Ask the Wannabe Nun

As I mentioned over here, I am discerning life as a Benedictine nun. As of yesterday around noon o’clock, I am a part of their live-in program. If all goes according to plan, I will enter as a postulant over Labor Day weekend in 2009.

When I got my interview for the live-in program scheduled, I said I would do an “Ask the Wannabe Nun” thread if I got in. I did get in to the program, so here’s the thread. I’m open to most any question, but do reserve the right not to answer if I feel it’s too personal. I also flat out refuse to argue my beliefs. I don’t mind explaining what I believe or why I believe, but I don’t want to make it a debate. I stay out of GD for a reason…I’m no good at it!

So, any questions for the wannabe nun?

Once you get “nunned”, how strict will your life be? Are you still allowed to wear jeans? Can you go to R-rated movies? Can you hang out with your non-nun friends?

How old are you and what made you decide on this life over secular activities that are peppered with religion?

Are you concerned that you may some day want a family? If so, are nuns allowed to adopt?


Congratulations on your live-in, MissMossie. What made you choose the Benedictines? If you profess, what will you do in the community?


How’d you choose the Benedictines? What other orders did you consider?

Once I get nunned (that may be one of my new favorite words), my life will be fairly orderly, but I’m not sure if I’d describe it as strict. I’ll still be able to wear blue jeans. I’ve not asked about movie ratings, but I imagine I’d still be able to go to R-rated ones, but I’m not sure if I could afford it. I went to Sex in the City last night and it was nine dollars! I will still be able to hang out with non-nun friends during my free time. Maybe they’ll offer to buy my movie tickets.

I’m twenty-two. The idea of being a nun has always been in my mind. I remember being around eight years old, kneeling before Mass, and thinking “I’m going to be a nun when I grow up!”. It faded a little as most people’s childhood ideas of what they’ll be when they grow up seem to do. When I was a freshman in college the idea came back to me.

As far as giving up the secular world, I don’t think that’s something I will do completely. Benedictines are very much involved in the outside world. I won’t be focused on getting a new car or having HDTV, but I’ve never been. As an example, I love my little EeePC because it’s exactly what I need out of a computer, but not much more. My only concern about worldly goods stems from my photography obsession. Camera lenses aren’t cheap!

I’ve thought about having a family, but I have faith that I am giving up that blessing for different ones that will bring me more joy. One of my favorite Bible quotes is Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare, not for woe! Plans to give you a future full of hope.” (NAV) I believe that this is what God made me to be, so while not having children is sad, I believe that living God’s plan for me will bring me joy to outweigh that sadness.

No, nuns are not allowed to adopt.

Thank you for your congratulations! When I first started discerning in earnest, I stumbled across the Vision Vocation Network. They have this long form you can fill out all about yourself. I was really hoping that it would be like a myspace survey, you know, you answer the questions and they tell you what sort of mixed drink you are, but instead of mixed drink it would be a religious order. It wasn’t. What happened is my information got sent to a lot of different orders and they started sending me information about themselves. It was a lot like being a Junior or Senior in high school and getting mail from colleges.

While sorting through all of the mail, I consistently got a feeling of rightness when I was reading about Benedictines. I felt whole in a weird sort of way; I didn’t know that I hadn’t been whole! I visited the closest community for one of their vocation retreats and that first night during evening prayer I felt like I was coming home. That feeling was the big push for the Benedictines. I’ve done a fair amount of reading and talking about discerning religious vocations and over and over again, I’ve read and been told to trust those gut feelings.

Outside of just the gut feeling, there are a couple of big draws to Benedictine life that I’ve found. They’re a monastic order, so instead of having their secondary focus (primary focus would be God) being on teaching or nursing or helping sick children in Indonesia, it’s on community. The Benedictine Sisters of Virginia’s mission statement is, “To seek God in community through prayer and work.” That outlines their values in order of importance, God, community, prayer, and work.

The other big draw, besides the focus on community, is that every sister does what job suits her. Through prayer and discernment with the Prioress (the head nun), sisters find their ministry. I’m not sure what I would do as my ministry, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I ended up with a teaching license and worked at their K-8 school. I’ve spent the last year as a second grade TA and loved it.

I haven’t seriously discerned with any other orders. I did visit a Franciscan Motherhouse over Christmas, but that was to visit a great-aunt who’s a sister there. It was a wonderful experience, but it also did a lot to confirm that Benedictine life is more suited to me.

MissMossie - Why are you Mossie? Have you read about the Nashville Dominicans? (I’m not pushing them or anything, just curious). They have had so many postulants and novices in the last years they’ve had to expand their motherhouse. I think the average age of the sisters is 36.

My uncle was the director of food and student services for St. John’s University and Monastery in Collegeville, MN. They’re a cloistered order of Benedictine monks, with the Benedictine Sisters not far away at St. Benedicts. The Johnnies bake and sell bread to support their community.


I’m Mossie from years of working at Girl Scout camp where my nick name was Mosquito. I donned the name at age twelve when I was a wee little Program Aide in Training and was told I needed a nick name. All of the good ones (when I was twelve, good=Winnie the Pooh related) and so, while scratching one of my many bug bites, I chose Mosquito. I’ve been called many variations of it throughout the years and MissMossie came from my CIT director when I was seventeen. She is British and, apparently, they call mosquitoes “mossies” across the pond.

I’ve heard of the Nashville Dominicans and I even think that one of my friends has gone on a vocation retreat with them. If life with the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia doesn’t work out, I’ll keep them in mind. Doper suggestions tend to be good ones.

MissMossie - They have mosquitoes in GB? I had no idea. MissMossie sounds like a cat. Or something from The Wind in the Willows.


Congratulations and best wishes, MissMossie!

In the original thread, you stated that you thought of doing “un-nunnish” things to your male friend for taking too long to write a letter. What did you mean by “un-nunnish” things? When I think of “un-nunnish” things, I think of things that most guys would not consider to be a punishment.

Thanks for the good wishes! I was joking about doing un-nunnish things to my friend. I was trying to imply that I was going to smack him over the head or something similar to that. He’s my best friend. I wouldn’t ever intentionally hurt him. I spent this past weekend visiting him while he recovered from getting a cyst removed from his leg. I threatened to poke his wound, but that was in response to him threatening to show it to me. Neither showing nor poking happened. That’s a very round about way of saying I was referring to physical pain, but it isn’t something I would ever carry through on, even if I wasn’t considering being a nun.

Congratulations, and may God show you the way He wants for you.

What is the process of becoming a nun like nowadays? You live-in, then you are a postulant, then…?


You mentioned in the other thread about a “serious relationship with a woman in college.” How did that go over in the interview? How did/does the Catholic Church’s view on homosexuality affect your current decision to become a nun (sister?)?

What’s the difference between a nun and a sister? Which are you planning on being?

Thank you for the kind wishes!

For the Benedictine Sisters of Virginia, abbreviated from now on as OSBVA, (I imagine most orders are similar, but I can’t say for sure), women discerning may start with a year or so of being a live-in. This is an optional step. I will be living with the community in the same area as the postulants and other live-ins, but I won’t have any formal obligations to the community other than to pay rent/work for them to help provide for a roof over my head. I don’t know a whole lot about the financial part as I haven’t moved in yet. I’ll get that figured out in a bit. For me, I’ll be moving there in a week and a half and when I get there I will have a job doing secretary type work at their transitional home for women and children. As of right now, that’s just a summer job. I’ll be heading back down to North Carolina (where I’ve spent the past year) in August to be present for the birth of my first niece. I’ll head back up to Virginia in September and figure out a more steady job then. For now, working at their transitional home will provide for my keep and paying my auto insurance bills.

Over Labor Day weekend (the sisters do all of their big stuff that weekend because they know that everyone will be able to be there) of 2009, I will hopefully enter as a postulant. Postulancy lasts a year and “introduces the member to to prayer, work and Benedictine spirituality.”*

A year after entering as a postulant, a woman becomes a novice. The novitiate is “a year of intense prayer, study and preparation for monastic profession.”*

After that comes initial profession. This is the first set of vows and they’re temporary ones. This period usually lasts three years, but can be extended. During that period “the woman live as a professed member of the community while continuing to study and deepen her understanding of monastic life.”*

Finally, after initial profession comes perpetual profession, the final vows. That’s when the woman says, “Yes, this life is where God has led me, now and forever!” I just made up that quote, it’s nothing official, but it gives the idea of final profession.

So lets see, if I enter as a postulant in '09, I’ll become a novice in '10, take my initial vows in '11, and my final vows in 2014. My word, that seems like a lifetime away. I’m twenty-two now, but I won’t sign my life away to God until I’m twenty-nine. That seems like a good time to make a forever type decision.

*All of the starred quotes are from OSBVA’s formation process page. It explained the steps so well that I decided not to reinvent the wheel.

The serious relationship with another woman didn’t phase Sr. Glenna a bit. I didn’t really expect that it would. For one thing, I don’t really plan on becoming romantically involved with anyone from this point on, so who I’m attracted to is a bit of a moot point. (Did I use the word “moot” correctly?) Also, during prayer intentions, I’ve heard sisters praying that for something like, “those who are persecuted based on who they love.” They’re pretty accepting women.

The church’s view on homosexuality didn’t consciously affect my decision at all. I suppose it could have on some level I’m not aware of, but honestly I didn’t think much of it until a former campus minister asked me about it many months into my discernment process. I’ve never defined myself entirely based on what sort of person I’m attracted to. I know that I’m somewhere on the not straight side of Kinsey’s spectrum, but none of the labels really feel right to me. I don’t know; it just feels like a non-issue. They only note worthy part, is it gives me an excuse to never come out to my mother. Most of the rest of my family knows I was dating a woman and didn’t give it too much thought, it probably would have confused the hell out of her, though. That’s just an added side-bonus of the nun thing. It was by no means a contributing reason for this step in my life.

There is a difference between nuns and sisters, but, to me, it seems to be mostly semantics. There’s an explanation about halfway down this page under the heading “Distinction between nun and religious sister”. I’m pretty sure I’d be a sister, but to me the difference is like whether I was a Teacher’s Aide or Teacher’s Assistant when I was a TA. There’s a difference in what each means, but the title TA (or Sister) calls to mind the same sort of person.

What is your view on forced celibacy? I feel that celibacy is a vocation and that many people are called to be priests or nuns but are not called to be celibate.

I go back and forth on celibacy for priests. I can see both sides of the argument and haven’t come to any sort of conclusion. Today, I am leaning more towards celibacy for priests. Every priest I’ve known has been crazy busy and I don’t think it would be fair to his wife or kids for him to be that busy.

As for sisters and brothers, I simply don’t see how being married would fit with the life style. I don’t know about other orders, but for the Benedictines it is a pretty drastically different living arrangement than that of nuclear family. When a woman enters as a postulant, she becomes dependent on the community for all of her needs and the community takes care of those needs. I have trouble combining that with married life.

Mostly, I am grateful that celibacy and religious life isn’t my call to make. I have trust that the Holy Spirit will guide the Church where it needs to go.

ETA: Also, I’m not sure if I would agree to the description of “forced”. It’s pretty well known that if you enter religious life in the RCC, you’ll be celibate. It’s a decision that people make freely.

If/when you take your final vows, what will your relationship to the outer world be like? What will your lifestyle be like?

Do you mind if I put in an extra prayer for you today? :slight_smile:

If I take my final vows, there’s a good chance that I’d still have a job that would put me into frequent contact with the outside world. OSBVA has a bunch of different ministries including two schools, a transitional program for women and children, an adult literacy program, and counseling services. There are also sisters who do work outside of those ministries, like one who works at a hospital or another who takes the Eucharist to the sick. The chapel is also open for prayer and Sunday Mass. A lot of people come on Sundays. I’d still be in contact with my family. Right now, when I’m not at home, I call my parents every Sunday to let them know I’m still alive and to catch up with them. I’ll still be able to do that and to visit them every once in a while, about the same amount that an average grown child visits their parents.

A day to day schedule for a sister would be wake up, get dressed, go to morning prayer, go to breakfast, go to work, come home for noon prayer/lunch if possible, come home from work, go to evening prayer, go to dinner, hang out in the community room with the other sisters talking/playing games/watching TV/etc, and go to bed.

ETA: I would love extra prayers! Thank you!

Are nuns considered to literally be “brides of Christ”?

If a nun decided she didn’t want to do any drudge work or housekeeping, but would still pray all day would she be thrown out of the order?

Do nuns try to stay in shape? If a nun starts getting really huge is that looked down upon?.