Am I Called?

Every Christian is given gifts or talents by God, the purpose of which are to promote God’s Kingdom. Some years ago, nurses and teachers and doctors were believed to have vocations, jobs using their God given gifts to benefit others and in that way to help build the Kingdom here on earth. In a more secular age, we tend to forget that such callings to a particular profession are spiritual or vocational gifts; though in a church setting we recognise that individuals exercise even seemingly menial tasks which enable church life, whether it be the sacristan, choir members, treasurer, driving people to and from church etc. They are as much vocational calls as the ones to priesthood or the religious life! Without church members exercising these gifts, the church would not be church.

Some men and women are called by the church to offer themselves for ordination and/or the religious life; these are not superior gifts of the Spirit but are just different in function in the Body of Christ. Religious brothers/sisters come from very different cultural, educational, backgrounds, seemingly having little in common – but all called to live in the one community under a particular Rule of Life and seeing their vocation to live in community as God’s gift to them and the Church.

First Steps When Exploring a Vocation

Someone who feels they may have a vocation to the priesthood would normally inform and seek the advice of their parish priest who would refer them to the Diocesan Director of Ordinands initially; whereas a man or woman who felt called by God to test their vocation to the religious life would usually contact the Novice Guardian of a particular community. They would be invited to visit a community’s house in order to speak with brothers/sister and eventually the Novice Guardian, in order to observe that particular community’s life and way of living; brothers/sister might share something of their own vocational journey.
community of st clare oscfreeland
sisters of the chruch, gerrards cross
mirfield CR

Enquiring and Visiting Communities

 Often an enquirer to the religious life would be encouraged to visit other communities so that the enquirer would experience the different ethos of different communities. Communities are always happy to hear from anyone interested in potentially joining the community, there’s no pressure or obligation to join the community if you contact them. 

On this website, you can use the ‘Visit a Community’ page to find the website and contact details on a Community’s website. Also, there are other communities who don’t welcome guests on a regular basis as part on their ministry, which aren’t included on our webpage. You can find a comprehensive list of all Anglican Religious Communities in the UK and across the Anglican Communion on the ‘Anglican Religious Life Yearbook’ website (link to website).

When an enquirer visits a community, a Novice Guardian would want to have an informal ‘interview’ or discussion with the enquirer as part of the discernment process, to listen to the enquirer, asking questions about his/her church background, faith journey, health issues, etc and to try and satisfy him/herself that the enquirer does indeed seem to have a genuine call by God to a particular community.

It is always good if the enquirer has been able to speak of his or her vocation with others especially those particularly qualified to help such as a spiritual director or a wise parish priest before he/she comes to the Novice Guardian of a particular community.  Other factors might play an important part in the discernment process ie. how strong is an enquirer’s church background, can they provide at least two references, have a DBS check and be of a robust physical and mental health. If they wished, an enquirer would be invited to make several further visits to get to know the community more and discern God’s call on their life further. During this time an enquirer would stay as a guest and be free to continue their current life and work outside the community. This period might be a couple of months or maybe a year or longer, depending on the individual. 

If a Novice Guardian is satisfied that an enquirer should be invited to test their vocation, then the Superior of the Community would be asked to also speak with the enquirer and make the formal invitation.  Most communities ask an enquirer to serve a period of time as a postulant, a settling in time to help the enquirer move from their secular environment into the religious house.

Becoming a Novice

After the postulancy, the man/woman is made a novice and the noviciate can vary from community to community but usually is 2-3 years, during which the novice wears the traditional habit, and enters into an education programme having lessons in theology, church history, the charism of the particular Order they have joined, practical work and ministry in and outside of the house – and the noviciate is very much a time of the novice discerning whether they or the community believe they have a genuine call to the religious life. 

A Lifelong Commitment

Some are glad to have tried but realise the religious life is not for them and they withdraw sometimes moving back into the profession they left, or often the religious life has opened up doors which they would never have  imagined, and they pursue a completely new direction or path in their life.  There is no sense of failure; the community only wants what is right for the novice – and to follow God’s directive in a person’s life. Those who do persevere in the religious life then move on to Profession, taking their Vows, in first Vows and then later, Life Profession. God calls every Christian; the Christian’s job is to do God’s will – and help is always on hand to enable the Christian in his or her journey.