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kg94

What's a reasonable amount of time to expect a reply from a congregation?

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kg94

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, 

I was just wondering, what is considered a reasonable amount of time to expect a reply from a religious congregation, bearing in mind the following:

1. I was previously in contact and discerning with the congregation about 5 years ago.

2. There were "issues" in between the 5 years that the Sisters were aware of at the time, even though things have settled down now. 

3. The last time I was discerning with them, I was the one who stopped the discernment process as I was very young and all hell broke loose at home i.e. my family tried to accuse the Sisters of stealing my identity and selling me into slavery for a misconception of the vow of poverty.

4. It's been almost a month since I wrote to the Sisters requesting just to visit at some point this year, but I have not received a response despite even following up on a gentle email to ask if my letter had been received. 

5. I was the one who wrote in my last letter after my request that I'll "leave them to pray about it and get back to me in God's perfect timing" (and I'm half regretting having written that now!!)...

I'm struggling as to whether I should wait a while longer, give up on this congregation, be like the woman who knocked at the door until someone opened it (i.e that means I'd probably call up at some point), or just think about possibly discerning with other congregations. 

Religious Sisters out there, what would you do? Maybe the congregation are just busy and I'm being impatient, or maybe they're not sure what to say to me after I kind of ran away from them the last time? Or they are still praying about it? I don't know, but I'm getting a little anxious being kept in the dark and in silence at the moment?

Would greatly appreciate advice/prayers. Thanks. 

Pax et bonum, 

K-T :)

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chrysostom

Knock knock knock away!

(Not a religious but) I would expect in vocational matters that religious don’t communicate by silence. They would say one thing or another. A month may feel like a long time, but I really doubt you’re on an ignore list. The times I received a non-response or delayed response with a community had nothing to do with me and more to do with the addressee being swamped. Sometimes correspondence can unfortunately fall off the radar too for any number of reasons.

I say, keep knocking. If you’re considering a phone call, do it! If only to say hi and see about the best way to get back in touch or visit. 

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JHFamily

Yeah, knock. Especially if you were young the first time around.  Five years is a lot of time for growth. Some congregations intentionally drag their feet in responding to test the resolve of the one discerning, especially if there was hesitation previously.  Others just get swamped, especially around Easter.  Sometimes, they just make a policy of long wait times.  I know of one that never answers before the 6-week mark.

As an aside, are the problems with your family resolved?  Could it be that they are fearful of your family's involvement?   Maybe you need to address that whole aspect with them, if you haven't already, along with any previous obstacles that they were aware of.  Sounds like your family may have made life miserable for you and them. I think most communities will put up with meddling family, but not with someone who will play one side against the other.   Are you willing to toe the line, no matter what your family does? 

Edited by JHFamily

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Sister Leticia

As you know, a lot of things can prevent us from being as speedy and efficient with our emails as we'd want to be. Add to this the fact that your history with this order means the VD may need to think carefully about her reply, or talk with the Provincial (or her predecessor, if someone else was accompanying you 5 years ago, and was discreet about exactly why you stopped discerning) 

There are a couple of things you haven't said, too, which might also affect their response. For example, you say you've asked to visit, but not how much detail you put in your letter. Did you say you are feeling drawn back to them, and ask to begin a new discernment process, or were you saving that up for the visit, and simply asked if you could come and see them? 

Also, is this the first time you've contacted them in 5 years, or have you maintained some sort of contact in between? And if so, how much have you told them which would let them see that you have been growing, and your "issues" have been faced up to? And crucially - have you mentioned your family/your mother? As JHFamily has suggested, they might be worried about your mother kicking up a fuss again, and you might have said things in previous messages to make them still feel wary. 

So for now, don't feel too discouraged. Is there a congregational feast or some other event coming up soon which could be a good reason to get in touch? If not, you might just have to pray hard and dial that number, and see how the call goes, then take it from there. 

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kg94

OK, I rest my case. I picked up the phone to the Sisters and the novice mistress answered. She said it's just really super busy up there in the convent at the moment and the Mother General is just really busy and can't come to the phone or respond yet. I was so afraid of picking up the phone in case the Sisters tell me off for being impatient. God help me. But I feel relieved and at peace now.

 

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GraceUk

I think you did the right thing phoning them. But I think they could have sent you abbrief email saying they were busy at the moment and would reply later. It's a bit off just to ignore correspondence completely.  

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chrysostom
1 hour ago, GraceUk said:

I think you did the right thing phoning them. But I think they could have sent you abbrief email saying they were busy at the moment and would reply later. It's a bit off just to ignore correspondence completely.  

GraceUk,

With the ease and speed of electronic communication comes an expectation - often unconsciously accepted - that everyone speed up to match it. If you can use something, you should.

As much as we take that for granted, I do believe that religious life functions on an entirely different set of priorities than those of modern life in the world. It runs on a different tempo. The filmmaker who asked to make a documentary about some Carthusian monks in France was told they wanted some time to think about it. He received a response from the abbot sixteen years later.

In the Rule of St Benedict, the gatekeeper is instructed to keep a hopeful aspirant outside the gates until he proves his desire to enter by his persistence in knocking. Nowadays there might be snail mail, or e-mail. But the principle remains that a community has the right to choose how it receives aspirants, and by extension, how it communicates with them. And the habits of communication that seem to us moderns to come with the territory...they are just conventions, they're not absolute.

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beatitude
18 hours ago, chrysostom said:

With the ease and speed of electronic communication comes an expectation - often unconsciously accepted - that everyone speed up to match it. If you can use something, you should.

I've noticed this. At the university where I teach, there is a policy that says staff should respond to students' emails within two working days. I always keep to that, but I have had students emailing their query to the head of department literally three hours after contacting me, because "Beatitude hasn't replied." I think we could learn a few lessons from monastic timekeeping...

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GraceUk

I think a few days is fine. But if I sent an email to somebody and they hadn't replied within a month I'd certainly think they either hadn't received it or they weren't going to reply at all for some reason.

Edited by GraceUk
Typing errors

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Nunsuch

Don't forget that, in the time since you wrote, the Sisters have been celebrating the Easter season, which is a particularly busy time in many religious communities. In some, they do not communicate during holy seasons, especially Holy Week. So this may be another reason that the Sisters are not up to date on their correspondence.

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