  I did Jesuit Volunteer Corps after college so I know how it is set up.

 

"Volunteer" may be something of a misnomer.  Your expenses are paid by the agency you work for.  Now it's structured differently because you get a personal stipend and money for groceries (which gets pooled with the rest of your house) and money for rent and utilities rather than just a paycheck.  But you are working for an agency and they are paying your living expenses, like anyone else who works for a living.

 

(When JVC does fund raising that is to cover the administrative expenses of the central office, etc., not to support the JVs directly.)

 

I understand your parents' concern that you shouldn't be living off charity -- my parents would be much the same.  (I think they're mistaken, but I understand where they're coming from.)  But that is not a reason to object to JVC once you understand it a little better.

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Gabriela

As a grad student and mentor to undergrads, I do not recommend going to grad school just to fill time—funded or no. Get a job if you want to fill time. Grad school is a calling as much as religious life is.

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nikita92
I think some people's vocation is to be a student for most their life. (My brother who is in his late 40's has been going to school 4-ever) lol

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OnlySunshine

I think some people's vocation is to be a student for most their life. (My brother who is in his late 40's has been going to school 4-ever) lol

 

That sounds like me!  I've been in college for about 12 years.  I graduated from high school in 2001 and didn't graduate with my A.A. degree until May 2012.  Last fall, I started again in another program.  :)

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Sister Rose Therese

You say you don't feel ready for religious life yet and that in two years or so you're going to start looking into communities.  Perhaps you should take a look at what is holding you back.

 

Do you really have a clear idea what religious life is like?  Could it be that you have an inflated idea of what is required to enter religous life?  Holiness, maturity...

 

Is it fear?  Is there something that scares you about religious life or of what you have to give up?

 

It seems like you may be just falling back to what you are familiar with, school. 

 

Do you have a spiritual director and if so, have you discussed this with him?

 

I would recommend that you start actively discerning now, even if you aren't ready to enter now.  Since you seem pretty sure that God is calling you to religious life, to put off discerning more, when you don't have any real obstacle preventing it, seems to me like putting God on the back burner.

 

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