Q. Becoming a Nun

Q. You talked about what it’s like to become a priest, but I wonder if you could tell me a little about what a girl has to go through to become a nun. Does she need a college education before she enters a convent? What if someone didn’t want to go to college but wanted to be a nun. Could she?

A. Thank you for asking this question. I’d be happy to share with you some of the practical details on becoming a nun.

Let me first speak about the reason a girl should consider becoming a nun. Just like any vocation, a girl should consider becoming a nun only if she senses, through her prayer and discernment, that God is calling her to this state in life. Religious life is a calling from God. And this calling will be discovered first and foremost through your prayer. God will gently speak to your heart and begin to place there a sense that this is His will for you. Many react to this calling, at first, with a bit of fear and anxiety. This is understandable and normal. But when God is truly calling, it’s essential to be open and to let the Holy Spirit give you the courage you need to say yes. I think the first thing a girl should do, when she begins to sense a call from God to be a nun, is to prayerfully say to God, “Lord, I do not yet know for certain what you want of me, but whatever you are calling me to, the answer is yes.” A willingness to say yes to God’s will is an essential starting point for deeper discernment.

From there, I’d suggest you talk to your parish priest and other good Catholics who can support you and help you discern God’s will. If you feel that this calling from God is deepening, then the next step is to make some practical choices. The first practical step is to find out about the various forms of religious life for girls. Every religious order is different in its mission, charism, and preparation. Some orders require that you first have a college degree, some will accept girls without a degree and then put them through college as part of their formation program, and some do not require a degree at all. Orders working in health care and teaching often require some form of college degree. Other orders, such as those serving the needs of the poor or more contemplative orders, might not require a college degree but will have some form of deeper religious education as a part of their formation program.

The best thing to do is to try and familiarize yourself with as many orders as possible. Talk to the vocation director of each order and ask these practical questions. A good time to start this sort of inquiry with various orders is high school. Each diocese might offer a few different opportunities for girls to familiarize themselves with the various forms of religious life and with various religious orders. Look into those opportunities and let God point the way!

More Catholic Q&A

Below is a poem for religious sisters:

English Translation:

Sóror Méa, Spónsa Chrísti

My sister, bride of Christ,
Hidden to the eyes of the world,

Through night’s darkness
Enkindling light to hearts,

Desolate to console,
Immolated to give life,

Poor to possess Jesus,
Chaste virgin to be a mother,

Fruitful beyond words,
Bearing fruit in Mary,

Surrendering her will,
Having full freedom

To satisfy Christ’s thirst,
To adore the divine heart:

O how beautiful her life
Consecrated to her God!

Latin Original:

Sóror méa, spónsa Chrísti,
Óculis occúlta múndi,

Nóctis per obscúritatem
Córdibus accéndens lúcem,

Consolári desoláta,
Vítam dáre immoláta,

Paúper Iésum possidére,
Vírgo cásta máter ésse,

Fructuósa últra vérba,
Frúctum gérens in María,

Trádens súam voluntátem,
Hábens plénam libertátem

Chrísti sítim satiáre,
Cor divínum adoráre:

O quam púlchra víta súa
Déo súo consecráta!

– Fr. Timothy J. Draper

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