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What Happens When Nuns/sisters Leave The Order?

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MaeBern

I saw this post a while back and I know it is old but I decided to share.

I was a Religious Sister for two years. I was asked to leave for reasons I am still not sure about. In fact, there are some aspects of me that believe I was asked to leave because I was not like everyone else or even to a point that I was not the favorite. It still hurts even to this day.

I was part of a modern community. It started in 1997. There are a few members. When you leave, there is a part of you that wish that you can just disappear and leave in secret. This is how I felt because I did not want to leave. I however experienced that the community wanted to say goodbye. I took the time to say goodbye to each of the members privately however it was up to me. They did not stop me so I am not sure if it was what they wanted. A couple did come back and say goodbye when I went back home. I left when everything was out besides the ones who came back. This was my choice. I had to pretend that nothing was going on and everything was fine when I was with the community as a whole for my final days. Inside you are screaming however, it was best to live the life as if nothing was going on until you leave. This was the hardest thing to do for me.

As for what happens afterwards, the superior stayed in contacted with me for a couple months out of charity. Personally, I do not think she wanted to. It is very painful and there are emotions that only God can get you through. I find that everyone treats you differently when you are no longer a Sister. They view you as someone with a mark or something is wrong with you. I still feel called to Religious Life. I am discerning. I however find it difficult because you have this mark that you left a community. Many communities will not even give me a chance. I finally got a community to let me visit after months of searching. I believe some Catholics view those who left as failures. This has been my experience. You live with a group of people for months and then you are dumped into the world. I visited afterwards and they treat you are as someone below them, like they are superior. This is not how I view Religious Life. I believe that if anything, I learned how to treat those outside of community or those who left. Religious are not superior. In fact, if you are a Religious, I believe one has to take a stand of inferiority. This does not mean that Religious are lower than anyone else or treating this as their self worth. I mean the complete opposite. I mean Religious are to be examples and live in Humility. I am not judging my old community. In fact, they are strong in Humility, much more than I am. This is just based on my experience. It changes you, leaving. I believe I am better for it. I see the community in different eyes than before. If I knew that this would be my experience in Religious Life, would I have joined? I probably would have not if I could get myself out of the clouds that it would never happen to me. I would have joined a more experienced community. Anyway, this is my answer. I hope it helps.

God bless!

Edited by MaeBern

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Sponsa-Christi

@MaeBern I'm sorry to hear about the pain you went through in leaving your community.

But although it sounds like you've gone through some difficulty in dealing with people's reactions after you left, "discerning out" of a religious community (for whatever reason) before final profession is actually kind of normal. I think more and more Catholics familiar with religious life and discernment are coming to understand this now.

Certainly, nobody here on this forum would think badly of you at all---there have been plenty of posters here who have joined a community, discerned out, and then continued discernment elsewhere. 

In case you haven't heard of it, Leonie's Longing is an organization dedicated to helping women who have left convents: http://www.leonieslonging.org/ 

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Carmelite4christ
On 3/25/2010 at 6:53 PM, cmaD2006 said:


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 stupid?...You had no concern for your Sisters, you are selfish! -- You are endangering their vocations! You cannot trust your own judgment! You are a poison 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 ever 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.


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.

Yes, I believe Jesus is always with us! He's all that matters. Even in convents, there may be nuns who aren't so kind, I remember inquiring about one  community, and one " just didn't have a liking towards me" it was easy to pick up on, even though I tried to ignore it. So, I asked myself in all honesty, would I want to spend my life here... unf ortunately every vocation comes with the good and the bad. I myself visioned a perfect life if I entered the convent, but in reality there's no such thing. Only in heaven we will experience full bliss. Every now and then my mother will joke around, ( not intended to be crude at all) she would say, I'm glad you didn't become a sister, I was afraid they would hit on you) no, I would tell her...  that wouldn't happen! But anyhow we can live for Jesus in whatever vocation we are called to. It's him that we want to please in this life! I'm sorry to the ones who left the convent and weren't treated so kind. The only thing that would break my heart is if a dear friend left, and became an atheist.... I heard that happened to one lady that was a nun. Now, that's something to be sad about. Other than that as long as we don't lose our relationship with Christ and live for him, that's all that matters.

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ToJesusMyHeart

I used to be a pretty active member here but have since moved on to other places of the internet. However, I check in occasionally sometimes. I saw this thread pop up and decided I would share my experience.

I had a positive experience leaving my community. I was still in formation, so it wasn't as traumatic as someone who leaves after making vows. However, it was still very difficult and honestly it broke my heart a little to leave. It was my decision to leave, and my superiors were very helpful with the process. I was told to keep it a secret for a couple days, and then announce it to my sisters in a house meeting. Keeping it to myself for those few days was difficult, and made my announcement seem more dramatic than it needed to be. I wept while I told my sisters I had discerned to go elsewhere in life. I had come to love each of them during the time I was there, and it was truly heartbreaking to do. Everyone talks about how difficult it is to join a convent and leave your friends and family...and yes, that is hard. But in my experience, and from reading the other posts here, I believe it is exponentially more difficult to leave a convent than to enter one. I am at mostly peace with my choice, and I don't regret it, but my heart is still tenderly aching sometimes because I miss my Sisters so dearly. I write them once in awhile, but I'm usually too busy and not dedicated enough to get out my pen and stationary. 

I had some lovely one-on-one good-byes with some of my sisters on the rooftop at sunset the night before I was to fly away. I am extremely grateful for those conversations. They provided some much needed closure for me and for my sisters whom I was closest with, including my bathroom-mate, whose cell was connected to mine by a shared bath. The night before I left, one of my sisters took me to Target to purchase some civilian clothes. She was very sweet and encouraged me to choose some nice earrings to go with my outfit. (Pray for her! Sr. Faustina is making final vows this year!) 

The morning of my departure, we had breakfast as a house together in the parlor. The mood was somber but not depressive. I was able to hug each of my sisters goodbye, many tearful embraces and last words were said. Then Sr. Faustina drove me to the airport. I cried the whole flight home and wondered if I was making a mistake.

One funny anecdote to share: I flew away on Virgin America; the safety video is a very upbeat dance video, and one of the characters in the safety dancing video is a habited nun! That made me smile amidst the tears. God knew I needed a little pick-me-up. 

Now I'm working as an elementary school teacher and loving it. I'm dating someone, but it's a new relationship, so I am unsure yet where it may lead. I still think about religious life nearly every day...but I don't think, right now, that it's for me. I try to explain it by saying that I wish I was called to religious life, but I don't think I'm strong enough for it. I want to be friends with every nun I meet, but I don't think I'm cut out to be a nun myself. I'm also somewhat nervous that I wouldn't be accepted to a new community if they learned I left one previously, but perhaps that's a silly fear. In any case, staying with the boyfriend is the plan right now. 

P.S. I'm located in Austin, TX, and if any of you are also in or near Austin, I would love to be real-life friends! It would be a great blessing to have a friend here who understands the experience of religious life. Send me a Message if that's the case. I don't bite, I promise! :)

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BarbaraTherese
1 hour ago, ToJesusMyHeart said:

P.S. I'm located in Austin, TX, and if any of you are also in or near Austin, I would love to be real-life friends! It would be a great blessing to have a friend here who understands the experience of religious life. Send me a Message if that's the case. I don't bite, I promise! :)

I hope, TJMH, that you will be blest with a happy response and a friend.

2 hours ago, ToJesusMyHeart said:

One funny anecdote to share: I flew away on Virgin America; the safety video is a very upbeat dance video, and one of the characters in the safety dancing video is a habited nun! That made me smile amidst the tears. God knew I needed a little pick-me-up. 

I felt for you reading the above.

Blessings on a your new beginning.  I hope you will find as your journey unfolds that your religious life experience speaks to it (mine did)............who knows, you might even return to the life.  Our God surely is The God of The Surprise.....and He can insist at times in writing very straight in crooked lines.

I love religious life and have to look at every picture and video of nuns and Sisters I come across and to read about religious life.  I came away from the life convinced I had no vocation at all, but by the time I arrived back in Bethany in another state (of Australia) probably 2 days later, I was in real doubt that I had done the right thing.  Some 25years later, I know that I did.

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FancyPantsMcGovern

What do you tell someone who had a bad experience leaving religious life?

11 minutes ago, FancyPantsMcGovern said:

What do you tell someone who had a bad experience leaving religious life?

 

oops

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vee
19 hours ago, FancyPantsMcGovern said:

What do you tell someone who had a bad experience leaving religious life?

 

Don't tell them what to do with their life!  "Why don't you go back to school?"  "What would you like to do?"  "Why don't you do such and such a job?"  Don't say any of these things!   

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Francis Clare

You just need to be with them as they  journey through and process the many emotions that are going through ....to walk with them as they figure out their next steps, grieve (most commonly), and deal with their own personal feelings, etc.  As a SD I can tell you that most whatever you say will be taken the wrong way.  Just let your friend know that you will be there for her in whatever capacity she needs you to be.  That you will be available to her when/if/how she needs you without overlaying your need to be helpful, compassionate, wise, etc.  Most women who have left or who have been asked to leave desperately need their "space" to process and "own" their feelings,  and that can present itself in a variety of ways.  Often when saying the "wrong" or inappropriate thing, you can exacerbate their emotional stress -- and I won't go into what that might be as they differ from woman to woman.  Just be present.......and pray for them......not your will, not their will, but His will be done.

Edited by Francis Clare

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FancyPantsMcGovern

Okay, thanks. Just from stuff she's said, I never knew things like that happened. She was forced to leave even though they told her she did nothing wrong. I mean, she's bald because she just shaved her head.  I think its' really hard so I'm trying not to pry. I don't think I want to be a nun but if I did I would have to think twice now.  

I don't know what her plans are for the future, or if she has any yet.

Edited by FancyPantsMcGovern
forgot something

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dominicansoul
13 hours ago, vee said:

Don't tell them what to do with their life!  "Why don't you go back to school?"  "What would you like to do?"  "Why don't you do such and such a job?"  Don't say any of these things!   

Get a job already 

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AveMariaPurissima
On 8/22/2017 at 4:15 PM, FancyPantsMcGovern said:

What do you tell someone who had a bad experience leaving religious life?

 

 

I would also make sure she's aware of Leonie's Longing, a wonderful apostolate that assists women who have left religious life. They've been a huge help to me in the time since I left the convent. I've met lots of great people, and it has helped me so much to know I'm not alone in my experiences, feelings, etc. :heart:

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FancyPantsMcGovern

I never knew that so many people left religious life after becoming nuns.

I will give her the link to Leonie's Longings. I looked at it and I thought it was good that they have a letter from their bishop. 

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kjw

I was hoping someone in this community may be able to help.  

I started 1st grade at St. Anthony grade school in 1963 in the same year a Monsignor Mead finished our new church in Missoula.   Somewhere around 4th or 5th grade is where my memories of a Sr. Veronica BVM, start.   Within the next few years she would change her name to Sr. Teresa Joy BVM.  She and Mr. Hodge, the only male teacher at the school to that date I know of, were our 7th grade teachers.  We would like to invite Sister to a reunion which he has expressed interest in coming to.  Our problem ... she left the order years later and well ... where does one start?  I have heared she married and continued to teach in the state of Washington.   

A Bride of Christ leaves some heart breaking stories, but a bunch of adults with grateful life stories built on the foundation of the kindness and tough love of our Nuns, with the discipline to be there for us every day, year after year... we just want to find her and hear her stories and say thanks.  To all of you for setting our lives off to a good start.

Any help from any of you would be greatly appreciated.  kj

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