What is a vocation? A vocation is a call from God. Everyone has a vocation, whether it be to the married, religious, or single life. One’s vocation is how one is called to live their life; the specific way in which Christ has called each person to follow him. It will be slightly different for each person even within a religious community because each person is unique!
How do I know which vocation is right for me? The word vocation comes from the Latin word “vocare” meaning “to hear”. To know our vocation involves listening to the Holy Spirit, but this does not mean only in prayer! God speaks to us in our daily lives through the people whom we meet, our job, our studies, and our talents.
Time before the Eucharist in Adoration, going to Mass, praying the rosary, going to confession, having a regular spiritual director and socializing with other people in discernment and young Catholics who live their faith can really help you to hear God in your life. Pay attention to what the people who know you really well say to you. Do you have people tell you that you would make a good religious? Do you feel an attraction to a certain lifestyle when you meet people who live it? Do you feel a desire in your heart for a certain kind of life? Do you want more than a career for your life work? These are all ways in which the Holy Spirit nudges us along.
Once you have discerned that you may be called to religious life (you do not have to be certain!) start looking at different religious communities and see if their apostolate (what they do) and their lifestyle attracts you. Consider your talents and what you are good and what brings you joy in life – these things can help you to narrow down the communities even further.
Ok, so I think I might be interested in a community – now what do I do? First of all, don’t freak out! It can seem like a scary thing to actually admit that you might be called to religious life, but you are not alone. Right now thousands of young men and women just like you are going through the same process.
Second, contact the vocation director of the community that you are interested in. (If it’s the Salesian Sisters, click HERE) Tell them a little about yourself and do not be afraid to ask any questions that you might have. (They have probably heard them all before, so you are not going to shock them.)
Third, arrange to visit the community either for a private visit or for one of their retreats. If you are very interested in the community going for both may give you the opportunity see more sides to their life and to get to know more of the sisters. The Vocation Director can help you to decide which may be the best option for you. You can also find out if the Sisters will be at any rallies, youth fests, or other events and meet up with them there.
Fourth, keep praying! Pray especially to the Holy Spirit, the Blessed Mother and your guardian angel to help you to discover God’s will for you – and remember what Pope John Paul II said: “Be not afraid!”
I think that I might be called to religious life but I find the idea of giving up motherhood to be a huge sacrifice. What do you think? Giving up? No one even said that to become a religious that you had to give up becoming a mother!
Priests and religious offer God their creative and physical ability to become mothers and fathers in exchange for the gift of spiritual motherhood or fatherhood. Instead of having just a few children they can have thousands! It is a different way of being a mother, but in the end the ability to nurture, comfort, and teach is still there. There are so many children and young people in the world who lack a healthy relationship with their parents – perhaps you are called to be a spiritual mother to them and be there for them like Our Lady.
Will I still get to be friends with men? The ability to have healthy relationships with members of the opposite sex is a very important criteria for anyone entering religious life. We are surrounded by men in our ministry and so long as our relationships are healthy and do not cross the line of what is appropriate for a religious woman there is nothing wrong with having friends who are men. It is important for religious to learn how to focus and use their sexuality in appropriate ways and through formation and having healthy relationships women religious come to do that.
What is the meaning of ‘F.M.A.’? ‘FMA’ is the acronym for ‘Figlie di Maria Ausiliatrice’ which means ‘Daughters of Mary Help of Christians’ in Italian. We use the acronym F.M.A. because we are an international community and it is easy to identify us all over the world. In North America we are most known as Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco.
Why are you called “Salesian Sisters”? Our founder, St. John Bosco had a great devotion to St. Francis de Sales, who was the patron of Turin. He wanted his congregations of priests, brothers and sisters, to be named after him and imitate his kindness and love for the poor
How do the Salesian Sisters financially support themselves? We support ourselves through the work of our hands. Almost every Sister who works in a school or some other position receives a stipend (a small salary). This salary goes into the community fund and all of the needs of the community are taken out of that. Some of the money is sent to the provincial house and to our motherhouse to support the work of our sisters within our province and throughout the world. The donations of generous benefactor and fundraisers help us to raise money for special needs.
I have been looking at some pictures online and I noticed that some FMAs do not wear a habit? Why is this? The religious habit is a very important part of our identity as women religious. The Sisters whom you saw not wearing the habit were probably from or in a country where wearing the religious habit is dangerous. Unfortunately in some countries sisters who wear a habit will be physically attacked, harassed, have things thrown at them, or even killed. Whenever possible our sisters try to be prudent about the role of the habit in their ministry and if it poses a threat to their safety and that of the people whom they are ministering to they will do without it (although we do love it very much and it makes life a little easier to have a habit!). We are present in some countries where it is illegal to be a Christian or a Catholic and wearing a habit there is not an option.
What are the age and educational requirements for entering the FMAs? We welcome women between the ages of 18 and 35 to discern their vocation with us. They are required to be single, have never married and have at least a GED or a high school education.
What about debt? Prior to entering the postulancy we require that each woman be free from debt. Student loans will be reviewed on an individual basis. We do not feel that educational debt should keep a young woman from pursuing a vocation and will work with her and explore all possible options for its reduction and/or elimination.