Frequently Asked Questions
About Becoming a Dominican Sister of San Rafael
Q. What is a vocation and how is it different from a career?
A. The word vocation comes from the Latin word vocare which means to call. Being a sister is a way of life we pursue in order to live out our baptismal call to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world. A career is usually understood as what one does as one’s livelihood or occupation. As sisters, our occupations are our ministries, our particular ways of serving others. In our ministries we use the gifts and talents which God has given us. Many women think they must choose between a religious vocation or a career. You can become a sister and express yourself through your ministry – you don’t have to choose between the two.
Q. If I am thinking about being a sister, can I still date?
A. The process of becoming a sister involves several steps. During the early stages, when you are just beginning the discernment process, it is acceptable for you to be dating. The vocation of marriage may be another one of the vocation paths about which you are discerning. Once you have progressed to where you are living in community with us, it would no longer be appropriate to date.
Q. What can I do to know if I have a call to vowed life as a sister?
A. Pray and ask God’s guidance to discern your vocation in life. Contact our Vocations Office; we can answer questions and our sisters can pray with you and for you. Participate in a “Come and See” experience to discern with others. Be sure to give yourself the gift of getting to know the sisters.
Q. Do I have to be a Catholic to become a sister?
A. Yes, it is necessary to be a practicing, fully-initiated member of the Catholic Church, that is, having received the sacraments of Baptism, Eucharist, and Confirmation.
Q. Do you have an age limit?
A. Yes, women are invited to enter into the discernment process between the ages of 22-40.
Q. Why is there an age limit?
A. We are an active, apostolic Congregation. A woman’s ability to make the transition into a new lifestyle and to actively minister for a significant period of time after perpetual vows are key issues in the discernment conversation.
Q. Do I need a college education?
A. No. We ask that a woman have a high school education and minimally two years of college or working experience after high school before applying to enter.
Q. What about educational loans and other debt?
A. Educational debts could be considered on an individual basis, but other debts should be satisfied prior to candidacy.
Q. Can a divorced woman become a Dominican Sister of San Rafael?
A. Yes, as long as she has obtained an annulment from the Church.
Q. What if a woman is a convert to Catholicism?
A. Generally, we ask that converts participate in their parish community for two years after reception into the Church before entering our Congregation. During that time we would still welcome her to congregational events and encourage her to get to know the Community.
Q. What if I have a child or children?
A. Children need to be over twenty-one, self-sufficient, and self-supporting so that you are free to enter fully into the formation process.
Q. Do I need to sell my house or condo and turn over all financial assets to the Congregation when I enter?
A. No. You can make whatever arrangements for your property, possessions, and finances that will free you from being burdened by administrative responsibilities and enable you to enter fully into the formation process. Moreover, even after perpetual vows, a sister’s property that was hers prior to entrance is still her patrimony, though she is not allowed, by canon law, to manage it. There is no expectation or request that she ever turn her financial assets to the Congregation.
Q. Can a woman continue to have contacts with family members and friends when she enters the Congregation?
A. Yes, as community, formation and study obligations permit. Our families are an important part of our lives.
Q. Would my skills and training be used in the Congregation?
A. Hopefully your skills and training can be put to good use as you move into a ministry.
Q. What does “OP” after your name mean?
A. The OP stands for Order of Preachers, the name given to the order that St. Dominic founded when it was formally recognized by Pope Honorius III in 1217.
Q. Do you wear habits?
A. Our constitutions describe our attire as being “simple, appropriate, and modest as witness to the consecrated life.” Some of our Sisters wear the traditional habit; most of us prefer simple attire.
Q. Do the Dominicans have a motto?
A. There are several: Veritas, Latin for Truth; Laudare, Benedicere, Praedicare, Latin for To praise, to bless, to preach; and Contemplare et contemplata aliis tradere, Latin for To contemplate and share the fruits of our contemplation.
Q. How do Dominicans pray?
A. In our Congregation, we are encouraged to pray each day, both communally and privately. We look to Scripture as a primary source for sustaining our relationship with God and one another, and we participate in the liturgical life of the whole Church through prayer and the sacraments.
Q. Where do you live?
A. We have a strong commitment to community life, so, with a few exceptions, we live together with as sisters in convents.
Q. Do sisters ever have arguments?
A. Becoming a sister does not mean leaving behind the usual human emotions and conflicts, so yes, we do sometimes have disagreements. We try to handle these disagreements with love, always keeping in mind that we have a common mission and goal for our lives together.
What is a typical day like?
A. We pray morning prayer and/or evening prayer as a community, and schedule our own time in private prayer. During the days we work or volunteer in professions consistent with our goals and mission.We also have responsibilities that support our community life: cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, etc. If we are living a healthy, balanced life, each day also includes some physical exercise, relaxation, and recreation. Joy and laughter is a hallmark of Dominican life.
Q. Do sisters get vacation?
A. Yes! In addition to an annual retreat and times we spend with our families, we take vacations and participate in activities that are fun and relaxing. Sometimes that means traveling to visit friends or seeing new places.
Q. Who cooks and cleans?
A. In most of our convents, we share this work. In some of our larger convents where these tasks take so much more time, there may be staff hired for to assist with these responsibilities.
Q. How do you pay your expenses? Do you have your own spending money? Cars? Bank accounts?
A. Any salary that a sister receives goes to the congregation’s General Fund. Each year we budget for our needs, both personal and professional. These matters are covered in the annual budget, which must be approved by congregational Leadership. The vow of poverty that we take as professed Sisters determines that everything we have is held in common.
Q. Do sisters retire?
A. As we age, we may retire from full-time ministry, but we never retire from our life-long vocation as vowed religious. And as Sister Maureen, our Prioress General, says, “We are always in ministry” in the sense that we always welcome opportunities to live the Gospel in service to others.