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cartermia

Discerning with an Older Community

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cartermia

Hey everyone! 

I have been in contact with an older community (not saying the name yet.) There are only 6 sisters and their ages range from 60 to 90 somethings. I had thought about contacting them back in high school (freshmen year) but did not because I thought the age was a huge barrier, which I still think it would be. 

I actually was talking with their chaplain (who I didn't know was their chaplain, I thought he was just a college philosophy professor) about different things. After we had been talking a while, he asked me if I was discerning. I said I was and was drawn to a more contemplative lifestyle. He looked at me for a few seconds and said that he had never really told a young girl (I'm 18) to look at this community but he thought that I might be interested. 

Let me just say I was taken aback once I heard it was this particular community because I had loved them for a long time but had always written them off. I thanked the chaplain for having a conversation with me and I left. 

I haven't been able to get them out of my head since so I contacted them about a month ago via letter and received an email rather quickly along with more information in the mail. Sister said in her email, "[The chaplain] had mentioned his conversation with you, and was hoping that you would contact us." I was invited to come and visit as well this summer because they are fairly close to my house. 

 

This seems dandy and all but I have one main question for them. Why haven't they been getting young vocations? They are cloistered and fairly traditional. They aren't any Ephesus though. They have a website (even though it needs updated) and a facebook page.  

 

How would you all go about discerning with an older community? Is the age difference too much? If, big if there, I entered there would more young women follow? If not, what would happen to me once they all died? I wouldn't want to be without a community, my community. What advice would you give me? 

I'm waiting until after college to enter but am planning on visiting two communities (this one for sure) this summer and visiting more throughout my college career.  

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beatitude
1 hour ago, cartermia said:

This seems dandy and all but I have one main question for them. Why haven't they been getting young vocations? They are cloistered and fairly traditional. They aren't any Ephesus though. They have a website (even though it needs updated) and a facebook page.    

Perhaps because all the younger women have been looking at them with the same uncertainties as you, and moving on to look elsewhere? :) Not all 'traditional' cloistered communities are overflowing with vocations - most, in fact, are not. It's worth noting that novices sometimes attract novices: when one woman enters a community, people hear about it, and a chain is begun. But that will not happen if everyone is afraid to make the first leap.

The Bible contains some stories that show what God thinks of old age. "Now your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and now she whom they called barren is in her six month, for with God all things are possible." Zechariah couldn't believe the angel at first, because all his logic and common sense dictated against it. Elizabeth believed, and made her own fiat. If you are feeling called to an 'older' community, remember her - there are times when it does not pay to work by human practicalities, and this may be one of them.

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underatree

As far as the question of "what if I'm the only one left" -- if the community is associated with a major order/school of spirituality (like Benedictines, Franciscans etc) then it's certainly happened that a community with only a few members or a single religious have transferred to a larger congregation. Canon law allows for quite a lot. Sometimes two or more congregations have combined to ensure stability -- there are numerous examples. 

Don't be too much of a romantic about this community, though. Sometimes there are excellent reasons why a community has not had anyone stay, and if they are anything less than open and forthcoming I would move along.

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nikita92

You are being drawn to them for a reason! :)

Don't base our decision on the "What ifs" You can scare yourself right out of a possible "mean't to be"! 

You would never be the last sister/nun standing in a community that would dry up and blow away! Lol

I do understand your concern though! But think of it this way...being the youngest of that community..you could end up being their next "Mother" i.e. "Leader"(many many years from now) to all the young novices that would follow your lead!  Just a thought...

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cartermia

Thank you all for your replies! 

Beatitude, I had not thought about that with Elizabeth! Thank you, that will definite change how I pray the joyful mysteries, especially right now. 

Underatree, I know that there is another community of the same order close to this community but it has a lot of younger members. I talked to their novice mistress but something did not seem right to me. The community I am talking to is very welcoming via communication but I just need to visit I guess. 

Nikita and Pax17, that was what my spiritual director was saying but I just want to be the nun hidden. Haha not a novice mistress or mother superior or anything like that yet I know it is not what we want but what He wants. Maybe my grandmother was right in nicknaming me mother superior when I was little haha. 

Also, thank you to everyone who has PMed me! All the advice is greatly appreciated. 

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ChiaraEstrella

I know this is months old, but I just wanted to let you know that I'm discerning with an older community, and they haven't had a vocation that stuck in about 12 years. That sister is their youngest, and there are only about 15 sisters. I had hesitations too, especially since there are other monasteries of the same order that have many more sisters in the novitiate. It's intimidating to think you'll be the only one. 

Yet what I heard the Lord speak into my heart was exactly what Beatitude said above..."if you stay, others will come. But someone must take the first step." He knows how nervous I am, and He's asking me to place my trust in Him. 

If you have discerned that this is where you feel most strongly called, go for it. I would just caution you to not feel pressured because you think they "need the vocation" or something...which I certainly wrestled with for a couple months. It wasn't until I gave Jesus my whole heart and said "I am unattached to the outcome, you place the desire in my heart where you want me to be" that I felt an increase in my desire to enter there, and the worries fade.

I'm about halfway through Aspirancy now, and it's really going well at the moment. I hope your discernment continues to be fruitful!

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deusluxmea

Wonderful to hear from you, ChiaraEstrella. And I love learning about your discernment update. It sounds like you're in a good place and have peace about your decision. Blessings on your discernment. 

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sr.christinaosf

I would really suggest talking this over with a trusted spiritual adviser.  While the above statements about age are true, it can be very difficult, also, to live with people a lot older than yourself.  It depends if you can relate well with them.  Are you on the same wave length?  Do you have the same worldview, the same priorities?  Are they people who you can see being supportive of you / who would help you grow?

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gloriana35

Please excuse a general statement (I have been in active Religious life, but never personally was in the cloister.) Many communities now, even those which were very large, have only a handful of Sisters left - those who are 60 are the 'kids.' Most monasteries never had large numbers. Many Catholics today barely know about vowed life.

I'd be careful about getting romantic, as others on this thread mentioned. It indeed may be difficult living with elderly nuns in a community of six - and it's unlikely that you will be one to initiate a new wave of novices, or that you are a future abbess. But there is not necessarily anything wrong with the community, in that they do not have young vocations. One friend of mine (in an active community) celebrated her 40th anniversary of profession this year. When we knew each other then, her community had about 300 members. Only a handful are left, most 80 or older. It's a common trend.

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Nunsuch

What Gloriana35 said. I have a dear friend who entered in a band of 14 and, when she celebrated her silver jubilee, was the only person remaining. [All had left religious life except for one other woman who died very young.] I asked Kathleen if this bothered her. Her response: "I didn't enter for the others, and I didn't stay for them, either." In other words, she was following her call from God. [And, I should note, celebrated her Golden Jubilee 2 years ago--still happy and fulfilled.]

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BarbaraTherese
54 minutes ago, Nunsuch said:

What Gloriana35 said. I have a dear friend who entered in a band of 14 and, when she celebrated her silver jubilee, was the only person remaining. [All had left religious life except for one other woman who died very young.] I asked Kathleen if this bothered her. Her response: "I didn't enter for the others, and I didn't stay for them, either." In other words, she was following her call from God. [And, I should note, celebrated her Golden Jubilee 2 years ago--still happy and fulfilled.]

A short post, but such a huge and beautiful story.  Thank you!

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