Becoming a Sister in the Order of Saint Helena

Sr. Faith Anthony's Life Profession, Tuesday March 19, 2013,
Good Shepherd Episcopal Church, Augusta GA

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Discernment of vocation to religious life

Discernment of a vocation to religious life involves both prayer and an ongoing dialogue between the inquirer into the religious life and the community she is proposing to enter. This is a major life decision for the applicant as well as for the community, and the process needs to be entered sensitively and with attention to the welfare and needs of both.

A woman exploring a vocation to the Order of St. Helena must be at least 21 and not more than 50 years old, a communicant of the Episcopal Church or a church in communion with the Episcopal Church, in good mental and physical health, and free from family, marital, or financial obligations. We are seeking women who are compassionate, who have a strong desire and affinity for community life, and understanding of interdependence, who are leaders and self-starters, who have a track-record of achievement in their lives, and who are ready to enter into discernment with a spirit of adventure.

To begin discernment of vocation, please contact:

Sr. Carol Andrew, OSH

Sister for Vocations/Formation

Convent of Saint Helena

414 Savannah Barony Drive

North Augusta SC 29841

Why become a sister of the Order of St. Helena?

Are you being called to "walk in love" with the sisters of our community? What is special about religious life, and in particular the Order of St. Helena? When religious orders were first established in the Episcopal Church, in the mid-1850s, there were few options for women to work outside the home, and religious life offered them the opportunities to teach, to nurse, to serve the church, and to minister to the poor and oppressed, especially women and children.

Today, there are many opportunities for women in secular life and the ordination of women makes it possible for women to serve in leadership roles in the church. So, what's so special about religious life and why would modern women want to become nuns?

Sr. Miriam Elizabeth First Profession of Annual Vow

Sr. Miriam Elizabeth First Profession of the Annual Vow,
June 14, 2014

Religious life offers us the opportunity to do more together than we could possibly do alone. By living and praying together, we learn to meet Christ in one another and we learn to bless and love each other, as imperfect as we are. We learn to see ourselves through the eyes of other sisters, and this can be an incredible spiritual and psychological growth experience. We try to learn to live gently and compassionately with our sisters, even and especially at times when this isn't easy.

We have the opportunity to spend intentional time in corporate and individual prayer on a daily basis. During the postulancy and novitiate there is time for prayerful reflection, spiritual reading, and for discernment and training for ministry. We have opportunity for peace and social justice ministries which would be difficult or impossible to pursue without the support of a community. Some of us hold paying jobs, some of us receive honoraria for our work, and others volunteer our time in special ministries.

Religious orders have always been prophetic witnesses for the church. As religious sisters, we can live and move and have our being on the fringes of the established church, and can push the edges as we live out the gospel message. We have the opportunity to model new ways of living with sensitivity to the natural world, to our use of natural resources, and to cultural and ethnic differences, in our own efforts to be welcoming of all, both as sisters and as guests.

This is a challenging life, which also holds deep satisfaction and joy.

Formation in community

When a woman is accepted to try her vocation, she enters as a postulant, and lives with the community for a period of at least six months. If all are agreed, she is "clothed" in the religious habit and becomes a novice, and she begins a period of education and further incorporation into the life of the community. The novitiate training includes study of the Daily Office, the history of monasticism and of the Order of St. Helena, pastoral training, and education in scripture, church history, and theology (for example, in Sewanee: the University of the South's four-year Education for Ministry program). Specific discernment and training are encouraged as appropriate to prepare for individual ministry, such as a spiritual direction training program.

Miriam's clothing

Miriam Elizabeth receives the habit, May 31, 2012

After a period of two years or longer, the sister may request to take the annual Vow, and may be elected to the annual Vow by the life professed sisters. At least three years is spent under the annual Vow of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. Election is again required for admission to the life Vow, or life profession, by which a sister becomes a full member of the Order. The Vow that we take is a three-fold vow of Poverty, Celibate Chastity, and Obedience.

The Vow of Poverty may be seen as a way to live in greater reverence for creation and sharing of God's gifts; Chastity as reverence for integrity of persons and an opportunity to love all people rather than a commitment to a single partner; Obedience as reverence for the integrity of oneself, and not as a passive acceptance of things we may be asked to do.

Vocation discernment visits and application process

Our Sister for Vocations will be glad to talk with you about discerning your vocation to religious life. The process of discernment usually begins with several conversations and correspondence, and if possible a meeting in person with the Sister for Vocations and other sisters.

The next step would be for the applicant to fill out a detailed form and to schedule a visit of at least several days at our convent in Augusta GA. Together we will continue to discern your vocation to religious life and to this community in particular. We highly recommend that you visit more than one Episcopal community before making the decision to continue in the application process with the Order of Saint Helena.

The next step would be to write a brief essay and provide references, and to schedule a formal "aspirant" visit of at least two weeks, and longer if possible. During this visit there will be interviews and further discernment. The application process also involves a psychological evaluation, medical examination, and background check. Following the formal application visit, the Leadership Council, in consultation with other members of OSH will make a decision on extending an invitation to enter our community.

Does religious life have a place in your future? Come and See!

Updated: January 23, 2016