Becoming a Sister of the Incarnate Word is a lifelong process of being formed and re-formed in Jesus, the Word of God. This conversion is a free response to God’s call to have the same mind as Christ Jesus (cf. Phil 2). Our gift and our responsibility are to become fully human with Jesus. Through our prayer, our community living, and our ministry within the Church, we discover our uniqueness and our common identity. We gradually learn to live out our mission to “extend the Incarnation” by growing in the attitudes Jesus teaches in His Sermon on the Mount (cf. Mt 5-7). Our formation process is centered in the liturgical life of the Church, as a way of incarnating in our own lives the mysteries of the life of Jesus. From Mary, we learn the art of saying yes to the power of the Spirit in our lives and rejoice in God dwelling among us.
Cooperating with God’s grace and guidance, we accept in love, responsibility for our personal formation and growth. Our response, however, is not made in isolation; we help each other grow to maturity and awareness of God’s call. We create a supportive environment in which we nourish each other’s call by our life of prayer, community, and ministry. We invite new members to share our life and spirit by the way we love one another.
We gradually internalize Gospel attitudes and values to promote our growth as whole human persons in our life consecration to the Incarnate Word. Our lifelong formation fosters personal, spiritual, relational, intellectual, and ministerial growth.
Discernment is a way of life in which a person sees God at work in events of life and seeks to understand where God is moving her in these events. During the time of vocation discernment, we encourage women to pray daily for God’s guidance in their life and share their feelings, thoughts, hopes, and concerns with a spiritual companion.
Pre-Candidate Process, six months to two years: A pre-candidate is a woman who desires to acquaint herself with the prayer, community life, and ministry of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament. She interacts with community members through community prayer, shared meals, and informal sharing by visiting the community at regular intervals, and sometimes for an extended period of time.
Candidate, six months to two years: The pre-novitiate candidate lives with the community to become more familiar with the lifestyle of the Sisters of the Incarnate Word by greater participation in prayer, community life, and the ministries of the Congregation. She continues her studies or current employment. Pre-novitiate formation takes place in a community environment where the candidate has the opportunity to grow in her love for the Incarnate Word. This time provides the candidate an opportunity to continue to discern her call to vowed religious life lived in the spirit and charism of our Congregation. Human development, study of the basic elements of the spiritual life, and directed experiences in prayer, community, and service help the candidate to grow in her awareness of what is expected of one who wishes to respond to God’s call to vowed life in our Congregation.
Novitiate, two years: The novitiate is fostered in an environment that will contribute to the process of quality living in a faith community. Our two-year period of novitiate formation provides time for gradual initiation into a way of life consecrated to God, and to the people of God, by the evangelical counsels. A canonical year of 12 consecutive months emphasizes the development of the whole person in relationship with God in a way that facilitates the novice’s decision for a free commitment to God in our Congregation. The experience of formation in the second year of the novitiate, which may precede the canonical year, seeks to deepen the sister’s commitment to our Gospel way of life, her understanding of religious life, and her capacity for integrating contemplation and ministry. The goal of novitiate formation is to internalize human and Christian virtues that will enable a novice to respond ever more freely, with the Incarnate Word, to the will of God. The novice deepens her knowledge of prayer, scripture, liturgy, Christian doctrine, Church history, and spiritual and vowed religious life. She is formed in the mind and heart of the Incarnate Word, and in the spirit of Jeanne Chézard de Matel. She grows in her ability to choose prayer, community life, and ministry as the priorities of her life.
Temporary Profession, three years: A novice makes temporary profession when she shows signs that she is ready and desires to commit herself to a life of conversion through the profession of the evangelical counsels. The goal of the period of temporary profession is to live a life consecrated to God, and to the people of God, by the observance of the evangelical counsels. With continued direction, a Sister uses this time to grow more fully as a human person, to deepen her fidelity to Jesus’ way of life, and to live out more fully the ideals of vowed religious life within community. Temporary profession gives a Sister the responsibility to observe the Rule and Constitution of our Congregation, and to prepare for full participation in its life and mission.
Perpetual Profession of Vows: The Sister makes a life commitment to God and the community through the vows to live simply (poverty), lovingly (celibacy), and openly (obedience). A Sister makes perpetual profession when she has completed at least three years in temporary profession, meets the requirements of Church norms, and shows signs that she is ready and desires to be incorporated as a permanent member into our way of life.
Ongoing formation is a life-long process of fostering and supporting our response to the call that God renews continuously. Through the Spirit of God, we deepen our relationship with the Incarnate Word, the community, and all others. Throughout our life, we continue to develop and integrate the personal, spiritual, relational, intellectual, and ministerial dimensions of our life, according to personal needs, and the resources of our Congregation, to meet the needs within our community.