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I was registering for an Archdiocesan Day of Reflection for Consecrated Life here in Chicago and struggled to complete the form. Name, congregation, years of vocation… easy questions. Then there was a special section for those in initial formation. Yes, that’s me! We were instructed to mark our stage of formation from four choices listed: postulant, novice, temporary professed, and perpetually professed. I immediately thought well, none of the above. Is there an option for a sister who’s not a religious, who will never profess temporary or perpetual vows?
The Daughters of Charity are canonically a Society of Apostolic Life, rather than a Religious Institute, and our structure and terminology is a bit different than our Religious friends (including the various congregations within the Sisters of Charity Federation). This category of consecrated life first hit the scene in the 1983 Code of Cannon Law, but we have been living out of our particular spirit since our foundation in 1633. (Others have written extensively on this topic, so be sure to click on the links if you want to learn more.)
A major distinction between religious congregations and our particular identity as Daughters of Charity that many folks get hung up on revolves around the vows. Our vows are “non-religious, annual, and always renewable” (Constitution 28a). Folks seem puzzled at times when I explain to them that I am a sister out on mission and haven’t made any vows. I’m quick to clarity that I live the evangelical counsels (poverty, chastity, and obedience) and am deeply committed to serving Christ in the Poor (fourth vow of the Daughters of Charity), but I have not made any vows. Daughters of Charity in initial formation make vows for the first time between 5-7 years vocation, and then renew them each year with all the sisters on the Feast of the Annunciation, a special day in the community we call Renovation. To understand how a sister can be sent on mission from the Seminary (similar to the novitiate) without any vows (typically religious congregations profess temporary vows after the novitiate), it is important to clarify the relationship between serving the mission and making vows, for us as Daughters of Charity.
|"Incorporation" (August 21, 2016)|