Enquiry and Pre-Postulancy
‘Good Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’
Following a first visit of at least two to three days, an aspirant can express an interest in entering into the discernment process further through a pre-postulancy period. This period of pre-postulancy shall last no less than nine months and no more than eighteen months.
During this period, the aspirant must complete the pre-postulancy course in full and also visit for at least a further two short visits and one visit of at least seven days.
A date for entrance into postulancy should be requested formally in writing by the aspirant no less than six months after the date of the first visit. If agreed, a date for entrance will be given. This will normally be three to six months after the initial request.
Entrusting our new sister to the maternal care of our Blessed Mother, her entry date will normally be set for a Marian feast day.
‘Jesus turned round, saw them following and said, “what do you want?” They answered, “Rabbi,” – which means Teacher – “where do you live?” “Come and see.”’
The period of postulancy has two principal aims: the first is to learn to live the life of the community, both in prayer and apostolate; the second is to provide the context within which the postulant can freely make a reasoned and mature decision to advance to the novitiate. Depending on the sister’s readiness in this regard, postulancy will last between nine and eighteen months.
Should she wish to enter the novitiate, her request should be made in writing to the superior not less than six months after entry into the postulancy.
In order to mark the transition between postulancy and novitiate, the sister will make simple promises to the local Ordinary and, in the presence of her community, she will receive a copy of the Gospel of Life, the Constitutions and Crucifix of the Sisters of the Gospel of Life.
‘When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and think like a child and argue like a child, but now I am a man, all childish ways are put behind me.’
1 Corinthians 13:11
There are two stages to the novitiate. The first stage (or first novitiate), of two to four years duration, consists of a continuation of prayer and apostolic activity. In addition, the novice will undertake a programme of novitiate formation aimed at preparing her for her simple profession.
This programme is designed to deepen her love and understanding of religious life and, more specifically, that of the Sisters of the Gospel of Life. Responsibility for the formation of the novice, both of first and second stage of novitiate, lies specifically with the sister appointed for this purpose. This office is undertaken in collaboration with the superior, her council and the community as a whole.
Two months before the completion of this first stage, the sister should write formally to her superior expressing her desire to make her simple profession. Upon consultation with those concerned with her formation and acting with the consent of her council, the superior may admit the novice to profession. Progress to simple profession, the taking of temporary vows, is not automatic. If at this stage a novice is deemed unsuitable, she will be dismissed. If, however, there are reasonable grounds for prolonging the probation period, this may be extended by the superior for a term not exceeding six months. At any stage of the novitiate the novice is free to leave the community.
Should she be accepted for simple profession, the novice is obliged to cede, for the period during which she will be bound by vow, the administration of any property she possesses or may acquire, to whomsoever she wishes, and dispose freely of its use and usufruct. She shall also make a will valid in civil law. In addition, she shall sign a declaration that, in the event of her leaving the community, she will have no claim for any services rendered.
The novice shall also make a six-day retreat in immediate preparation for simple profession.
At her simple profession, as a sign of her consecration, the novice takes the veil.
‘I tell you most solemnly, when you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked; but when you grow old you will stretch out your hands, and somebody else will put a belt round you and take you where you would rather not go.’
Temporary vows mark the beginning of the second novitiate, a period which lasts for not less than three years and not more than five years.
This time of formation is intended to draw the sister more completely into the life of love and service to which God has called her. The bonds of love, nurtured by a deepening spirit of self-abandonment to the Lord and dedication to the community, are strengthened in order for her to freely and joyfully give her whole being – heart, mind, soul and body – to the final vows to which she strives.
Towards the end of this stage of formation, the sister may ask to be admitted to final profession by writing to her superior.
Following consultation with her council and those charged with formation, and assuming her request is not rejected, the superior gives a date for final profession. Immediately prior to the profession ceremony, the sister shall have one month of particular preparation, culminating in a six-day retreat.
The ceremony itself will take place during Mass and in the presence of the people of God.
The superior or her delegate receives the profession, then she and the sister sign it before witnesses.
Perpetual profession is not so much an end as a beginning. The sister in perpetual profession must accept her responsibility to continue her formation throughout the whole of her life. The congregation must be aware of the need for continuous renewal and growth in its response to Christ.
‘Suitable renewal cannot be achieved once and for all; it needs to be fostered continually, with the help of the fervour of members and the solicitude of chapters and superior.’ (E.S.111, 19)