Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
AveMariaMaterDei

Questions to ask a Community

Recommended Posts

AveMariaMaterDei

Hi Everyone,

What are questions I should ask when visiting a community?

What are things I should look for in a community while visiting?        Or things to watch out for or be careful of?

Any other advice or thoughts to think of when corresponding with or visiting a community?

Thank you and May God Bless you!

AveMariaMaterDei

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lilllabettt
27 minutes ago, AveMariaMaterDei said:

Hi Everyone,

What are questions I should ask when visiting a community?

What are things I should look for in a community while visiting?        Or things to watch out for or be careful of?

Any other advice or thoughts to think of when corresponding with or visiting a community?

Thank you and May God Bless you!

AveMariaMaterDei

1. How are confession and spiritual direction are provided for in the novitiate and for the professed? (The community should have a plan to provide outside confession and direction. Under no circumstance should superiors provide spiritual direction.)

2. When was the last final profession?

3. Do they have a traditional or modern approach to the vow of obedience? (Some communities treat the superior as the earthly embodiment of God's will on earth - e.g., if the superior tells you to water a stick, you water the stick no questions asked. On the other extreme are communities that view the vow of obedience radically differently - more of as a vow to obey one's conscience.  

4. What are some examples of how this community lives poverty? (Some communities have the interpretation that expensive things can be provided for the use of the community, or if beneficial for the apostolate, although individual members may not own anything.  Other communities trade rosaries, sandals, and sleeping quarters regularly in order to live the reality that nothing is "theirs" to keep. Some pay for acne treatments and require dental cleanings every 6 months to preserve health. Others delay dental care until absolutely necessary, and tend to favor pulling teeth over getting more expensive work done.)

5. Would it be possible to speak with someone who discerned out? (This is not always possible to arrange, due to privacy etc. But the reaction to this question can tell you a lot. Some communities keep in close daily/weekly touch with leavers, invite them to community events and have reunions and so on. Others forbid speaking the ex-sister's name in community. And there is a whole gamut in between) 

Edited by Lilllabettt

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gloriana35

Lillabett presents some important points, but I'd add a word of caution. In most religious communities, whether you are 'community minded' will be very important. You might ask more generally for a Sister to tell you about their life and values. (Some communities have summaries of these, in print or on their sites.)

If you ask, in detail, about (for example) how the community views obedience, it could seem you were seeing if your views coincide. You need to listen more than talk - see what they have to say first.

I doubt that saying you want to talk to those who 'discerned out' would be a good idea. First, even apart from privacy (very important), such a discussion could be horribly painful for the individual (and it may not have been her decision). Second, you need to listen with a positive attitude, even if you end up deciding not to pursue entering a particular community. Wanting to know why people left could build a 'wall instead of a bridge.' 

I'd equally think it wise to ask, casually, what their schedule is like, and in what areas they serve. Especially in an initial contact, let them do the talking. Careful listening will show a good deal! Just to pick an example out of the sky, if there is a community which goes on and on about their close community life and common schedule, they may have a staggering amount of doing everything together. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
possiblesista

1. Ask about their daily schedule

2. Ask how often Sisters can see their families particularly during the novitiate

3. During initial contact, don't be afraid to ask questions, that would be a mistake

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lilllabettt
1 hour ago, gloriana35 said:

Lillabett presents some important points, but I'd add a word of caution. In most religious communities, whether you are 'community minded' will be very important. You might ask more generally for a Sister to tell you about their life and values. (Some communities have summaries of these, in print or on their sites.)

If you ask, in detail, about (for example) how the community views obedience, it could seem you were seeing if your views coincide. You need to listen more than talk - see what they have to say first.

I doubt that saying you want to talk to those who 'discerned out' would be a good idea. First, even apart from privacy (very important), such a discussion could be horribly painful for the individual (and it may not have been her decision). Second, you need to listen with a positive attitude, even if you end up deciding not to pursue entering a particular community. Wanting to know why people left could build a 'wall instead of a bridge.' 

I'd equally think it wise to ask, casually, what their schedule is like, and in what areas they serve. Especially in an initial contact, let them do the talking. Careful listening will show a good deal! Just to pick an example out of the sky, if there is a community which goes on and on about their close community life and common schedule, they may have a staggering amount of doing everything together. 

Although there is such a thing as being nosey or pushy, or even rude in asking types ofquestions, or too many questions, I don't think discerners should go into conversation with a community aiming to manage the community's reactions. Or being afraid to ask. 

Of course, some communities are more secretive.  Some communities only reveal their constitutions only to novices; they are not available publicly.  Some communities prefer to keep ritual and custom private so as to preserve the mystique of religious life. All of which is fine, but then the community can just say that. For example, I've been told, kindly, "you'll find out when you come live the life!" That's fine. But if a community is going to hold politely posed, questions against a discerner, maybe that attitude is itself important information for the discerner to have about a particular community? 

I do recommend asking about obedience specifically with the goal of seeing if your views and the community's coincide...  Wouldn't that be the point of the question?

I agree about the importance of reading between the lines - but it's also so hard, for discerners with very little knowledge of religious life, to know what they are supposed to be looking for between the lines. 

Regarding the request to speak to former members: I myself am a leaver who did not leave out of my own choice! So, I'm sensitive to that concern. But. Every community should be able to provide disinterested references. I've had a range of reactions to this question  - from surprise to "of course." Whether or not a conversation is possible or occurs, the reaction to the question can provide good data ... 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
passerby

I'm sure communities have heard all sorts of questions from lighter topics to some more serious. There have been good suggestions here. I would also add that asking questions to gauge a reaction doesn't seem fair - that seems like a test. 

I have a friend who entered a community and she shared a lot of the questions she asked when she was discerning. I would have found it strange if she wanted to ask to speak with someone who discerned out. I would be shocked if any community would agree to that (regardless of the process) out of respect for that person.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lilllabettt
8 minutes ago, passerby said:

I would be shocked if any community would agree to that (regardless of the process) out of respect for that person.

You would be shocked then! I seriously discerned with two communities (the second time I discerned, I mean) and they both put me in touch with a former sister who was open to talking about her experience. I mean, they did not just hand out her phone number, or anything like that. Before you give a reference, you confirm their willingness to serve as a reference, first. No doubt it's easier to do this in communities that maintain contact. For example, one ex sister I spoke with was at the motherhouse at the same time as me, visiting with her husband and children. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
JHFamily

Yes, this -->

2 hours ago, gloriana35 said:

You need to listen more than talk - see what they have to say first.

I'd be hesitant to talk to someone who has left a community.  I just think the personal emotions involved wouldn't be a good source to gauge a community. 

I've known two people that have left the same community that had far different experiences with that community.  One thought it was cult-ish.  The other thought it was the best community ever.

I also know a young woman who is devout and was in community X for several months.  Soon after I got to know her, she told me about how horribly she was treated and how disordered the group was.  I was rather surprised because community X has a very good reputation, but then again, sometimes things aren't always how they seem.  After getting to know her more, however, I realized that, although she is very devout, she has a victim mentality.  She cannot own up to her own faults and failures, and someone else is always to blame.  Therefore, I have regained my confidence in community X.

As another example, I have entered both a cloistered and active community.  I have a higher view of the cloistered and can point out "faults" with the active.  It is not fair to the active order, though.  It's not comparing apples to apples.  But, I still have those in my mind, though.  (For example, when the bell rang in the cloister, everything was dropped.  In the active order, though, it was more casual -- as long as you arrived in chapel on time!  But what is appropriate for the one is not always appropriate for the other.)  Piddly things.  Stupid things.  It colors my opinion.  I have shared that faulty opinion.  However, in all reality, the active community really is good and solid, and I would recommend it to anyone.

I'm just not sure what there is to be gained from talking to someone who has left. 

I think, too, what kind of questions you ask depends on what type of community you are discerning with, too.  Is it cloistered or active?  More traditional or more modern?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Bonkira

There are good options here. Like Lillabett, I too spoke to folks who had left the order I entered with..several in fact..and one order i discerned with, and it's not really that uncommon anymore. I had very valuable conversations with them all, and appreciated very much that i was able to speak with them.

 I asked them about obedience and I had multiple conversations with multiple sisters about what that meant individually and community wide, and similarly for poverty and chastity as well because that informs me about the community and the community about me.

Likewise, I also asked sisters to tell me who they thought was a good fit for the community, what might be a challenge, and asked about specific examples of what had/had not worked in the past.

It's also worth asking about private devotions, if you have devotions you feel strongly about. Sometimes personal devotions are encouraged, sometimes not or not for novices. 

Orders want questions. All superiors and novice directors I talked to while I was discerning and after I discerned out of the order I entered were gleeful about folks asking questions because that is how they know us, too. Several superiors made comments that people who do not ask questions have a difficult time or have a skewed view of what the will of the almighty might actually be (we are created with curiosity and we should use it). Ask your questions as a discerner.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
AveMariaMaterDei

Thank you all for your helpful replies and input!:heart::) I have found it very helpful, as well as leading to more thoughts about things to look for in a community or things to ask a community and such...

One other thing is, do any of you have more questions you can think of to ask or things to talk about with them when visiting?!? Or questions that are more unusual or not usually obvious questions to ask? I've already asked the community I'm interested in joining a lot of questions I've had and also a lot of the questions I've seen on here to ask a community and I was trying to think of any more questions or things to discuss with them when visiting that haven't already come across in our correspondence or things that haven't already been mentioned on here...?

Thank you and May God Bless you all!

AveMariaMaterDei

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Lilllabettt
10 minutes ago, AveMariaMaterDei said:

Thank you all for your helpful replies and input!:heart::) I have found it very helpful, as well as leading to more thoughts about things to look for in a community or things to ask a community and such...

One other thing is, do any of you have more questions you can think of to ask or things to talk about with them when visiting?!? Or questions that are more unusual or not usually obvious questions to ask? I've already asked the community I'm interested in joining a lot of questions I've had and also a lot of the questions I've seen on here to ask a community and I was trying to think of any more questions or things to discuss with them when visiting that haven't already come across in our correspondence or things that haven't already been mentioned on here...?

Thank you and May God Bless you all!

AveMariaMaterDei

Right ... back to questions!

More ideas: 

Ask what your latitude is with books. Some communities restrict what Sisters can read- especially during novitiate. Some communities have a novitate shelf the sisters in training are limited to. If you're a bookworm this can be a real test.

Ask if the mail is read, coming or going. Although relatively rare nowadays, it does happen.  I was personally caught off gaurd learning of this practice as a postulant. Not that it would have changed anything but something to know going in.

Can you choose your own doctor or is one assigned to you? What is the community's attitude towards counseling?

If you are joining a community with missions, ask how assignments are made and how often sisters are typically moved.

Will you be allowed to keep up your drivers license? Or do only certain sisters have driving privileges?

How does the community celebrate Christmas and Easter (eg any special traditions) do they celebrate secular holidays (4th of July, Thanksgiving in the USA)

Will you be able to celebrate your birthday - or  will this be traded out for a feast day matching a religious name?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
gloriana35

I hope I did not give an incorrect impression. I'm not suggesting people should not ask questions. I tend to forget, since it's been many years, that most Sisters I knew entered communities with whom they'd had a previous association. Even when many Sisters left religious life during the 1970s, there still were a number of Sisters and communities one might know or meet, especially in urban areas. 

The question of how many Sisters recently made final vows is important. One friar I knew thought very highly of a religious community - and (c. 1980) they'd had ten years in a row where two Sisters made first vows each year. They'd gone from having an average of two new postulants each year to a three-year period where they had five annually. My friend had spent some time in Africa, then returned, and, since I knew he'd had such a high regard for this congregation, and mentioned them to anyone he knew who was considering religious life (though whether any of them entered, I do not know), I happened to ask about how they were doing. Three of the Sisters who'd made first vows left to enter another community, and all but one of those who'd been in formation had left before finals. Today, when one's initial contact with a community (whom one may never have met) might be over the Internet, and they are too far away for it to be a simple matter to meet them, much can be confusing. A congregation, for example, may mention they have a certain number of members.... but it can turn out that 75% of them are in Korea or Africa, and that 10 others are 95.

I have known various Sisters who have been in vocation work in different communities. I know there is no 'set pattern.' I am not suggesting anyone be dishonest, or not ask questions - and a potential candidate may be asked totally unexpected questions herself - but one mustn't approach a community with questions formed in a way that makes it sound as if one is a 'job interviewer.' :D 

I remember, during the 1980s, when a young woman (unknown to me, or to anyone else there) placed an advertisement in a Catholic magazine. She was looking to enter religious life, and listed various elements she found important, to see if communities who might value someone with such ideas would contact her. In itself, that seems reasonable - and, for all any of us knew, she may have lived in an area where she may not have had contact with religious. (One of my Facebook friends lives somewhere in Texas, US. There is no Catholic church near where she lives - a priest moves from place to place on Sunday morning, saying Mass in halls.) 

A group of religious Sisters (at an inter-community gathering - therefore a diverse bunch, not just Sisters in one congregation) all had seen this advertisement. They were saying that no-one would contact someone who went on about what was important to her, because she wasn't 'community minded.'

It's fine to ask how many Sisters there are, what there schedule is like or with which ministries they are involved, and so forth. I didn't mean to just try to pick up impressions, only to not come in with a list, asking about constitutions (which they may not let outsiders see) and such, since this could be read as not wanting to go along with the 'ways of the community.' 

Since I've been reading posts on this forum, I occasionally have clicked links to sites for communities with which I'm unfamiliar. Some are very well-written, but might be quite vague. There can be a fine presentation of ideals, but little about the community life - in fact, some who write (for example) about vocation don't even mention if they have any Sisters in formation. 

I just remembered that the community I mentioned earlier (who had a regular number of applicants, but whose Sisters almost entirely left) came up on Facebook. :) I had met them, years ago, and I recognised those in the single photograph they shared. Those Sisters were in their late 40s and 50s forty years ago. No-one in the photo was anywhere near the age they'd be today - I would imagine it's been at least 20 years, possibly longer, since that photo was taken. Though a 'discerner' might be cautious about a community that shows a small number, all of whom are past 50 (in the picture - if they are alive, they are past 90), and wonder why no-one is younger, their site does not even hint at how many Sisters are left, or if they've had any vocations in recent years.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Kayte Postle

We've had some discussion about this subject over the years, with a lot of helpful results. My favorite thread and post was written by TradMom waaay back in 2008, and it's a pretty comprehensive list. I've included a link to the subject below, and it should scroll to TradMom's post but if it doesn't it's on the first page pretty close to the bottom of the page. 

This thread is also a good one from 2013.
 

 

Edited by Kayte Postle

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Restore formatting

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  


It costs about $850 a year for Phatmass.com to survive–and we barely make it. If you’d like to help keep the Phorum alive, please consider a monthly gift.



×
×
  • Create New...