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Why is that some sisters dress in clerical garb or habits and others do not?

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Those who maintain habits today do so for various reasons.  One of the primary reasons is that religious dress is a sign.  The habit is a symbol of faith in God and commitment to Christianity.  Another frequent rationale for religious garb is that it is simple dress and therefore a way to live out the vow of poverty.  A sister who wears religious garb can own just two or three changes of dress and be free of the expense that may be involved in a more extensive contemporary wardrobe.

Some communities have opted to wear street clothes, saying that the most valid sign of Christian faith is lifestyle, rather than garb.  They contend that religious dress creates an undesirable barrier between them and laity with whom they work.  Some Catholics and non-Catholics distance themselves from people in traditional religious dress.  Furthermore, those who have discontinued wearing habits often say the original reason for it was to wear the dress of the common people; therefore, street clothes are the common people's clothes today.

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Can a woman be married and divorced and still become a sister?

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It is possible for a woman to become a sister after being married and divorced if she has an annulment and if she has no dependent children for whom she is responsible. Only then is she free to enter this lifestyle. It is important, however, that one does not see consecrated life as a “default” vocation for one whose marriage has failed. A religious community may require the individual to live outside the married state for a set period of time before her application to consecrated life. One truly called by God to the consecrated life makes a free and informed choice based on the options before her.
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Do you get time off, and what do you do in that time?

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Sisters have approximately the same amount of leisure time as most adults. In this time, they are free to do whatever is legal, moral and reasonable for adults in their situation. Obviously, each sister is a unique individual and her choices of recreational activities will reflect her personal interests. Some of the more common choices are sports, movies, reading, sharing with friends, TV and enjoying the outdoors.
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How do congregations or orders differ from one another?

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Most groups of women religious were founded at a time in history when travel and communication were very limited. Many congregations were founded at the same time for the same purpose, but at different places by people who didn't know each other. Founders had a specific spirit or charism they wanted to develop in their community (such as hospitality, simplicity or unity). The charism, the specific ministries of the community, and a varying emphasis on prayer and community life are the basic differences among religious communities. All are alike in that their primary concern is to spread the Gospel message of Jesus.
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How do I know which religious order will be right for me?

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Each religious congregation has a particular spirit and manner of life.  You need to ask yourself where you will best be able to place your gifts at the service of the Church and which congregation is best suited to nurture and challenge you in your relationships with Jesus Christ and the People of God.  Visiting or speaking with sisters of different congregations is invaluable in learning more about them.
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How long does it take to become a sister?

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To be a sister who has made a life-long commitment usually takes six to nine years of preparation. Formation programs vary with each congregation but usually involve the following stages:

Candidate: (1-2 years) time of association with the congregation during which the candidate comes to know the spirit and mission of the community and the community assesses the suitability of the candidate.

Novice: (1-2 years) period of more intense study and formation in the life of prayer and spirit of the congregation during which the novice comes to an understanding of the vowed life.

Temporary Professed: (3-5 year) time of further integration of a life of prayer, community and ministry while living the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.

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How old does someone need to be to become a sister?

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Age requirements for entrance may vary with congregations. Many congregations accept candidates at 18 years of age, although some will require a college degree.  Candidates older than 40 years of age require special consideration.
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What about personal debt; do I have to pay off all my bills before I decide to enter religious life?

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The Church requires a woman to be free of debt by the time she enters into the novitiate. Some communities allow a woman to continue employment during her initial time of living with the community (candidacy) in order to pay off any debts or loans. In some cases, the community will incur any remaining debt when a woman is ready to become a novice.
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What do sisters do all day?

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A Sister’s day consists of components of prayer, ministry and community. Times of personal and community prayer are essential in developing a deepening relationship with Jesus Christ. Liturgical prayer also keeps a consecrated woman religious connected to the universal Church. No vocation is given for the sake of the person herself, and so Sisters direct much of their time and energy toward serving the needs of God’s people. Ministries vary with communities and individuals and include such areas as pastoral work, education, health care and social services. Community life is integral to the vocation of a Sister. Sisters share support in prayer and ministry as well as fun and common household tasks.
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What is it like to live in community?

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Living with other women who have a common vision and similar values is one of the greatest blessings of consecrated life.  Life in community can provide one with supportive relationships that are essential in living a vowed life of chastity, poverty and obedience. While community living can be challenging at times, one called to this way of life can find there the necessary strength and nourishment to live the mission of Jesus.
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What kinds of ministry do sisters do?

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The choice of ministry for the woman religious arises from the founding purpose of the community, a prayerful discernment of her own gifts, and an assessment within her community of the signs of the times.  A woman religious and her community together look at the needs of the church and society to determine where best to place her energies.

The way a particular sister spends her day depends on the kind of community to which she belongs.  Contemplative nuns often do work to sustain their community in food and shelter, such as gardening, baking, and handiwork.  Active communities are involved in myriad ministries, usually with an emphasis on service, such as education, social work, health care and parish pastoral work.

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Will I have to give up friends and family in order to follow a call to consecrated life?

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No, in fact, friends and family are a very important support for sisters. They are encouraged to take part in family celebrations and events and to find ways to support family members through their prayer and presence. However, the commitment a sister makes to community and to the People of God does take priority in terms of time and energy. The blessings and benefits do outweigh the sacrifices involved. Remember Jesus’ promise in the Gospel of Matthew: “And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.” (Mt. 19:29 ) 
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