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Catherine Therese

...on Returning To The World

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AveMariaPurissima    901
AveMariaPurissima

Catherine Therese, you are in my prayers.  I am yet another "returnee," so I definitely understand the pain involved.  God willing though, I'll be re-entering religious life at some point.

 

As far as explaining to people: it depends on the context, but for people who know where I was, I typically go with, "I needed more time."  For others, if necessary, I can frequently get away with saying, "I was doing missionary work in Mexico."  I often go for, you know, "a very diplomatic answer.  Polite, but...vague." ;)  (extra points to anyone who gets the reference!)

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nunsense    3,805
nunsense

Here in Australia the government pays unemployment benefits to everyone out of work but in order to receive them, one must provide a 'job diary' proving they have applied for at least 10 jobs in the previous fortnight (2 weeks). At my last interview to show my job diary, I asked if applying to convents would count. The man interviewing had to go check with a supervisor because he had never had anyone ask the question before :P  When he returned he said that would be fine because anything that got me 'out of the system and off benefits' was a good thing as far as they were concerned. He said he had learned something new that day.

 

But I am still looking for a job in the world because I need to make money to go for visits so this morning I had to meet with my employment provider, an agency assigned to help me find a job. I told my rep about what the government had told me because I also have to provide her with evidence that I am searching for work and she also needs to know my long term goals. She was fascinated and asked me all about convents because she didn't know anything about them at all. So all in all, even my just discerning religious life has made several people aware of the fact that there are still nuns and convents in existence!

 

Of course, on my resume, I am a little more circumspect because getting an interview is hard enough without confusing things.  :)

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maximillion    1,968
maximillion

I love this ^^^^^^^^ nunsense, and well done for having the courage to even pose the question!

 

It is amazing how the Lord provides us with opportunities to talk about Him.

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AnneLine    5,190
AnneLine

That is too funny, Nunsense!!!

 

I'll share my own story another post... don't have the time right now.  BUT....

 

I can give you the other side of it... because I was the person you would have come to talk to at one point!  And wouldn't THAT have been an odd thing!

 

 I DID have people who wanted to go into convents seminaries, etc... and a few who were in there and just knew they were in the WRONG place and didn't have a clue what to do if they left... or whose superiors had sent them (to the Career Center) to get an idea of whether it would be a good thing for them to get retrained in a different field (i.e., nursing if they had been a teacher and the community was moving out of the schools...).  (It would NEVER have occurred to me to go to the Government unemployment office / community college career center to get help on going INTO a community, much less on discerning whether or not to leave a community... but I guess the Good Lord knows where to find the right people at the right time!!!!!!

 

It was very humbling to see God providing both groups with someone with the gifts and skills they needed to help them transition into the right spot that the Lord had prepared for them.

 

I've been blessed to help people do both (before and after and usually NOT in connection with my job!) and it truly is a privilege to help someone find the right hole.... where they can love and serve God better....

 

 

I also love the story of the priest who showed up, collar glowing, on Jeopardy about 25 years ago.  When it got to the point when Alex Tribec asks each contestant a little about themselves, the priest said he is a Jesuit, and that he had a dream of starting a program for welfare moms and their kids... the kids would get preschool and prep-for-school help and a safe place to stay while the moms would get parenting and educational classes so they could move forward  (Father's idea would later become what are now called 'one stop centers' -- but it was a brand new idea in the late 1980's).  Father said that he approached his provincial, and that priest told him that, if God wanted it to happen, God would provide the resources... and gave him a 5 cent piece as a start.    Father said he went to his prayer, and looked at the gifts and resources God had given him... and realized that he had been given an exceptional education through the Jesuits... and that he knew a lot about a whole lot of things.  And the idea started flapping about his head... why not Jeopardy?  He thought it was a distraction in his prayer, but it wouldn't go away.   SO... he took the test... and here he was!

 

And he won.

 

And went on to become an undefeated champion!

 

And had the money he needed for his Center!!!!!

 

he he he   God can have a VERY funny sense of humor sometimes!

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Cherie    1,616
Cherie

I missed this post, as I haven't been on Phatmass all that regularly lately. But as yet another "returnee" (wow, somehow I didn't realize there were so many here?) be assured of my prayers for you, Catherine Therese.

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cmaD2006    1,880
cmaD2006

I had no idea there were so many people on here who had been in religious life and left. Just out of curiosity: When you meet non-Catholics, and go through the usual personal history chat stuff that people do when they're getting to know each other, do you mention that you've been in religious life? Or are you worried non-Catholics will think weird things about you if you do that?

 

 

It's not easy to explain on a resume when you start looking for jobs again. :)

 

Word!  "Ain't that the truth!"

 

I ended up putting on my resume something that explained what I was doing without explicitly saying that I had been in a convent.  For example: while in the convent the last time in Argentina I actually tutored someone in English and worked on a tracking system for one of their conferences, so I put that down on the resume.  At another convent, I actually did IT work, so I put that down on the resume.

 

The only reason why it's even on the resume is to explain the long breaks between jobs.  Although I have been employed with the same company, it does still look funny.

 

I think it's more difficult if someone enters a cloistered community.  I guess you can put down on the resume that you worked in a kitchen/laundry/etc? :)

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freedomreigns    78
freedomreigns

I guess I have always just put down that I was in the convent.  I put the community and dates down just like and employer and then fill in a few details of the apostolate.  I always put "this was not a paid position" under salary and usually put "discerned that this was not my vocation" if it asks the reason I left the job.  

 

I have had a few weird questions about it, but it seems easier to me to just put it out in the open.  I actually don't think it has ever kept me from a job, but maybe it is just because I am in a healing profession and had experience before entering.    

Edited by freedomreigns

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Gabriela    3,074
Gabriela

Thank you to everyone who willingly shared an answer to my question. It seems like the biggest trouble is "explaining the work gap". As someone who studies organizational communication (which focuses primarily on work environments), I think it's really sad that, at least in the US, we have to "explain" why we left the workforce for awhile. Why does that count against us? I mean, what's wrong with taking some years off for "life"? It's not as if one just sits around in the convent/monastery doing nothing. We still work! But if it's not paid work, then it requires explanation.

 

Personally, I think that's messed up!

 

Prayers for all who have faced this—what I consider a massively widespread form of materialistic discrimination.

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Cherie    1,616
Cherie
The only reason why it's even on the resume is to explain the long breaks between jobs.  Although I have been employed with the same company, it does still look funny.

 

I think it's more difficult if someone enters a cloistered community.  I guess you can put down on the resume that you worked in a kitchen/laundry/etc? :)

 

I don't have a college degree, and I was in the convent for quite a number of years (longer than I would have been in college for an undergraduate degree!), so it was necessary for me to add my experience in the convent as part of my resume, though I never worked in any "professional" capacity in the convent (though I did gain real-world experience, which I felt was an asset for my finding a job.) I did also list my time in the convent as a "previous employer," as that was really the only thing I had between high school, leaving, and trying to find a job.

 

Because of the line of work (working with a pro-life organization), my time in the convent really did help me gain the job, and I'm truly grateful for that. I think that was Divine Providence, actually.

 

When I meet non-Catholics, sometimes the question comes up of my history. That was especially true before I was married; people always ask, "Where did you go to college?" and so I had to explain what I did during those years. It was rarely awkward; usually people were quite shocked and genuinely interested. Sometimes it was even fun. :)

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OnlySunshine    4,501
OnlySunshine

I know of a Sister that was with a community right after she graduated high school (17 when she started postulancy).  She was there for 9 years and then delayed her final profession by another year because she wasn't sure if God was calling her there forever.  She ended up leaving.  I can imagine, after a decade of being with a religious community and then being sent back into the world, how difficult of an adjustment that would be.  However, she was in an active/contemplative community and they sent her through community college for a degree.  This made it much easier for her to enroll in a university after she left because she already had the first 2 years out of the way.  She majored, I believe, in Languages (esp. Spanish) and did a lot of traveling to utilize her new languages.  I can only imagine how she explained the large gap of employment.  :)

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Cherie    1,616
Cherie

I know of a Sister that was with a community right after she graduated high school (17 when she started postulancy).  She was there for 9 years and then delayed her final profession by another year because she wasn't sure if God was calling her there forever.  She ended up leaving.  I can imagine, after a decade of being with a religious community and then being sent back into the world, how difficult of an adjustment that would be.  However, she was in an active/contemplative community and they sent her through community college for a degree.  This made it much easier for her to enroll in a university after she left because she already had the first 2 years out of the way.  She majored, I believe, in Languages (esp. Spanish) and did a lot of traveling to utilize her new languages.  I can only imagine how she explained the large gap of employment.  :)

 

That seems to be the case for most people nowadays; either they had a degree before they entered, or their communities provided them with one during formation.

 

My situation seems to be the "odd" one, though it does seem similar to what a person in a cloistered order would experience, if they entered after high school and left after a number of years. (I was in an active/contemplative community, but in many ways, they lived quite similar to the way a monastic community would.)

 

That's actually why I mentioned my situation, because a few posts earlier someone was discussing what one would do in a cloistered situation, where they didn't have any "professional" experience in the convent (nursing, teaching, etc.) but they did have some experience in the convent that is surely worth mentioning in a resume. It's an odd situation, for sure, but my resume flowed very well and I think it looked good. I don't have it handy anymore, but I know it's around here somewhere. I can search for it and offer it as an example if any "returnees" see this post and are wondering how to incorporate their non-professional convent experience into their resumes. Just send me a PM if you need any help :)

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nunsense    3,805
nunsense

Hello everyone:)

 

(I'm a German native, sorry for any mistakes with the language. Hope you get the meaning. Any corrections in order to improve my English are welcome via PM.)

 

Wow, I never met so many faithful ex-nuns before. In my country they're quite rare (due to the fact that we don't have many vocations at all). I was in an active-contemplative community five years ago. It was only for eight months, but before I had visited the sisters often and intensely, and none of us had thought that it wouldn't be my place. The leaving happened suddenly and too quickly for me. I mean I'm really convinced that it was God's will how it happened. But it was so hard. The point is, I didn't leave because religious life wasn't mine any more. It just was the wrong community, and perhaps too early for me personally. I'm still on the way, looking for the right place. (Now I'm 27). You might know how hard it is to live in our world with another longing in the heart... it was so difficult to get re-used to the world again, knowing I would have to overcome all this again when I return to religious life. It's such a hard fight sometimes. Re-enter the world was the hardest thing I had ever to survive.

 

(In a few weeks I'm going to visit a benedictine monastery and give it another try, joyful and fearful at the same time. Still more joyful!!)

 

 

Senensis - you are another wonderfully courageous person here on Vocation Station. Leaving is hard, especially if you know you have a vocation to religious life. I have done it more than once (or been asked to leave) so I can empathize with everything you have written. I like your statement about being convinced that it was God's will how it happened. God's ways aren't always our ways. It hurts when that happens, but it does provide a fertile environment for us to grow in love and trust.

 

And you're right - it is a hard fight sometimes - the longing can become almost unbearable, and it might seem it takes everything your have just to trust that God has everything well in hand, no matter what happens.

 

Best wishes on your visit to the Benedictine monastery and prayers for your discernment. :pray:

 

PS - Your English is great! :)

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Antigonos    201
Antigonos

When applying for work, is it really much more difficult to explain a lengthy hiatus between jobs when one has been in religious life than when one drops out to raise one's kids?  Maybe a man might find it difficult, since there are few "house-husbands" even now, but even in our "liberated" age, women are almost expected to [at least temporarily] sidetrack their careers at some point.  And certain professions such as teaching often include sabbaticals.

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nunsense    3,805
nunsense

When applying for work, is it really much more difficult to explain a lengthy hiatus between jobs when one has been in religious life than when one drops out to raise one's kids?  Maybe a man might find it difficult, since there are few "house-husbands" even now, but even in our "liberated" age, women are almost expected to [at least temporarily] sidetrack their careers at some point.  And certain professions such as teaching often include sabbaticals.

 

 

For some of us, it isn't so much that there has been one, lengthy absence from the workforce, but several absences of different amounts of time interspersed with times of part-time or casual or temp work. This gives the appearance of instability to potential employers. That's why I try to find more casual or temp work because then it doesn't seem to matter so much. But it isn't easy to find a job of any kind these days, especially for those of us who aren't quite so young any more. It isn't only convents that discriminate against older people, even if it is against the law for employers to do so.

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Hemma    126
Hemma

@Nunsense: Thank you! :kitten:

 

In my application papers I had written "work experience in Austria" or something like that. During the job interview my future boss inquired about it. I said: "Well, that's a very personal issue, normally I don't talk about it to others, but of course I may tell you, it was ..." (and so on). Well, HE didn't talk about it - but the attendant ladies of the work council. When I started working in the bookshop (about half a year later), nearly everybody of the 45 colleagues knew about it. And some of them bullied me from the very beginning. I couldn't think of another reason. So I had to show them that I'm just a normal girl. I didn't dare to wear my long skirts, even though I hate trousers more or less. I kept (and still keep) silent as often it comes to putting away erotic books and just do it. and so on. By now it's quite ok with most of them.

The punch line is: they took me because I had been in a monastery. (A friendly colleague told me about that a few months ago.) I was a university student before and after the monastery time, and in the shop they had had bad experience with students, because they wouldn't listen. And then they said: well, let's take the one who was in a monastery, she might be listening.

Of course I have considered whether I have been bullied because I had been a student, not because of the monastery. But the new trainees of this year all had been students, and nobody is bullying them...

Edited by Senensis

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nunsense    3,805
nunsense

@Nunsense: Thank you! :kitten:

 

In my application papers I had written "work experience in Austria" or something like that. During the job interview my future boss inquired about it. I said: "Well, that's a very personal issue, normally I don't talk about it to others, but of course I may tell you, it was ..." (and so on). Well, HE didn't talk about it - but the attendant ladies of the work council. When I started working in the bookshop (about half a year later), nearly everybody of the 45 colleagues knew about it. And some of them bullied me from the very beginning. I couldn't think of another reason. So I had to show them that I'm just a normal girl. I didn't dare to wear my long skirts, even though I hate trousers more or less. I kept (and still keep) silent as often it comes to putting away erotic books and just do it. and so on. By now it's quite ok with most of them.

The punch line is: they took me because I had been in a monastery. (A friendly colleague told me about that a few months ago.) I was a university student before and after the monastery time, and in the shop they had had bad experience with students, because they wouldn't listen. And then they said: well, let's take the one who was in a monastery, she might be listening.

Of course I have considered whether I have been bullied because I had been a student, not because of the monastery. But the new trainees of this year all had been students, and nobody is bullying them...

 

 

Bullying is a strange phenomenon. I have been bullied so often in my life that I have had occasion to think about it a lot. I have even been bullied in the convent. Sometimes you can sort of figure out a possible reason why another person or group of people want to bully you, but sometimes there just doesn't seem to be any reason at all. The important thing is not to get into the mind-set that it is something that we have done that causes them to be bullies. Victims look for reason from bullies, but often even the bully doesn't know why they do it - it is an unconscious reaction to something that causes them to feel insecure or inadequate - leading to fear and a need to control and dominate the perceived source of that feeling. That is what causes prejudice and discrimination as well, for ethnic minorities, for other religions etc. In your case, you might think that it is about the monastery, but I can almost guarantee that the real reasons are much deeper than that and come from the fact that most people don't even know what goes on in a monastery or convent and the idea brings up issues for them that create unease and make them react more aggressively than usual. The opposite can also happen though, where people who have grown up with the idea of nuns and convents can treat you differently simply because they have been conditioned to an exaggerated awe of those in religious life or the priesthood. It is a double edged sword.

 

We are always told to stand up to bullies and they will back down. That doesn't always happen, in my experience. Sometimes you just make an enemy. And if you are in the convent, it is almost impossible to stand up to a bully before you are in final vows. If they are a superior, you are expected to submit and if they are a sister and you complain, then you are not humble enough to live in community.

 

In the world, there is always the option to report someone and hopefully to work it out, but that has backfired on me too. A boss can drag you through mediation forever by saying that you 'misunderstood' what s/he was saying to you and a co-worker can get their supporters to make things even worse.

 

In some cases of bullying, things can be worked out over time. Bullies can get tired of the same victim and change to another, or on the rare occasion they can have a change of heart and become a friend (very rare in my life), or in a work situation the bully might be promoted or transferred (or we might)  - but occasionally the only option is to leave the toxic environment if the bullying persists. I hope in your situation that things eventually die down. The new person often becomes the victim in an environment where bullying is allowed to continue. Endurance could just be the secret. Just remember how it feels though if a new person starts and they become the focus - give them a hand to help them cope. When I was in 6th grade, I was bullied unmercifully for the whole year. The following year I was in a new school because we moved over the summer. I was well liked there but another girl was bullied. I always stood up for her because I remembered how it felt, and over time the others in the school left her alone. God uses our suffering to help others if we let Him. :)

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Hemma    126
Hemma

Bullying is a strange phenomenon. I have been bullied so often in my life that I have had occasion to think about it a lot. I have even been bullied in the convent. Sometimes you can sort of figure out a possible reason why another person or group of people want to bully you, but sometimes there just doesn't seem to be any reason at all. The important thing is not to get into the mind-set that it is something that we have done that causes them to be bullies. Victims look for reason from bullies, but often even the bully doesn't know why they do it - it is an unconscious reaction to something that causes them to feel insecure or inadequate - leading to fear and a need to control and dominate the perceived source of that feeling. That is what causes prejudice and discrimination as well, for ethnic minorities, for other religions etc. In your case, you might think that it is about the monastery, but I can almost guarantee that the real reasons are much deeper than that and come from the fact that most people don't even know what goes on in a monastery or convent and the idea brings up issues for them that create unease and make them react more aggressively than usual. The opposite can also happen though, where people who have grown up with the idea of nuns and convents can treat you differently simply because they have been conditioned to an exaggerated awe of those in religious life or the priesthood. It is a double edged sword.

 

We are always told to stand up to bullies and they will back down. That doesn't always happen, in my experience. Sometimes you just make an enemy. And if you are in the convent, it is almost impossible to stand up to a bully before you are in final vows. If they are a superior, you are expected to submit and if they are a sister and you complain, then you are not humble enough to live in community.

 

In the world, there is always the option to report someone and hopefully to work it out, but that has backfired on me too. A boss can drag you through mediation forever by saying that you 'misunderstood' what s/he was saying to you and a co-worker can get their supporters to make things even worse.

 

In some cases of bullying, things can be worked out over time. Bullies can get tired of the same victim and change to another, or on the rare occasion they can have a change of heart and become a friend (very rare in my life), or in a work situation the bully might be promoted or transferred (or we might)  - but occasionally the only option is to leave the toxic environment if the bullying persists. I hope in your situation that things eventually die down. The new person often becomes the victim in an environment where bullying is allowed to continue. Endurance could just be the secret. Just remember how it feels though if a new person starts and they become the focus - give them a hand to help them cope. When I was in 6th grade, I was bullied unmercifully for the whole year. The following year I was in a new school because we moved over the summer. I was well liked there but another girl was bullied. I always stood up for her because I remembered how it felt, and over time the others in the school left her alone. God uses our suffering to help others if we let Him. :)

 

I think you're right. Especially when you say "that the real reasons are much deeper than that and come from the fact that most people don't even know what goes on in a monastery or convent and the idea brings up issues for them that create unease and make them react more aggressively than usual". I got bullied during almost the whole of my school life, so I have much experience too. (I'm the daughter of a pastor. You know A Walk to Remember by Nicolas Sparks? It was a bit like that. - During the last school years everything got better and I got catholic, at first in my heart. It was a protestant private school and I didn't want to create a scandal with respect for my father's business. Officialy it took place after the Abitur. It was the very first thing I did after finishing school:D) However I couldn't really reflect on the reasons of bullying because during the time I just didn't know how it felt to be "normal", and afterwards I didn't want to think about it any more. Now you might ask how I do manage community life. I've had a big family and that was (with all normal difficulties and quarrels among siblings) a really great thing. So I never had unusual social problems in my former community (actually they are truly striving for holyness and I never found any cases of malevolence among them) nor among other groups of like-minded (christian) people. It was just at school and then in the job, nowhere else. Not even now at business school, and that makes me confident that I've managed it. "being like other people" - from the outside;)

After the first weeks in the shop I talked to my boss because I was close to quitting. He explained me the history of our pecking order which is quite different to the official order. From that moment on it was easier for me to understand why some of the colleagues are so poor inside that they "need" to bully me, at least. I hope very much that I won't have go through this again when I re-enter a monastery. A nun friend of mine (not from my former community) even had to change the convent because she got bullied so hard.
 

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nunsense    3,805
nunsense

I think you're right. Especially when you say "that the real reasons are much deeper than that and come from the fact that most people don't even know what goes on in a monastery or convent and the idea brings up issues for them that create unease and make them react more aggressively than usual". I got bullied during almost the whole of my school life, so I have much experience too. (I'm the daughter of a pastor. You know A Walk to Remember by Nicolas Sparks? It was a bit like that. - During the last school years everything got better and I got catholic, at first in my heart. It was a protestant private school and I didn't want to create a scandal with respect for my father's business. Officialy it took place after the Abitur. It was the very first thing I did after finishing school:D) However I couldn't really reflect on the reasons of bullying because during the time I just didn't know how it felt to be "normal", and afterwards I didn't want to think about it any more. Now you might ask how I do manage community life. I've had a big family and that was (with all normal difficulties and quarrels among siblings) a really great thing. So I never had unusual social problems in my former community (actually they are truly striving for holyness and I never found any cases of malevolence among them) nor among other groups of like-minded (christian) people. It was just at school and then in the job, nowhere else. Not even now at business school, and that makes me confident that I've managed it. "being like other people" - from the outside;)

After the first weeks in the shop I talked to my boss because I was close to quitting. He explained me the history of our pecking order which is quite different to the official order. From that moment on it was easier for me to understand why some of the colleagues are so poor inside that they "need" to bully me, at least. I hope very much that I won't have go through this again when I re-enter a monastery. A nun friend of mine (not from my former community) even had to change the convent because she got bullied so hard.
 

 

 

Sounds like you had a hard time in school - being different in any way is always hard. It's great that your religious community were so healthy. There are many healthy and happy nuns in communities as well as those who have been damaged. It probably depends on the mix whether or not the community itself is dysfunctional or just individuals. There is no such thing as a perfect person or a perfect family or community etc but it can be hard for anyone who has little or no power when they become the target for any kind of bullying, no matter how small.

 

I think it's great that you felt empowered enough to make a healthy decision and to still feel positive about religious life. Since you have been learning to deal with bullies at work (great that you could talk to your boss about it)-  it sounds as if you will do fine when you re-enter religious life.

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