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If You Could Start A Religious Order/community, What Would It Be, Or L


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I agree Nikita.

 

Without wishing to be disrespectful, it is one of the ways I think communities need to move forward.

 

Since those who have body/mind issues or adult children or whatever are having to make their way in the world I fail to see how they could not cope equally well in community.

The demands of being a sister/brother are different in nature to those made by living in the world, they are not necessarily harder.

This is why my 'dream' community would posit ways of being able to encompass all who had a genuine desire to try the life.

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This isn't strict..it's impossible!

​Oh dear! This is not for humans!  

it could be done ... if you eat a sandwich with one hand and hold the office in the other. 

I understand your frustrations Nikita.  I'm 45 years old.  My options are limited as well. However, at some point I have to resign myself that if no religious order accepts me than it is God's will.  I can either choose to fight that or accept it.  One will make me happy, the other miserable. 

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Since God can keep working in you, and He knows how to use all the ways, all the paths, all the means for His purpose; and since He has given you free will -- it is not His fault if you make no progress.

- Saint Anthony Mary Zaccaria (1502-1539), Feast Day July 5
My pet peeve is... They will take men in advanced age to become priests... Case in point, Fr. Dewight Longnecker Is a roman Catholic priest and is Married with 4 children! I believe one of our discerner's was turned away because she had adult children herself. Yet I digress! I thought it would be interesting to hear what others "dream"community would consist of. Wether they are actively discerning or not. As far as checklist goes...it's important to keep a open mind

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Nikita, I can see how the issue of age would be frustrating for you and for other discerners.  As far as diocesan priesthood is concerned... it really doesn't compare well with religious life.  The two lifestyles are so incredibly different.  Diocesan priests don't take a vow of poverty... I don't know the priest you pointed to but he could have money saved for retirement, for medical care in his older years, money for a place to live...etc.  In religious life, if an older woman joins, her future care and training will be at the cost of the community because of the vow of poverty.  As great as it sounds for communities to open their doors to others regardless of age, they have to be practical too.  I think it would be terrible if a community accepted an older woman knowing that they don't have the assets to care for her if she gets sick.  It would go against charity.  The communities who do accept women who are older seem to feel that they have the necessary funds to care for the woman in the event that she needs it and its a good decision for them to allow older women to try the life. 

 

The priest above can also see his children and wife when he wants to.  If a woman with adult children enters religious life she won't be able to do that and her contact with her children will be limited in varying ways depending on the community.  There are just so many more issues to have to look at.  One example would be, What if the community reads mail before a sister receives it?  Her children can't write anything to their mother that they wouldn't want someone else to know.  Part of entering religious life is that community comes first... that could lead to a lot of difficulties for a woman with children.   

 

In communities that have a professional apostolate, how can they accept an older woman who isn't trained in that apostolate?  It is very expensive to send someone to nursing school or to college for a degree in education, or social work... It's a lot of money to spend for someone who might work for ten or twenty more years.

 

I'm not saying its impossible.  I just think that there are often some really complex issues that need to be talked about and discussed and analyzed before a community can make a decision in cases like these.  I hope you don't think I'm being cold.  I'm definitely not of the camp that older women shouldn't be accepted to religious life because they are too set in their ways or any of those other reasons.  I just think its helpful to see the issue from another perspective sometimes.  I don't think most communities are being close-minded or even mean about not letting older women enter.  I think they are trying to be practical looking at their resources and their way of life and evaluating whether they are a healthy place for that woman.  Some communities just aren't in the position to be able to accept older candidates and, as difficult as that is for the person discerning, it wouldn't be right for a community to accept someone who couldn't live fully the life (ie. because of a lack of training in the apostolate) or someone who they knew they couldn't care for in the future.

 

      

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When I was about 12, I had a fantasy about living as a religious hermit in a cave near the ocean.  The name of my religious order would be the "Daughters of God." 

 

 

:saint:

 

 

 

 

Until I realized that would make my initials "D.O.G."

 

  :lol4:

 

 

 

I figured no one would ever join me, and I wanted to live alone anyway, so I would be the only member.  So therefore I would be God's Only Daughter.  Initials:  G.O.D. 

 

 

 

 

That pretty much ended my aspirations of starting my own religious community. 

 

:giveup:

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When I was about 12, I had a fantasy about living as a religious hermit in a cave near the ocean.  The name of my religious order would be the "Daughters of God." 

 

 

:saint:

 

 

 

 

Until I realized that would make my initials "D.O.G."

 

  :lol4:

 

 

 

I figured no one would ever join me, and I wanted to live alone anyway, so I would be the only member.  So therefore I would be God's Only Daughter.  Initials:  G.O.D. 

 

 

 

 

That pretty much ended my aspirations of starting my own religious community. 

 

:giveup:

 

:lol4:

 

Too funny!

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When I was about 12, I had a fantasy about living as a religious hermit in a cave near the ocean.  The name of my religious order would be the "Daughters of God." 

 

 

:saint:

 

 

 

 

Until I realized that would make my initials "D.O.G."

 

  :lol4:

 

 

 

I figured no one would ever join me, and I wanted to live alone anyway, so I would be the only member.  So therefore I would be God's Only Daughter.  Initials:  G.O.D. 

 

 

 

 

That pretty much ended my aspirations of starting my own religious community. 

 

:giveup:

Too Funny!!!!

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Tradional/modern
Habit/non-habit
Monastic-contemplative/apostolic activity
Community living/off-site
Mind-body health issues allowed/not allowed
Higher education requirement/not a factor
Spirituality
Means of supporting the community
Family members visits,letter writing,use of technology
Permit pets/no pets (not referring to animals used for food or products-cheese etc)
Why would your community attract women and or men (of all ages)
What makes it stand out
Located in the city/outskirts

Of course, as founder of community-it will be "a living sign of the primacy of the love of God who works wonders, and of the love for God and for one's brothers and sisters as manifested and practiced by Jesus Christ" While this is meant only to be a stimulating imagination fun activity... It also helps to keep in mind what discerning one's possible vocation is about. Suggested reading- Fraternal Life In Community ("Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor") www. Vatican.va/roman_curia/congregation fraternal life in community_en.htm

 

1) Traditional

2) Habits without question

3) Active and contemplative

4) Community living would be a must

5) It would depend on the mind and body issues specifically

6) Higher education wouldn't matter unless you wanted to be a Priest

7) Most likely a glorious fusion of Dominican and Franciscan spiritualities

8) We would live off donations and by speaking at conferences and such

9) Family members would be allowed to visit, as well as written letters and limited technology

10) There might be a community dog or cat (Most likely a German Shepherd or Labrador if it's up to me)

11) It would attract men and women because hopefully we would be attractive in our holy lifestyle and work

12) It would stand out because it would be the only community in the diocese

13) And it would likely be just outside of town.

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Thank you Sister Marie for your input! No worries. I can appreciate both sides. ;) The priest I was referring to is Fr. Dwight Longnecker. He was featured in our Catholic newspaper. He is on the Internet. You can Google him if you wish to.

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If I may be both pragmatic, and iconoclastic, and combine several threads:

 

As a 67 year old Jew, I see the issue of both older vocations and founding new orders or communities from an angle.  It is a different topic, which I won't go into here, but in a real spiritual sense, there are some similarities between my tradition and those in religious life in that we both adhere to a Holy Rule which defines every area of existence, or I wouldn't have the chutzpah to comment.  I find the comments of those who want religious life but are finding the options extremely limited very thought-provoking.

 

Historically, convents often offered older pious women accomodation without demanding that they take the same vows as the sisters.  These women usually had independent [although usually limited] means.  They participated, to a degree, in the life of the community, but not entirely.  In The Nun's Story, mention is made of one who dressed in a sort of habit or uniform [black] and did small tasks for the nuns, chaperoned them when necessary, etc.  and certainly it was a kind of common practice in periods when it was regarded as unsafe or immoral for single women to live on their own [like the Middle Ages].  In a way, they were "extern sisters" for the extern sisters.  Since they paid their way, they were no drain on the community's resources yet they were able to improve their spiritual lives.

 

So, I think, that the problem of the older vocation, with the dilemmas it causes [older women more set in their ways and unable to adapt sufficiently to community life, health issues, causing too much expense for the community, etc. ] might well be addressed by a sort of "third order" [or fourth, or fifth :-)] as an adjunct to an existing community rather than attempting a new community entirely.  In a cloistered community they might eat and pray with the community but have a separate wing with slightly more comfortable accomodation than the sisters', or have a certain degree of latitude as regards leaving the enclosure [with permission] or receiving family visits.

 

I take this idea mainly  from a Jewish practice [although I am reminded of the Mantellata].  We have two kinds of converts: the "righteous convert" [ger tzedek] and the "resident alien" [ger toshav].  The former converts entirely to Judaism, and is indistinguishable in Jewish Law from someone born a Jew.  The latter lives the life of a Jew to all intents and purposes without formal conversion -- keeps kosher, prays, keeps the holidays and other religious practices etc. but does not undergo circumcision or immersion in a ritual bath.  The distinction arose during periods when it was dangerous and/or illegal for someone to formally convert.  [There are various implications of either status in Jewish Law which are irrelevant to this discussion] 

 

Any thoughts, especially from the older discerners?  Of course, I would expect such a radical proposal would have to have backing from very high authorities, and that might be problematic in itself.

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If I may be both pragmatic, and iconoclastic, and combine several threads:

 

As a 67 year old Jew, I see the issue of both older vocations and founding new orders or communities from an angle.  It is a different topic, which I won't go into here, but in a real spiritual sense, there are some similarities between my tradition and those in religious life in that we both adhere to a Holy Rule which defines every area of existence, or I wouldn't have the chutzpah to comment.  I find the comments of those who want religious life but are finding the options extremely limited very thought-provoking.

 

Historically, convents often offered older pious women accomodation without demanding that they take the same vows as the sisters.  These women usually had independent [although usually limited] means.  They participated, to a degree, in the life of the community, but not entirely.  In The Nun's Story, mention is made of one who dressed in a sort of habit or uniform [black] and did small tasks for the nuns, chaperoned them when necessary, etc.  and certainly it was a kind of common practice in periods when it was regarded as unsafe or immoral for single women to live on their own [like the Middle Ages].  In a way, they were "extern sisters" for the extern sisters.  Since they paid their way, they were no drain on the community's resources yet they were able to improve their spiritual lives.

 

So, I think, that the problem of the older vocation, with the dilemmas it causes [older women more set in their ways and unable to adapt sufficiently to community life, health issues, causing too much expense for the community, etc. ] might well be addressed by a sort of "third order" [or fourth, or fifth :-)] as an adjunct to an existing community rather than attempting a new community entirely.  In a cloistered community they might eat and pray with the community but have a separate wing with slightly more comfortable accomodation than the sisters', or have a certain degree of latitude as regards leaving the enclosure [with permission] or receiving family visits.

 

I take this idea mainly  from a Jewish practice [although I am reminded of the Mantellata].  We have two kinds of converts: the "righteous convert" [ger tzedek] and the "resident alien" [ger toshav].  The former converts entirely to Judaism, and is indistinguishable in Jewish Law from someone born a Jew.  The latter lives the life of a Jew to all intents and purposes without formal conversion -- keeps kosher, prays, keeps the holidays and other religious practices etc. but does not undergo circumcision or immersion in a ritual bath.  The distinction arose during periods when it was dangerous and/or illegal for someone to formally convert.  [There are various implications of either status in Jewish Law which are irrelevant to this discussion] 

 

Any thoughts, especially from the older discerners?  Of course, I would expect such a radical proposal would have to have backing from very high authorities, and that might be problematic in itself.

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The practice you mention, Antigonos, is still alive and kicking, if not very widespread.

 

One thinks of Sr Wendy Becket (attached to Quidenham I believe), and I am sure there must be others.

 

In my community we had two such, both were widows, lived on the premises, did not come into the Enclosure, but did various jobs around the place and ate and prayed with the externs.

 

I agree it would be good to promote the notion.

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Totally Franciscan

The best essay on age discrimination in religious life has been written by Fr. David of the Franciscan Brothers Minor.  He asks that his post not be reposted to another website without permission, so I cannot give the link here.  However, go to the website of the Franciscan Brothers Minor and click on Discernment.  Scroll down to Discernment Part X Age Discrimination.  The first time I read it I had tears in my eyes - finally, someone gets it! 

 

Sr. Marie, thank you for your post pointing out the difference between older men (priests) and the vow of poverty.  It makes sense, but I am somewhat confused about your comments about communities of women who could not take older vocations due to not being able to take care of them in the future, presumably from a health standpoint.  Every community's young sisters will be old some day, so a community must have a plan in place to take care of them.  If a candidate can fulfill all the requirements of a community except age, why couldn't they be accepted?  If the community has a teaching apostolate, then a candidate should have a college degree.  Most women these days have a degree. 

 

We all are seeing many communities spring up with the express purpose of allowing older women a place to live out their God-given religious vocation.  The Visitandines have been doing it for decades with success.  In the UK, it is quite common for older women to be accepted.  Perhaps God is saying that it is time to open wide the doors and have faith that God calls when and where He wills. 

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The practice you mention, Antigonos, is still alive and kicking, if not very widespread.

 

One thinks of Sr Wendy Becket (attached to Quidenham I believe), and I am sure there must be others.

 

In my community we had two such, both were widows, lived on the premises, did not come into the Enclosure, but did various jobs around the place and ate and prayed with the externs.

 

I agree it would be good to promote the notion.

 

Sister Wendy wanted to be a nun ever since she was a little girl and she entered the School Sisters of Notre Dame straight out of high school, as a teenager, as these were the only sisters she had known and she wasn't aware of the distinction between apostolic and contemplative life. She was professed there as Sister Michael of St Peter. She realised after some years as a teacher than her vocation was to contemplative life, and eremitical contemplative life at that. Her superiors and bishop supported her in this. When she looked about for a place for her hermitage, the nuns at Quidenham offered to allow her to place a caravan in a secluded woodland on their property. She goes up to the Carmel for daily Mass, which she hears from an alcove; one Carmelite sister is assigned to leave some food out for her in the pantry, and collect her mail. But she does not assist them in the way that Antigonos described. They respect her eremiticism completely, and she isn't living this life purely because she is an older woman - she has a calling to be a hermit.

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In the Jerusalem community That I previously discerned with had consecrated lay members who followed the same lifestyle , joined the sisters for prayer, meals on feast days etc. One of them lived in an apartment next to the convent. They also had regular jobs outside. This community does not have an apostolate, but in ones that do, the lay members would also help in their mission. The community I am going to join is also going to have lay members, help them in their mission etc. Most of them so far are teachers who work at the school and are interested. Lay members can be married, single, or widowed.

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