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BuGa

Transfer congregation-order

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BuGa

Dear Phorum,

I would like to ask you what do you think about transferring. I am an active sister (already final vows for some years) and I am thinking about transferring in an enclosed order, because I felt drawn to the contemplative Lifestyle, the enclosure ecc. since the beginning of my discernment for RL. The desire was always there but it wasn't the time to follow it and I guess I wasn't mature enough. 

I find it very difficult from a moral point of view because of my taken vows. I know that the vows are given to God… but I let alone my congregation, so I feel plenty of guilt and especially shame. 

I am curious what do you think about it and if you know sisters, who transferred "succesfully". Unfortunately I heard that in most cases such transferring didn't go well, and I also guess that very few communities accept the decision in a healthy way, in the sense that they badmouth the transferred member.

So I am curious about your answers.

 

 

 

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Thomist

Dear BuGa,

I can't comment on the success of Sisters transferring.  I would presume that it is easier within a tradition-- like a teaching Dominican to a cloistered, active Franciscan to Poor Clare, etc.

I can say that the guilt and shame that you may feel is not of God. I don't think that you led your community on. You did not make vows with the intention to stay until something better came along. You followed the lights as the presented themselves.  

The community's obligation is to help you follow God's will.  I would hope pettiness wouldn't get in the way, although I know it does happen. 

I hope you have a good spiritual director. Do you have a friend in your community that you can bounce ideas off of as you explore this?

I will be praying for your courage in this discernment. 

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Sponsa-Christi

Transferring from one religious community to another is something canon law does cover. It's a fairly "normal" thing in the sense that the Church clearly allows for it, even if it isn't terribly common. I've heard of many cases where a Sister transferred successfully. 

That being said, obviously it's a big decision that needs to be carefully discerned and taken seriously. Generally speaking, usually a prospective transfer Sister spends at least three years with the new community before the transfer can become permanent. 

Of course there's a lot about your particular situation that we as online strangers wouldn't know, but feeling more drawn to a contemplative way of life seems like a reasonable cause for discerning a transfer. If your present community is decently healthy, my guess is that if you approach your superiors honestly and sincerely, they'll ultimately just want to help you follow God's will for your life, even if that might mean continuing your religious vocation somewhere else. 

I suspect unsuccessful transfers might be due largely in part to Sisters having problems within themselves that they are subconsciously trying to run away from (which is a dynamic that can happen to the best of us at times!), with these problems of course following them to the new community. So it might also be good to do some very honest soul-searching in this area if it seems like a reasonable concern for you. 

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Nunsuch

I know several sisters who have transferred--some from one active community to another, and some from active to contemplative. I believe that the usual practice would be for you to ask for exclaustration from your current community as you discern your future. Is there a particular contemplative order or monastery that you are attracted to? Perhaps you can do a live-in. 

Exclaustration, of course, means that you would still be vowed in your original (current) community. They would be oblliged to take you back should you decide to return. 

Transferring is not easy, but it is often what people are called to do. Blessings to you as you journey.

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Antigonos

I can't write as to the details of what is involved, but people do change and grow, over time, and nothing, IMO, is static.  I know, for example, that after many years of active midwifery in hospital, I found a much more satisfying life as a consultant in a Woman's Health Center, dealing with women with high risk pregnancies, and fertility treatment.  Were I to begin my professional life all over again, I think I'd go into public health as a secondary degree along with midwifery.  

  This ought not to be an issue of guilt over vows made to a community, but a recognition of changed aspirations due to life experience.  Obviously, it is a very major decision and one not undertaken lightly.  Is there anyone in your community with whom you can discuss this?  Can you ask for a spiritual advisor to aid you?

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Dymphna

I know of one "unsuccessful" transfer - unsuccessful in the sense that the woman involved is now not a member of any religious order. She was a member of an active community, where, in my impression, things weren't going well for her. So she wanted to transfer to a different active community, as I understand it was agreed that she would live with them for some time, which she did. After a year or so, the "new" community decided that they couldn't see her being one of their sisters, so she went back to her former community. Not surprisingly, the difficulties she had there before hadn't solved themselves while she was away, so eventually she ended up leaving religious life altogether.

I think the "lesson" from this may be that you should probably honestly look at your motives for a transfer. You say you had a desire for contemplative life all the time, but only now are ready to live it. This sounds logical, but still I get this feeling from your post thay possibly not all is well with your life in your current community. That's probably just normal to some degree, but you should make sure that any problems you have there are not the reason why you want to join another order.

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gloriana35

There only is one Sister I knew well who sought to enter a monastery after many years in religious life. She had been a Dominican Sister for many years, and always had a strong draw to the contemplative life. She lived in a Dominican monastery for some months (on exclaustration) , but ultimately decided to remain in the active life - she was a member of her community for over 70 years when she died recently. I cannot recall all of the details now, but this Sister was a doctor of theology and spiritual director, and I know she had a long association with the monastery where she lived for a time, and continued this association even when she did not become a member.

Besides what Nunsuch mentioned - I would imagine that, if you have a monastery in mind, you could spend some time in a retreat period there before you considered whether to seek admittance or go on exclaustration. (I have known religious and priests who lived at a monastery for a time, even if they ultimately did not enter.) You might do well to discuss this with your superiors. 

 

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