The process of initiation into Religious Life is generally called a 'Formation Process'. The primary objective of this process is to prepare a person to consecrate his or her life to God in the following of Jesus Christ and at the service of the Church's mission.
The four stages of our Formation Process:
1. Candidacy: The first stage is divided into two periods - Pre-Candidacy and Candidacy. During this period, a woman continues her normal occupation of work or study. This is a time when the Candidate and the Congregation begin to get to know each other. It is also a time for discernment and for gradual insertion into our Franciscan way of life, mission and ministry. Depending on the needs of the individual concerned, this stage of Formation may last from one to two years. Each Candidate is invited to spend short 'live-in' periods in one of our communities.
3. Novitiate: When a Postulant is received into the Novitiate, her Religious Life in the Congregation begins. Throughout this period of two years the novice is facilitated in deepening her personal relationship with Christ through contemplation, solitude, silence and recollection. She also studies materials appropriate to her Christian and Religious Life. Novices also undertake ministries among local people. Ministries vary and may include visiting the sick and housebound, teaching or nursing (if the Novice is already trained), youth work and work with victims of Aids.
4. Temporary Profession: When her Novitiate is completed, a Novice may request to make First Profession. Initially Sisters take vows of Evangelical Poverty, Chastity and Obedience for a period of three years. These vows are also referred to as 'The Evangelical Counsels.' All vows are made to God and are received by the Congregation in the name of the Church. Temporary Vows of First Profession are then renewed for a further period of three years before a Sister makes her final and life-long commitment - her Final Profession.
The journey toward permanent commitment as a Franciscan Missionary Sister for Africa may seem a long one. But Final Profession is not the end of the road! On-going formation continues throughout our lives as we grow into life in Christ. We see every stage of our life as a gift and aim to live it to the full. Come follow me... is the daily invitation... and the journey continues.
I hope this explanation of our Formation Process has helped you to understand something of what is involved in the journey towards becoming a permanently committed Franciscan Missionary Sister for Africa.
Sr. Deirdre Burgess, F.M.S.A.
Directress of Novices