The first step in responding to the Lord’s call to becoming a Carmelite nun is to contact the community either by phone or email, or stopping by the monastery and inquiring about our life. This initial contact consists of getting to know the candidate, her background and family history, her vocation story, etc. If there are genuine signs of a vocation and good grounds for moving forward, the Aspirancy may begin. One year is required for this first stage of formation, but it could be extended depending on circumstances.
During the Aspirancy, the young woman begins to have the first exposure to the life of the cloistered community by having times of “live-in” experience. The candidate is guided in learning more about our Carmelite charism and vocation. Usually, these first-hand encounters with the community bring to light the genuineness of the aspirant’s call and aptitude.
After completion of the Aspirancy, the next stage of formation is the Postulancy. If the community accepts the candidate after sufficient discernment, an entrance date is set. Leaving family and home, the candidate enters and lives permanently in the cloister. It is here where the day-to-day formation of the Postulant begins by her immersion in the Carmelite life of the community. Particular attention is paid to human formation and laying the foundation for formation in consecrated life. “Space is given for the postulant’s personal adaptation and integration into the community, and, above all, the maturity of her decision” (Ratio Institutionis Monialium OCD #64). Special attention is given to initiation into the Carmelite way of life, prayer, and spiritual accompaniment. The postulancy typically lasts from one to one and a half years. After its completion, the candidate may be admitted to the novitiate after sufficient discernment and the community’s approval.
If the postulancy lays the foundation, the Novitiate begins the building process. Its required length of time is two years. If a postulant is accepted, a date is set for the Clothing ceremony. She is clothed in the Holy Habit of Carmel during the Rite of Admission to Religious life, celebrated privately in community. The Prioress gives the Novice her Religious Name and title, which expresses her particular spirit and mission in Carmel.
“The novitiate marks the beginning of the religious life, properly speaking. It allows the sister to enter into the Carmelite experience of a life lived in the desert in a small community of sisters. In this way, the authenticity of the vocation of the novice can be tested in daily life over a prolonged period, and her capacity to commit herself by the profession of the evangelical counsels to the consecration of her entire being to God… This is the time to lay deep foundations consisting of both living experience and spiritual teaching; it is also the time to weave existential bonds between the life and prayer of the novice and the saints of Carmel, so that each in their own way become, for her, models and companions along her journey” (Ratio Institutionis Monialium OCD #69). Prayer and self-knowledge, the vows and the demands of Carmel, the Liturgy, and life in community are stressed during this period. If there are genuine signs of a vocation and the positive fruits of growth, the novice may be admitted to First Profession of Religious Vows.
After the intense period of the Novitiate, the candidate may be accepted by the community to make her First Profession of Religious Vows. The vows of chastity, poverty and obedience according to Constitutions of the Discalced Carmelite Nuns are made in a private community ceremony. This period lasts for at least five years, before the Sister is admitted to the definitive commitment of Solemn Vows.
“The general purpose of temporary profession is to give time for the progressive development in the young professed of their capacity for self-formation, both as regards their spiritual life and personal study. The commitment of the simply professed to the evangelical counsels will grow deeper and stronger as it is lived out in the realism of daily life throughout these years” (Ratio Institutionis Monialium OCD #83). The Temporary Professed Sister is to enter fully into the life of the community at this time and use these final years as a preparation for the definitive commitment of Solemn Vows.
The Profession of Solemn Vows takes place in the presence of the Church. Family and friends may attend this ceremony in the public chapel and visit with the Sister afterwards in the parlor. “It is a true wedding with Christ in a renewed covenant of love” (Constitutions #23). The years of formation leading up to this commitment should have prepared a Sister for this moment of grace and led her to freely offer herself to Christ and His Church through religious consecration for life.The consecration of Solemn Profession of Vows is only the beginning of a life long quest for the perfection of charity and union with God, “for the glory of the Most Holy Trinity.”
When an aspirant discerns that she wants to be admitted as a postulant, we require:
- A brief autobiography
- Completion of an application
- Certificates of baptism and confirmation
- Letters of recommendation
- Psychological screening
Candidates must have a minimum of a high school education and work experience. We also ask that candidates be free from obligations such as debts and dependents. All candidates must be unmarried and free to enter a religious community. Generally, we do not accept candidates over the age of 45.