Vocations FAQs

12 Frequently Asked Questions about the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon

What initial steps should I take in my discernment of religious life?

One of the best ways to learn about religious life is to talk with Sisters who made that commitment. Take your questions to someone you respect.

A few other tips:

  • Pray to know your vocation
  • Volunteer where your interests are and your skills are needed. Consider places where you will serve with Sisters
  • Introduce your family and friends to Sisters

How can I learn more about discernment and living as a Sister of St. Mary of Oregon?

Become a “pen pal” or “Zoom pal” with the Community’s vocation director.

  • Ask to visit the Motherhouse
  • Attend vocation retreats
  • Volunteer for a weekend of service
  • Ask to be invited to Community events
  • Get to know as many Sisters as possible
  • Join a Vocation Discernment Group

What is your daily prayer schedule?

Prayer is essential to develop your relationship with God. It takes time to listen to your heart’s deepest desire in conjunction with God’s plan for you. The schedule for prayer varies, not only among religious congregations, but also among individual Sisters within a Community. Some key components of the prayer life of a Sister of St. Mary of Oregon include:

  • Mass
  • Liturgy of the Hours (morning and evening)
  • The rosary
  • Meditation
  • Reading and reflecting on Scripture/spiritual books
  • Adoration
  • Simply finding time and space for quiet reflection

What is the difference between contemplative (cloistered) Communities and active, apostolic Communities?

Each religious Community (whether active or contemplative) has a unique charism (gift from the Holy Spirit for the good of the people). The SSMO Community has discerned through prayer and discussion that our Charism Statement is:

We, the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon,
living as women of prayer in simplicity
and sisterly love,
are called to be compassionate,
joyful servants of the Lord.

This is a gift from the Holy Spirit that the Sisters endeavor to practice on a daily basis for the good of our members and the people of the world.

What are the Sisters ministries? How is that determined?

The Mission Statement of our Community reads:

We, the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon,
share in the mission of Jesus
by proclaiming the Good News of God’s love.

The predominant ministries our Sisters have served in throughout the years are education, health care, and pastoral. Those categories capture the many types of ministries in which our Sisters have served the people of God in this Archdiocese and beyond.

Each Sister and the Community leadership determines how she will serve. Each Sister’s sense of call, gifts, skills and capabilities are considered. Discernment enters into this process, mixing research, discussion, needs (of the Community and of the people of God), as well as the passion and compassion of the Sister discerning her ministry.

Will I be able to enter if I have student loan debt?

You are expected to eliminate any personal debt you may have before entering (as required by Church law), however, there are various ways to deal with education debt.

Will I be able to stay in contact with my family and visit them?

Yes. However, frequency due to distance and stage of formation will be factors to consider in making arrangements. Use of a cell phone is a common means of communication.

Are women entering the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon/religious life today?

There are many ways for women to serve God.  Many women still hear the call to commit to a life of poverty, chastity and obedience in a Community.  We are blessed to have new members. We are always open to inviting women to become acquainted with us and our way of life in the hope that our commitment matches how they are feeling called.

Why do some of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon wear a veil and some do not?

Our Constitutions/Statutes provide directives for the options available to us:

  • Our attire is regulated by the demands of propriety, apostolic effectiveness and religious spirit. The colors for clothing is black, grey, blue or white.
  • Wearing a veil is optional.
  • Sisters wear a religious emblem (cross, crucifix, or medal of Mary) and a gold ring.
  • It is the responsibility of each Sister to determine what attire is appropriate.

After my initial contact and discernment, what are the stages of integration to the SSMO Community?

We recommend visiting the Community as many times as possible, making each stay longer. This will help you discover the vision, spirit, ministry, and prayer life of the Sisters.

In time, you will have a sense of whether or not to begin the application process which includes gathering information about yourself:

  • Certification of Reception of the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation
  • Autobiography
  • Physical, Dental Exams
  • Behavioral Assessment Report
  • Education Transcripts
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Background Check

When the applicant is accepted, the first stage of incorporation is Candidacy which last between 6 months to a year. This will begin the formation program and living in Community. The next stage is the Novitiate which is required by Church law and begins the official entrance into the Community. 

We have a two-year Novitiate program. During the first year, our novices spend time in prayer, studies (of various religious life topics), and living in Community. During the second year of Novitiate, the novice may become involved in ministry or continue studies for a degree that will prepare her to assume a ministry assignment.

Visit Five Formation Steps to learn more.

What resources are helpful in my discernment?

“VISION Vocation Guide” (magazine) and VocationNetwork.org are valuable resources for articles and videos on various discernment topics.  Interactive features on the website include Community Search, Vocation Calendar and Vocation Match.

The SSMO Vocation newsletter also provides information and opportunities to learn and discern.

What unique expectations do you have for someone interested in your Community?

Besides encouraging you to meet regularly (in person or virtually) with the Vocation Director, you will be expected to visit two or three other religious Communities. It is important for you, and for us, to know if your personal charism matches the Charism of the Sisters of St. Mary of Oregon.

We pray daily for people who are discerning their vocation.

Contact our Vocations Director, Sr. Charlene Herinckx, at [email protected] to learn more.