Initial Formation – The Initial Formation Program of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is a process which spans approximately eight years of prayer, study, discernment, community living and ministry. These experiences enable the discerner to determine her ability to enter fully into the life of the IHM Congregation. A directress for each stage guides our newest members and passes on to them our IHM Charism.
The Postulancy – The postulancy is about an eleven-month period that “provides the gradual spiritual and psychological adjustment indispensable to the preparation for the novitiate. From the outset, the postulant should experience the purpose of community as a witnessing to Christ by offering herself, her gifts and her potential to Him. She opens herself to ponder her vocation, to progress in spiritual and intellectual development and to pursue the means to bring her to Christ.” (Faithful Witness, 53). The postulants continue the discernment process while living with the Sisters and entering into their life under the direction of the postulant directress.
The Novitiate – Religious life begins with the novitiate where novices are directed toward a more intimate union with Christ, nurtured by silence, solitude, prayer and the generous giving of self to community and to apostolic activity. The novice directress guides the novices through two distinct years of formation.
First-Year Novitiate (Canonical Year) – The principal purpose of the canonical year is to initiate the novice gradually into the essential and primary requirements of the religious life through prayer, reflection and instruction. At this stage, the novice’s time is devoted principally to deepening her spiritual life.
Second-Year Novitiate – The second-year novitiate stage continues to prepare the novice to combine contemplation with apostolic love in a formation that is spiritual, communal, intellectual and apostolic. The novice is guided through a more intense study of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience in preparation for her First Profession.
Juniorate – The juniorate stage of formation begins when a novice professes her first vows. She professes her vows of chastity, poverty and obedience for one year (temporary profession.) During the following five to seven years of temporary profession the juniorate program aims to strengthen a sister’s love for and fidelity to the Congregation; to provide a means for her progressive growth in maturity; to supply the professional education necessary for her authentic apostolic witness; and to help her prepare to assume the responsibility of perpetual vows. (Faithful Witness, 72-73)
“From the very beginning of the church men and women have set about following Christ with greater freedom and imitating him more closely through the practice of the evangelical counsels, (vows of chastity, poverty and obedience), each in their own way leading a life dedicated to God.”
— Second Vatican Council, Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life Perfectae Caritatis, no. 1