Discerning Your Vocation to Religious Life

Every life journey is unique - we respond to God, who calls each of us personally.

The grace of vocation flows from our Christian baptismal commitment; a woman discerning a call to religious life is attentive through prayer and reflection to the ways Jesus calls her to follow him as she considers becoming a sister.

Discernment is the ongoing search, above all, for the ways God is working in our lives. Prayer is most important in this search.

Cherish God’s vocation in you, let it be constant, efficacious and loving".

Mary Ward

Becoming a member of IBVM

The process of becoming an IBVM Sister in an international, multicultural Institute living and working in many different lands and cultures, consists of various stages.

At each stage it is important that the process is one of continual mutual discernment.

Deirdre Bannon IBVM a member of the Vocations committee with Charlotte Cummins CJ novice.

In the early stages of religious life with IBVM, formation is a gradual process of learning, providing an introduction to the charism, and to our way of life.

Learning and sharing with others who value Mary Ward’s charism and vision help to sharpen our insight and widen our horizons. Constitutions Vol. II, 5:5

First Stage

The first stage is a period of enquiry. This provides an opportunity for both the enquirer and the IBVM to become acquainted and to answer each other’s questions. Whether an enquirer is ready to enter into serious discernment depends upon her psychological and spiritual growth.

Flexibility, awareness of call, a willingness and capacity for growth are necessary elements for ‘the vowed life.’


If it seems right for the enquirer to go ahead, they apply to become a candidate. As a candidate, normal life continues– job, study, friends, independence – while taking a closer look at IBVM life and spirit. In some places this involves living for some of this period with an IBVM community to see if the life suits both the community and candidate.

Candidacy normally lasts from 6 months to 2 years and includes ongoing mutual discernment with the vocation director. If, and when, it seems right (to the candidate and to the Institute) the candidate applies to begin novitiate.

Becoming a novice

Becoming a novice is a much more serious commitment. The novitiate process offers time for reflection in the midst of a lived experience of IBVM life.

The first year of novitiate focuses on the inner spiritual journey and relationship with God. It can also involve opportunities to experience areas of social outreach. This includes doing the full Exercises of St Ignatius as part of the novice’s discernment.

The second year is dedicated to developing an active, apostolic spirituality. At the end of two years, if discerned to continue, a novice will make temporary vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Temporary vows

Temporary vows are usually taken for 6 to 9 years. While in temporary vows, the temporary professed sister continues to have special support and guidance, and to live as a fully committed member of the Institute.

During this time, she may be called upon to have a variety of ministry and community experiences as well as undertake further studies.

Final vows

Final vows are made when the decision is made to make a life commitment. This decision is made in dialogue with those in leadership positions of the IBVM.

If you are looking for your personal vocation in life and want to be accompanied on your way, contact one of our communities or sisters. We will be pleased to welcome you and support you.