Questions & Answers
1. What do religious do all day?
This varies from person to person, but a balance of prayer, work and play is attempted.
As far as ministry is concerned, each individual has one main ministry such as parish ministry, teaching, counseling, hospital chaplain, etc. We share our lives with others and try to reveal Christ in everything that we do.
2. Is it always easy to pray?
Most certainly not. Prayer can sometimes seem uneventful, but our community structure helps during difficult times. It is important to try to be faithful even when prayer seems dull.
3. How are religious orders different from one another?
Each religious order or congregation has its own founder or foundress, charism or spiritual gift, and focused mission that members hope to accomplish in community.
4. What’s the difference between a sister and a nun?
A nun is a part of a congregation that is contemplative (dedicated to prayer) and they fill their days with a combination of prayer and work within their congregation. Sometimes they raise their own food and do income-producing work such as baking and selling altar breads or making and selling candy. Their prayer usually consists of Mass, silent prayer, spiritual reading, and praying the psalms-based Liturgy of the Hours (an ancient collection of psalms and prayers prayed together every few hours).
A sister is part of an apostolic community and they fill their days with their ministry, which is usually outside of their congregation, while balancing prayer and play with this ministry.
The words nun and sisters are often used interchangeably by lay people.
5. What vows do religious take?
The three vows we take are:
Poverty – Sharing our goods in common, living a simple life and realizing we depend on God and our community for our needs.
Celibacy – Choosing to love God, serve God and all God’s people rather then choosing to love one person exclusively in marriage.
Obedience – Living in community with our congregation and trying to obey the will of God when taking part in the congregation’s goals, hopes and work.
6. Can sisters date?
No, we can’t. Dating is designed to lead to marriage and celibates plan not to marry. Friendship is important and we have friends of both sexes.
7. Are religious ever attracted to others in a romantic way?
Of course! We still experience normal human needs, feelings and desires. As celibate persons we choose to channel these feelings (sexual energies) into other healthy directions. We work at remaining faithful to our vow of celibacy through prayer, closeness to Jesus, good friends and healthy physical exercise.
8. Do you have to be a virgin to be a sister?
Past sexual activity does not in itself prevent someone from becoming a sister. A person’s past life is not the main concern. The question is whether from now on a person is willing and able to live and love as a celibate in service to others.
9. Does it matter what your sexual orientation is if you want to be a sister?
Religious orders are seeking women who are sexually integrated, which means having a strong sense of self and understanding of personal needs for affection and closeness no matter what orientation. A woman also needs the gifts and talents to live celibately. She needs to understand what are appropriate expressions of love in a celibate context.
10. Why do some religious wear a habit and other’s don’t?
Those who wear habits do so for various reasons. One is that religious dress is a sign or recognized symbol of dedication to God and commitment to a Religious Congregation.
Another frequent rationale is that religious clothing is simple dress and a way to live out the vow of poverty.
Some communities wear street clothes, preferring to make their lifestyle, rather than their clothing, their main outward sign of faith and dedication. They believe that religious dress often creates an undesirable barrier between them and other people. Furthermore, those who have discontinued wearing habits often say their congregation’s original custom was to wear the dress of the common people (as their founder or foundress often did), and street clothes are now the common people’s dress.
11. What does the term apostolic refer to?
A religious community is called apostolic because it is founded on the directive Jesus gave the apostles: to go forth and witness the Gospels to the world. Some congregations are called contemplative, because they are founded for prayer.
12. What does the term discernment refer to?
The practice of distinguishing God’s voice through prayer and reflection, followed by a willingness to act in faith on the sense of what God is asking.
13. What is a Vocation Director?
A sister who connects with and walks with women who express an interest in religious life.
14. What are mission, ministry and charism?
Mission – Refers to the overriding vision of each congregation to extend the Kingdom of God.
Ministry – Refers to the main work that a sister does such as parish ministry, counseling, teaching, nursing, social work, hospital chaplain, etc.
Charism – Refers to the main purpose for which the congregation was founded, prompted by the Holy Spirit, which directly or indirectly benefits the church. Charisms differ from congregation to congregation.