A nun is best known and recognized as a part/member of any religious community of female gender, who is living under the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. They are best known for dedicating their life to serve all living beings. In some religions, women leave the social mainstream fold and become a monk or ascetic – they usually live in monasteries or a convent. Usually, the term “nun” is mostly applied to Catholics (in western and eastern traditions), Anglicans, Jains, Taoists, Buddhists, Lutherans, Christians and some other religions. There has been some dispute in the usage of the terms “nun” and “sister”, but clearly they are entirely different forms and paths. While a nun lives her life in prayer aka, meditation for the salvation of all human beings; a religious sister works with the needy, poor, uneducated and ill human beings (Best Example: Mother Teresa). Nuns are usually members of religious orders, have taken religious vows and they have renounced property and inheritances. Religious sisters on the other hand, have simple vows and they are allowed as per the law to inherit property. If you think you are suitable for this job, this article on how to become a nun – tips are given by how a call can be taken.
How to Become a Nun?
If you are a girl who has always achieved happiness in praying for others, if you feel that God has called you to select the best humanitarian service, the job of a nun, go for it. The job calls for dignity and is respected all over the world.
Prerequisites for a Christian Nun
1. Be single
If you are a woman and also a Roman Catholic, you have to be single. In case of marriage, you must show the annulment form recognized by a Catholic Church. A widow is considered as ‘single’ in the eyes of the Church. After you get the job of a nun by passing exams and finish the requisites, a ring will be given for representing you as a bride of God. Now you must have come to know, why you should not have any other relationship that can distract you from the call of God.
2. Requirements – Age
In the good old days, nuns were very young in age as they chose to follow the path after high school or college. In recent times, you can see nuns of any age from the 18s to your 40s. In certain communities, older women will also be accepted. Many religious communities, usually recommend their members to complete at least a graduation. If you have served your community center, any certification or a letter from a reputed person can make the difference. If you have children, let them grow up. It is advisable that you do not have dependants in the family. There are nuns who have children – all of them are grown-up adults.
Have A Proper ‘Nest’ and then go for the job. You have to be healthy and free of debts. Though many institutions prefer candidates who can devote themselves completely to God, but think otherwise – you cannot think of serving others when it is impossible to solve your money problems. In case of debt, do not get disheartened and stop in your goals of becoming a nun. Have a one-on-one discussion with the community center and if you are lucky, the director might be able to help or give you a solution.
3. The Initial Discernment
A person who has a tutor, be it male/female, can easily reach the goal within the shortest possible time. The more advice you get from the person of the same wavelength, you can get clarity and a clear understanding of what are the pre-requisites that should be done and the documents needed. You will also get a better picture of the various lifestyles and communities you will have to work with. If you stay far and do not have access to a group, make a visit to the parish and gain information from either the priest or elders who are active in the community.
The religious communities can be divided into three types – traditional; nontraditional apostolic communities and contemplative communities. The third community emphasizes on prayer. The lifestyle they live is more of meditation, peacefulness and looking deep into the mind. Traditional communities mostly work in healthcare and education sectors. Nuns of this type are usually found at slum schools or lending a hand at hospitals and health care facilities. Non-traditional communities work in the same way as their counterparts (traditional), but they focus mainly on providing for the needy. The nun’s work locations are in homeless shelters, incarcerated and associations having patients of HIV/AIDS.
4. Research On The Internet
In recent times, convents have also taken the cue and in some, you can find songs you can download, or blogs you can read. Unlike other websites such as YouTube that are banned, if you are a student, you can have access to religious websites. One of the famous websites to make a mark is the Vision Vocation Network located in Chicago. You will have access to discernment tools for concentrating on your goal. They also have a magazine ‘Vision.’ Vision Vocation Match can assist individuals in discernment to find their respective communities. You can find similarity as in a friend group, for the ‘to-be sisters’ and ‘to-be brothers’ searching for the perfect ‘home.’ Catholics on Call is another help giving organization having its base in Chicago. It holds workshops and retreats for like-minded individuals (becoming a nun) to assemble and create networks, contacts with seasoned experts and prospective candidates. One of the other famous websites is “Sisters of Life.” In the blogging world, you get “A Nun’s Life” that is created for women who are in the initial stages of becoming a nun. It gives every detail of the process and requirements.
5. Next Step
You have started making friends and acquaintances in the community and it will be only some time, you will get information on religious events. Ensure you do not miss an event. It can be at a Mother House or in the organization building. There is no obligation to bind you to any community, but you are getting the information you need. ‘The Institute on Religious Life’ can help in finding a congregation suitable for you. They have details on the community organizations as well as events across the country. You can participate in the online assessment to find the correct community organization event, you can visit.
6. Narrow Down
After doing your research, you can contact the ones best suited to your personality. Every community will be different (in each detail: purpose, locale and size) and one can have the needs required for your wavelength. However, contact more than one – you might get vital information that can come handy in the future.
If you know a nun personally within a community, have a one-on-one discussion with her. In doubt, you can contact the vocation director found on the website. The Vision Network, which has been discussed before, contains full information regarding communities and the directors. Ensure you search on the internet till you get clarified of all doubts.
7. Have Regular Interaction With The Vocation Director
Regular interaction will give you information about events and activities. Remember, you do not have to join a community just because you know someone. You can explore the campus, participate in retreats, learn the educational part and assist in community activities. Have regular interaction with either the sisters or nuns to feel if you can become a part of their community.
8. The Initiation Process
After you have chosen a community, if you are in good relations with the vocation director – inform her that you are ready to dedicate yourself to the community – the concerned officials will take care of every detail – the where’s, hows etc. The pre-candidacy process duration is one to three years. The duration needs good commitment and if you are not sure of the process, you can take a bow. The pre-candidacy process is one in which you and the other party will be working together.
9. Starting Of The Process
You can begin the process (pre-novitiate or also known as postulancy). You should live on the campus, hobnob with other members, but have to manage your expenses (this is the reason you have to be financially sound).
The first step that can be taken will be to write a ‘letter of interest’ where you express a sincere desire to join the community. The process as mentioned before, will take from six months to two years, but will end when both the parties deem fit.
10. Enter The Novitiate
In this particular juncture, you will be no doubt a member of the community, but not fully committed. The term for you in plain English will be “novice.” As per the Church law, it will be twelve-month period, but in some communities, it may stretch to two years. In the duration, you will get enough time to check once again if this is the right option. After the completion of first year, the future is reserved for working inside the community and education. The end of this phase – you will rejoin the community or proceed to take your vows. In some congregations, a “Novice” will be asked to choose a ‘Saint’ name after taking the public vow. You also have the liability to keep your Baptismal name intact.
How To Be A Nun?
A Religious sister will only take temporary vow, which will be renewed every year till the final profession; the same type will be followed for the next five to nine years (but it will depend on the organization). Very few cases will take the maximum of nine years.
This is the point of first initiation. The dedication starts now! You will get from the organization a new name, a black veil – and the most important – a full-length scapular after you have pledged your fidelity and obedience to the Lord.
This is the final step when you make the permanent vow to the Church. A celebration can be held in which you will receive a ring and additional adornments by which the world will recognize you. Congratulations on starting Your next Life!
There can be exceptions in the above mentioned steps based on the community.
Other Religions: Becoming a Nun (Bhikkhuni – Buddhist)
To become a Buddhist bhikkunni, you have to meet many requirements:
- She should not be pregnant
- She has to arrange care for the dependants (if she has a child)
- She must be in sound body and mind
- She should be free from debt and additional obligations.
The training areas can be found in cities as well as rural areas. After finding the location, you can express the interest in training. Every community will have various types of regulations. However, you will be provided training for a few weeks.
If you have enjoyed the time at the monastery and fulfilled all the requirements, a chance will be given to once again check on the needs of becoming a Buddhist bhikkunni. If you have replied in the positive, you will be taught the eight Buddhist precepts. Among the eight, will be five of lay practitioners and the other three called as the upasika vows.
Your clothes will be of white or black clothing and you can keep your head hair intact in this period. The duration will be from a few weeks to few months.
Garudhammas or the precepts can be described as:
- She should not harm any living human or animals
- She should not steal
- She should refrain from all sexual indulgences or activity
- She should not deceive or tell lies
- She should not partake intoxicants or drink alcohol
- She should eat only at the fixed time
- She should not wear perfume or cosmetics or sing or dance
- She should not waste her time in luxurious places or indulge in laziness
In English, it means the “homeless one” as you have left your home to search for the eternal truth and to help others. The final step – you have to shave your head, wear only white robes and uphold the eight precepts. The perfect duration has not yet been estimated as it might take from six months to several years depending on the situation.
You and your group will be given some money for financial support. You will be taught meditation such as the ‘Joy of Appreciation (Mudita), The “Brahma Viharas” of Loving Kindness (Metta), Compassion (Karuna) & Equanimity (Upekkhā)’. By these techniques, you will find the real “Yourself.”
Graduation To Samanera
This stage can be defined as the beginning of monastic life. Different Buddhist communities have various age requirements along with traditions at this stage. There are, however, some countries which place the candidates on probation before the starting of initial stage.
You must take part in the ten novice precepts, the top most of which involves non-usage of money. You should not drive – that is another commandment and you will be given an elder person to become your personal teacher.
Take The Bhikkuni Vows
The higher stage of ascetic life. On the permission of the Guru, you can request for becoming a full-fledged Bhikkuni. There have to be twenty people who should be present as witness. You will be given 311 precepts.
Become A Elder
After ten years or more, you can begin teaching and can have your students. Before that phase, you can travel without any restrictions and work with various mentors. Alternatively, you can stay with your original mentor. After twenty years, you can be called a “Mahatheri” or “Great Elder.”
So, Good Luck for your future life!