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Discerning but afraid of unhealthy orders


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benedictaaugustine

Hey all - this is my first time posting, after having lurked a while. I went back and forth between wondering whether to post this discussion or not, but I think it’s the right choice. 
I’m currently seriously discerning religious life, and have gone on come and sees/talked with vocations directresses etc. I feel very drawn toward the Sisters of Life, and constantly feel drawn towards them, and am intending, God willing, to pursue a vocation with them. I won’t go into detail about my discernment or anything, but here’s the thing I’ve been musing on the past couple weeks:
I hear a lot about unfortunate communities that abuse religion etc to manipulate their members, causing a lot of trauma. I have friends who have left certain orders that on the outside look amazing and joyful, but on the inside are very cultish. I am very certain that the Lord is calling me to enter religious life, so therefore I believe that there are good, healthy, and holy communities out there.

I believe, from all my interactions with the Sisters of Life, that they are a very healthy community. However, a lot of my family and friends hear about these cultish communities and immediately think all communities are bad. Their fears can be very loud and persuasive, and makes it difficult for me to listen to that still, quiet voice of the Lord.

Especially in reading about abuses in a certain popular, DC based community (it seems that we don’t name names, but they have a brother and sister organization, and their founder is wrapped in scandals), I sometimes get worried that I’m going to enter and realize that I joined a cult 10 years later.

I have heard and experienced nothing but good things about the Sisters of Life, which is why I hesitated to post this, but I guess I want to see if there’s any sort of bad things that people have experienced with them? I can’t imagine it, but I just have to ask..

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sr.christinaosf

It's unfortunate that there are assumptions out there that "all communities are bad."  I hope you have a spiritual director, pastor or other wise and trusted person to help guide you.  

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Welcome to the Phorum. I have no inside knowledge about the Sisters of Life--but have not heard anything problematic about their community culture.  So what I say here would be true of ANY community.

When one enters a community, the formation period lasts for a minimum of 5 years, and sometimes up to a dozen. This is a time of *mutual* discernment and discovery--whether the candidate believes she is called to that community (much less to religious life), and whether the community thinks she is called to them. You have plenty of time to live the life before making even a temporary commitment. This would include a year of candidacy (postulancy) and 1-2 years of novitiate. Then there are years of temporary vows before making a final commitment. 

Of course, everyone who enters does so believing and hoping that they will remain. I'm not suggesting that you proceed with suspicion. But you will have plenty of time before making an irrevocable decision (and even that, with Vatican approval, can be abrogated). 

And, of course, PRAY!

 

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Devils pulling your strings.

I know the Sisters of Life very well. Mother Agnes grew up about ten miles from me and her family and ours attended the same little rural church (her parents have passed.) I remember her mother telling me about this new order that the bishop was starting. We got insider updates of how it was going. I never heard anything bad. Her mother was a saint and taught me how to raise my children to be good Catholics. Mother Agnes and some of the sisters would come back for a visit from time to time, give us some news and chat. My little girls would sneak up to the front of the church, look at the sisters, and Mother would pat the pew next to her, and the girls would slip in for Mass. Two are now sisters themselves, but were called to different orders. I have heard Mother talk off the cuff many times and I will tell you that I have never heard her be anything but kind and generous, even when she is being funny, and she is very, very funny, brilliant mind, and still a “roll up your sleeves and get it done” country girl at heart (if you know what I mean.) We have supported different events and have come to know various sisters over the years. I can assure you that Mother Agnes would never tolerate anything inappropriate. It is just not in her make up at all. She has the greatest integrity and is in love with Christ.

Take what people say with a grain of salt when it comes to disordered religious. The world is filled with people who are angry or competitive  or manipulative....that was the case with Judas and it will always be the case everywhere in life. At some point, regardless of what order you join, you will meet someone who rubs you the wrong way or seems to be out to get you. You will learn how to deal with those situations in the novitiate.  You will encounter those people regardless of what you do in life.  I was on a committee recently that was run by a con man. He came very close to bankrupting the non-prophet and had most of the committee members dancing in circles to please him. He’s in prison now. Always there are manipulators and God will give you a heads up if you stay close to him in prayer. Prayers for your discernment. Looking at your name, I hope you have visited at least one Benedictine community.

 

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benedictaaugustine
10 hours ago, andibc said:

I have heard Mother talk off the cuff many times and I will tell you that I have never heard her be anything but kind and generous, even when she is being funny, and she is very, very funny, brilliant mind, and still a “roll up your sleeves and get it done” country girl at heart (if you know what I mean.) We have supported different events and have come to know various sisters over the years. I can assure you that Mother Agnes would never tolerate anything inappropriate. It is just not in her make up at all. She has the greatest integrity and is in love with Christ.

Thank you andibc! This makes me feel very relieved. I also have heard and experienced nothing but good things from Mother Agnes, so it’s good to hear the same from someone who was close to her!

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I think that there is very little room for discussion of particulars on this public forum - all I can say is I have nothing but nice things to say about the Sisters of Life who I am a neighbour to. They are up there with the Little Sisters of the Poor as some of my favourite communities. Any time there is some really difficult need in my family, especially to do with mothers and children, I run over to their door and ask them to carry it in their prayers, and God seems to hear theirs each time...

Beyond that, the only way forward in this and in any other major life choice is to be sober, take your time, and get a second opinion. It is not the end of the world if you go somewhere only to find it is unhealthy for you.

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I have watched quite a few video clips of this order. And I've liked what I saw. They are doing great work and attract a lot of vocations. But the only way to find out if they are the order for you is to investigate further.  In any case you have  a  long time to mske a decision even after you've entered. 

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Sponsa-Christi

I don't know them super-well, but I've liked the Sisters of Life that I've met, and I haven't heard of any serious problems with this community. 

I think it's good to be aware that abuses can happen in religious life, because often women who have had abusive experiences in the convent have their suffering compounded by not understanding that their situation was not what the Church wants or envisions for consecrated life. And of course it's good to know before entering what red flags to watch out for.

But it's sort of like marriage. Just because abuse happens in some marriages, doesn't mean that a healthy marriage is impossible or even unlikely. You just need to keep your eyes open and "trust your gut" in both dating and in discernment.

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Also make sure you have enough money set aside that if you felt you needed to leave, you could do so without financial hardship. “My family supports me” is not enough, things can happen and you need to be able to support yourself if you leave. I’m currently discerning with a congregation and it’s important to me that, prior to entrance, I have enough money saved for a down payment on a used car, a month’s rent plus deposit on an apartment, and about a month’s worth of living expenses. It depends somewhat on where and how a particular person lives, of course — what I’m doing might be overkill for some, might not be enough for others. 

Before I’d actually had the experience of entering and leaving religious life I would have said these preparations sounded like a lack of faith. Well, while I do have faith in God, the limiting factor here is me. I want to be free to make the best choice I can without worrying about financial issues, and relatedly if I did decide to leave religious life again I’d very much prefer not to be destitute.

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55 minutes ago, underatree said:

 I’m currently discerning with a congregation and it’s important to me that, prior to entrance, I have enough money saved for a down payment on a used car, a month’s rent plus deposit on an apartment, and about a month’s worth of living expenses.

Before I’d actually had the experience of entering and leaving religious life I would have said these preparations sounded like a lack of faith.

To be honest I'd change that to at least 3 months if you at all can!! Tough job market these days. But we only do what we are able. :)

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51 minutes ago, chrysostom said:

To be honest I'd change that to at least 3 months if you at all can!! Tough job market these days. But we only do what we are able. :)

Three months probably makes more sense for most people! My particular industry/area is pretty technical but very specialized and high demand, and I would not anticipate being out of work for long. If I didn’t have significant specialist work experience and industry certifications (and several standing job offers) in this field, I would certainly have a lot more concerns about time without paid work.

Again, though, people have different levels of risk tolerance! Possibly because I’m approaching midlife I’m starting to become more conscious of financial risk, whereas someone who is 18 or 20 might have a different perspective. Not a problem. Just as long as you’re aware of what risks you’re taking, really. I say all this because no one ever said anything to me about it. “How will you pay for things if you leave? car? apartment? Hey look, you have no real marketable skills or significant work experience, have fun finding a job!” I don’t know if that advice would have changed anything for me, I was pretty hard-headed —but if it could save someone less obstinate from experiencing something similar, I’m happy to share it. 

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ReasonableFaith
On 1/3/2021 at 3:33 PM, benedictaaugustine said:

Hey all - this is my first time posting, after having lurked a while. I went back and forth between wondering whether to post this discussion or not, but I think it’s the right choice. 
I’m currently seriously discerning religious life, and have gone on come and sees/talked with vocations directresses etc. I feel very drawn toward the Sisters of Life, and constantly feel drawn towards them, and am intending, God willing, to pursue a vocation with them. I won’t go into detail about my discernment or anything, but here’s the thing I’ve been musing on the past couple weeks:
I hear a lot about unfortunate communities that abuse religion etc to manipulate their members, causing a lot of trauma. I have friends who have left certain orders that on the outside look amazing and joyful, but on the inside are very cultish. I am very certain that the Lord is calling me to enter religious life, so therefore I believe that there are good, healthy, and holy communities out there.

I believe, from all my interactions with the Sisters of Life, that they are a very healthy community. However, a lot of my family and friends hear about these cultish communities and immediately think all communities are bad. Their fears can be very loud and persuasive, and makes it difficult for me to listen to that still, quiet voice of the Lord.

Especially in reading about abuses in a certain popular, DC based community (it seems that we don’t name names, but they have a brother and sister organization, and their founder is wrapped in scandals), I sometimes get worried that I’m going to enter and realize that I joined a cult 10 years later.

I have heard and experienced nothing but good things about the Sisters of Life, which is why I hesitated to post this, but I guess I want to see if there’s any sort of bad things that people have experienced with them? I can’t imagine it, but I just have to ask..

I too ‘hope you have a spiritual director, pastor or other wise and trusted person to help guide you.’

There are many many good institutes, both religious and secular; the unhealthy are few and worth avoiding.  The length of the initial formation program should give you a variety of experiences and plenty of time for a mutual discernment of fitness.  There may also be opportunities for your family and/or friends to visit you for an up close look.

One thing to keep in mind is recruitment and formation personnel are known to monitor public vocation forums.  It’ can be prudent to keep any identifying information to a minimum.  This can be especially true for communities where there are smaller numbers of new recruits.   

 

 

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On 1/8/2021 at 1:51 AM, ReasonableFaith said:

e Sisters of Life,

On 1/8/2021 at 1:51 AM, ReasonableFaith said:

I remember reading years ago that the Sisters of Life required a college education. Is this still true?  They were at that time wearing a full habit, which for me would be very hot.  This at least is something to be aware of before entering a fully habited order.

 

 

On 1/8/2021 at 1:51 AM, ReasonableFaith said:

I too ‘hope you have a spiritual director, pastor or other wise and trusted person to help guide you.’

There are many many good institutes, both religious and secular; the unhealthy are few and worth avoiding.  The length of the initial formation program should give you a variety of experiences and plenty of time for a mutual discernment of fitness.  There may also be opportunities for your family and/or friends to visit you for an up close look.

One thing to keep in mind is recruitment and formation personnel are known to monitor public vocation forums.  It’ can be prudent to keep any identifying information to a minimum.  This can be especially true for communities where there are smaller numbers of new recruits.   

 

 

 

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