All communities of consecrated life have times of formation which give new members time to grow and become acquainted with this form of life in general and with their specific community. Each community does this a little differently, but most follow a fairly common pattern of formation. The following is an attempt to have a closer look at the times of formation that we follow as Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary.
Our particular way of reflecting the life of Mary is connected to what we call the ‘courses’.
A course is a group of young women who enter the community together, receive their formation together and remain spiritually united and connected with one another as a “little family” throughout their lives as sisters. Each course chooses a unique mission that they wish to fulfil as Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary. It is a unique way in which they wish to reflect the image of Mary, and forms their identity as a course. Through the courses, our community is able to reflect many features of the person of Our Lady. Therefore each course is important! In our community, all formation takes place as a course. Individuals do not receive formation alone!
The steps of formation are as follows:
Candidacy – minimum three months
This period is a time of growth into our community way of life and into the meaning of a religious vocation. It is meant to be a bridge between the world from which the young women come and the totally new world of a community dedicated to God. During this time the candidates work, receive a solid foundation on knowledge of our Catholic faith and have time to pray and relax. Their daily time-table is flexible and open.
Postulancy – six months
During this time the postulants continue to receive instructions on our Catholic faith and on Schoenstatt. At the same time they begin to follow more closely the daily time-table of a sister and are introduced little by little into some of our community customs. They get to know the community and thus have the chance to test their vocation. They also grow more closely together as a course group.
The Solemn Clothing
The novitiate begins with the solemn reception of the dress and veil. On this day the novices process into the church in white bridal dresses. Through a solemn rite, they then receive the individual parts of the Sister’s dress, leave the chapel and return with joy clothed as Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary. They also receive their chosen name as a sister on this day.
Novitiate – two years
This period is the actual introduction into the life of a Schoenstatt Sister of Mary. The novices learn about the history of our community, our lifestyle, our customs, our life of prayer, our mission in Schoenstatt and many other aspects important to our life of consecration. They also continue to build on their knowledge of our Catholic faith. The course becomes for them their little family within the big community.
At the end of the novitiate the novices sign their first contract with the community and receive the brooch in place of the medal and chain they received during the postulancy.
Tertianships – two periods of five months each
The tertianships deepen the foundation of the novitiate in every aspect. At the end of the second tertianship, the sisters sign their final contract with the community, promising their faithfulness forever. They then receive the ring as the outward sign of their promise.
The total time of formation is approximately nine years.