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Just Another Discerner

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Hello to all Phatmassers!:wave:

I've been lurking for quite a while now but have finally plucked up the courage to say hello! 

To give some history, I'm a convert to the faith. Converted two years ago and man has this been a crazy, beautiful, whirlwind experience! My pull to religious life began very early on in my journey and I just put it down to "honeymoon faith", happy feelings and all that, but for the last couple years it has only gotten stronger. 

I'm in my final year of university and I now have to start acknowledging the pull and start taking some action! Even though I would love to take full action and enter a community tomorrow (I'm just a little bit impatient :nun2:), I still have to work for our government for a year and pay off student loans. 

I'm a South African, (any other fellow SA discerners??) and I would love to enter a community in my country but there just aren't any I feel a very strong attraction to. There is one that I recently found out about, the Congregation of Sisters of Merciful Jesus, they are a polish community that came to SA a few years ago. Their community was started by St. Faustina's spiritual director after her death and was inspired by her visions of Jesus. She is my Patron Saint so I'm actually quite interested in these sisters. Does anyone know anything about this community? The other community that might be a possibility are the Sisters of Nazareth who care for elderly and orphaned children.

I then also have a massive attraction to the Sisters of Life and the Little Sisters of the Poor. I think both of their charisms uphold the dignity of human life and speak so much to what I feel strongly about. 

Neither of the last two are in SA though and I think I would feel really guilty leaving my country when we so desperately need vocations, we have a tiny Catholic population in SA, tiny but strong! :smile2:

I am also an only child with a single mom and as you all know, this isn't only a sacrifice for me, this will be one that my mom will have to make, unhappily. I have not told her about my desire for religious life but I plan on doing it before the end of the year. I also don't know how being an only child with a single mom would work in a religious community, when she is older I will be the only one to care for her and I'm not sure how communities would handle this, obviously this would be community dependent but any ideas?

Finally, I would like to ask for your opinions. I will not be able to enter a community in the next 2 years probably, as I need to pay back loans. I don't really know what my next step should be. Do I start contacting communities now or should I wait until I'm in a better position-once loans are almost paid off? I do not have a formal spiritual director but I do have a wonderful Sister (religious not sibling) who has been giving me lots of spiritual guidance. 

I would appreciate any advice or thoughts anyone has to offer, I feel slightly overwhelmed and have no idea how to move forward even though I really want to! 

Please keep me in your prayers, you will all be in mine. :nun3:



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Hey cat_holic,

There's so much in your post so I'll try and address a few things! 

Firstly, two years is still fairly soon. It's amazing that the attraction to religious life has been so enduring, and that's surely a good sign, but also many communities require it to have been 2 years since your confirmation before entering and the Sisters of Life (SoLs) require a 3 year period to have past.

Secondly, there's no harm in contacting communities now! Two years of discernment with a community is a good length of time to ensure that you get to know them, schedule visits, begin the application process. You have a solid trajectory of having your loans paid off in this 2 year period so there's no reason to put off initial contact with a community. Even if you were in a position to enter next week, it takes so much time to realise whether or not the community is the right fit, whether religious life is the right fit... and indeed to do the required things to enter: psych assessment, medical assessment, asking permission to enter, etc. Also, if you were entering a community outside of SA, then you would need time to book flights to visit them, raise the money for said flights, come to know the cultural differences... etc.

Thirdly, when it comes to your mother, there are so many different experiences, not only dependent on the community but also on the people involved. For example, I recently read a website of a carmelite community and they stated that nuns receive permission to help in the care of elderly parents if the need arises. However, I understand that this is often a rare experience. I know of another monastic community where nuns are allowed to leave to aid their parents on occasion, but not in a continual care-of-parental scenario. This is something you would have to discuss with your vocations director. Equally though, this shouldn't be a deterrent to religious life: there are always many options and Christ will provide a way should it be God's will. 

The only way to know if you're called to a particular charism or community is to contact them and talk to them. If you feel pulled to stay in SA, then contact the St Faustina community and share something of your story and desires with them. They will help you get started on the discernment path. If they think you have a vocation, but think it's to a different community, then I hope that they would tell you to seek His will elsewhere: that would be a generous and helpful vocations director and I have come across many of them in my search! 

Hope this helps. I can develop on any particular points but I'm sure some other phatmassers will come to aid. 

Prayers for you,


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Join the Little Sisters of the Poor in the country nearest South Africa where they minister. When your mother needs care, she can join you in the LSP home where you work. Perhaps at some point after that, you'd be able to return to SA and establish the Little Sisters there.

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I know of the Oblate Sisters of St Francis de Sales in SA. They are a french community with mission in SA with orphanages and school, and they have a salesian charism with a strong prayer life.

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Sister Leticia

You've given two strong reasons for joining a congregation which would enable you to remain in SA. So you need to bear this in mind when looking at orders which only have a toehold in SA (eg maybe only one small community), and/or which have a strong missionary spirit. Maybe look at some smaller, diocesan orders too? - they, at least, would be well-established in SA, and unlikely to expect you to serve in another country/continent.

I don't know how well the Sisters of Nazareth are established in SA, but if they're the sisters who were founded in London back in the 1850s, then they have their international novitiate in London. I don't know whether their sisters are then missioned back to their home countries - but that's something you can ask about. 

You haven't said what you've been studying, what sort of work experience you have, and if you actually feel a call towards elder care and/or childcare. How would your gifts and skills fit in with the mission of these sisters?

Blessings on your journey

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