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...on Returning To The World

Catherine Therese

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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. :)

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Hi y'all.   Making a tentative return to the Phatmass community, mirroring my recent return to the world outside the cloister. For a little while, I was Sr. Catherine Therese. (I suspect the 1st of

Well, here I am. Yet another ex-nun. My temporal vows expired just two weeks ago. It still amazes me whenever I think about it, how much I could be convinced that this monastery was my place for the

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

Many years ago I too returned to secular life.

It was hard trying to explain to prospective employers just where you had been for 5 years, and as most were non catholic, I remember that some found it quite amusing that they were interviewing an "ex nun"

My faith also was sorely tested after returning, and with little or no support available,and everyone in the Church seemingly condemning 'returnees' for the loss of their vocation, I actually lost my faith for a number of years, as I felt that the Church had abandoned me. It was very much a 'blame game' back in the 1960's Years later I came across a priest who told me that Jesus still loved me, and even tho' my vocation had turned out to have been a temporary one, I had answered His call and had given it my best shot.

Returning to the Faith, I tried to help others who returned from RL, to a world that some found very strange and confusing. Just the act of applying for employment was a daunting task for some, and registering for housing was a real minefield for others. Just having someone there for support would have been so great when I returned home, but instead I returned to recriminations and finger pointing! Just be there for one another when someone returns home, and you will find that God's Grace is abundant.
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I have gotten interviews just because people have never met a nun and want to see what a former one looks like. I don't particularly enjoy being made a zoo animal but it has its benefits. It gives me an opening. Actually I owe my current, rather cushy part-time gig to this phenomenon.


In social situations I leave it out. Enough years have intervened that I can omit it without seeming secretive.

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In my interview process I've found it hard to find the line between privacy and honesty. I personally just don't want to deal with the reactions or subsequent questions, but my alternate explanation for the gap year between college and now is not particularly endearing for my desired field. Luckily, I was taking classes at a local college while in the convent, so I am able to say that I was continuing my education and it is usually left at that. Regardless, I find the subterfuge annoying and wish that I was able to be completely honest. But that, I think, would take more strength than I currently possess.


In the professional environment, no one has yet delved too deeply into my past, and I don't think I would share even if asked. It is just none of their business. If it were a Catholic environment, sure, but really, that part of my life has nothing to do with my work, so why waste the time mixing the two? Oil and water. 

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I don't openly talk about it nor hide it, same with Bipolar.  Whatever I might mention depends on the overall context of the conversation.  I wasn't in religious life long enough to have difficulty in not mentioning it - Bipolar and many trips into hospital in the past is harder not to mention and more personally trying too.  Generally, others certainly can accept religious life far better than mental illness.  It goes against my grain to feel I should consciously hide either - both are important parts of my history.

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When I first came out I went back into nursing at the same hospital where I had trained - there were few who remembered me and I admit I said I had been working in France and left it at that.


Some folk are very curious, others look at me for a beat then seem to absorb it as 'in the past' and move on. I only tell close friends.

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I never knew so many temporary sisters never make it to solemn vows! That is how naive I was in the past, because I didn't give it much thought. Now I know that while it takes a lot of time, effort and energy, faith and trust to enter into a religious community, it also takes a lot of courage, strength, amongst those other things to return back to the world with a whole new set of circumstances to have to deal with! One of the most concerning aspects for me is the safety net issue!! Thank you for coming here and reaching out! Leonie's longing is a great community especially for sisters returning. They are on Facebook too. I would advise to check it out! Welcome back

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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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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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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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