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Andrea Maio

Age Barrier

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Andrea Maio

I wish there was a way that women who are of retirement age could join a religious order. 

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deusluxmea

There are options! While they aren't as plentiful as for younger women, there are orders that accept women of  retirement age. 

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underatree

Entering religious life in later life is complex and difficult, more so than entering in young adulthood. I speak as a former religious from a community that accepted older vocations from time to time, and my observations are my own and not necessarily representative of a particular community. 

One thing that is difficult about religious life, whatever age you're at, is not being able to make choices for yourself (beyond obviously the choice whether or not to remain in religious life). I have seen the extreme difficulty faced by older women in community who feel that based on their life experience they know best, only to have to obey their 30-year-old novice mistress. After 50 or 60 years of doing things a certain way, to switch to what someone else tells you to do is very challenging. Habits of speech, forms of prayer, ways of relating to others, coping mechanisms for the various frustrations of life -- all of these will be uprooted. Few people are psychologically, emotionally, physically, spiritually able to abandon the life they have spent half a century building and successfully adjust. Not that it is impossible, just rare. Based on my experience, as well as conversations with other former and current religious, many discerners have an unrealistic view of what the life entails, and while leaving religious life may be a difficult experience for a young person, it can be utterly devastating for an older person (who may have taken early retirement, sold significant assets, resigned from a job, interrupted contributions to a 401(k), or some other life-altering decision) and this can in addition significantly hamper the person's individual freedom in discernment. 

The documents of the second Vatican council made it clear that the vocation to holiness is a universal call for each person in the church. The profusion of third orders, societies of apostolic life, and new movements within the church speaks to me of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the laity. There is real Christian community, opportunity for growth in Christian life and charity, and a true and authentic form of life in imitation of Christ. It is easy to get caught up in romantic notions of religious life but this is like entering a marriage simply fantasizing about the day of the wedding. We have to be practical and realistic about our own limitations -- there is no merit in picking up the cross that looks to us like the biggest. Exercising our human freedom in an appropriate way requires prudence and self-knowledge (which includes candid knowledge of one's own limitations). 

I'm not trying to throw cold water on anyone's fire. I hope that older discerners will be encouraged by the possibility of a vocation within the church to a path of holiness that embraces all of the valuable experiences and gifts they possess already, that meets them in their lives as they are and encourages them to devote themselves wholeheartedly to Christ and his people.

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Jacinta
18 hours ago, Andrea Maio said:

I wish there was a way that women who are of retirement age could join a religious order. 

 

 

 

 

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Jacinta

I am finding difficulties in searching the orders which I like and accepting my age (48).

Some orders did not put the required age range when I called they said the cut off age is 40.

2 years ago, I've started a discernment, follow the homilies from church that "when you hear God's voice, don't delay, don't refuse God's call" and I did. 

I went and visited one order and told the Sisters that I am over required age.  The Sisters told me they would mention about me to the mother to make an exception.  Many time visited the order and once I submitted an application along with a recommendation letter from the spiritual director per Sisters requested, 2 weeks later the order sent a letter to my spiritual director denied my application because of my age.

I tried 2 monasteries, they accepted me, I love their communities but things did not work out.

I went on confession, the priest gave me a booklet of an order which I like very much but the required ages from 18-45.  The priest told me to call them if they can make an exception for me.  I went online and their website says 18 - 50.  Halleluia! I  then sent an email and asked if I could come for a visit.  25 days later, I got a response that they find difficulties of people even passed 40 and sorry that they don't think their monastery is what I am looking for.  

I am not giving up hope .... there must be one door open for me.  So good luck Andre Maio!

Edited by Jacinta

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Andrea Maio

Thank you for your comments. Yes, they are helpful and put things in perspective. I have much to think about. Happy you are here and that I have found this place.

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beatitude
1 hour ago, Antigonos said:

Isn't the Visitation order specifically for older women?

They accept women who have health difficulties that may make other forms of monastic life more challenging, but they are not for older women specifically. Most Visitation monasteries that I've come across have the typical age limits.

There are a couple of communities I know of that were founded with older women in mind - the Mater Ecclesiae monastery in the UK and the Eudist Servants of the Eleventh Hour in the US.

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JHFamily

I know of a personal story of a community whose age barrier was quite young but accepted a widowed grandmother.  I was told they get letters somewhat regularly from women who are older and now want to enter religious life, but this lady was different.  Her motivations were pure and her spiritual life already advanced.  They accepted her.  So, I would suggest that instead of asking, "What is your age limit?" that you write letters telling your story and why you now filled called to religious life after all these years.  That says so much more than an age.

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beatitude

I agree with JHFamily's advice. It's best to have a conversation with the community in question.

I also want to second what underatree wrote. I'm 31, so still under the age limit for many religious communities, but I can see that I am much less flexible and adaptable than I used to be, at least in some ways. I was in a boarding school from the age of 13 to 18, sharing a small room with three other girls, on a corridor that was bursting with still more girls. Personal space didn't exist. If I wanted to be quiet or alone I had to hole up in the library or take a walk across the sports fields. Showers were communal and if you weren't out of bed at about six in the morning you weren't guaranteed hot water. Even as eighteen-year-olds, we had to ask permission from staff for everything we wanted to do. Yet at the time this didn't bother me at all. I enjoyed life at that school, on the whole.

...and now, thirteen years since I left that school, if you told me that I would have to share my room with three other women, have limited personal space, and ask permission for things like walking into the village, my mental reaction would be NO WHAT HELP THIS WILL TAKE A MIRACLE. I'm used to having my own flat now. I like planning my own day. And I imagine that the adjustment would only get more challenging with time.

This is not to say that older woman shouldn't become nuns. I've met several who have. One is a former Anglican vicar who entered a Catholic community in her late fifties, and she's incredible. But it takes great courage and humility, moreso I think than for someone younger.

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Andrea Maio

Appreciate your reflections on this topic. You made a good point! I had been in a religious order when I was younger for 8 years. Sorry I ever left. But it would be a lot different now. Crave exchange with like-minded people though.

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JHFamily

Ah... see, now your story is beginning to develop.  You wouldn't be entering uninformed.  You know what religious life is from the inside, the virtues it takes to live it, and the importance of obedience.  That's not the same as an older lady who suddenly becomes enamored with a romantic idea.

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maar

Dear Andrea Maio,

I'm a little late to your post, but I wanted to suggest one specific Visitation Order- the Sisters of the Visitation of Holy Mary in Tyringham, MA. They recently had a Postulant class with women ranging from their 20's to their 50's. If you aren't yet familiar with them, they have a couple of informative videos on YouTube that give you a wonderful window into their community. Their website is: vistyr.com

God be with you!

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Nunsuch
On 6/9/2018 at 10:24 AM, Andrea Maio said:

Appreciate your reflections on this topic. You made a good point! I had been in a religious order when I was younger for 8 years. Sorry I ever left. But it would be a lot different now. Crave exchange with like-minded people though.

Some communities do not accept individuals who were previously in other orders. That, combined with your age, might work against you in a number of cases. 

You don't say whether you are interested in an active or contemplative approach to religious life. Both have oblates, secular orders, and/or Associates. Have you looked into these alternative commitments?

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