/ Religious Life
The Religious life is a state in which the faithful, over and beyond the observance of the Commandments, seek to consecrate themselves without reserve to God by the observance of the evangelical counsels. In making the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, a religious removes the three great obstacles to union with Almighty God. By the vow of poverty she relinquishes the goods of the world. By the vow of chastity she gives up the goods of the flesh. And by the vow of obedience, she gives up what is more dear than all else, her very self, her own will and judgment.
After this separation, the religious soul is set free from all earthly attachments and takes its flight toward God to find its rest in Him alone. But this a work is not accomplished overnight. Rather it is the result of concentrated effort and ceaseless prayer during the six years given over to a Sisters' formation.
In following one's vocation as a religious Sister, four steps are taken: that of postulancy, novitiate, temporary profession, and ﬁnal profession.
During the postulancy, the aspirant is given a "taste" of the life of the Religious. She learns the routine of community life under the vigilance of the Mistress of Novices. She takes part in the Sisters' life of common prayer. She performs some duties of the apostolate so that she may better understand what will be required of her as a Religious. During this time, the aspirant retains her Baptismal name, to which is added the title “Sister". The duration of the postulancy is six months.
The Novitiate is a two-year period. During this very important stage of the Religious life, the aspiring Sister applies herself to acquire necessary virtues and to cultivate an interior spirit.
A Sister is called to reach perfection by complete union with Almighty God and to lead others to Him in the active apostolate. She will never benefit others and will fail to attain sanctity herself, should she embark on the active life without first establishing herself firmly on the path of virtue and real union with God. An important maxim of the spiritual life is, "You can only give what you have." A Sister can never expect to uproot vice in others and lead them up the steep path of virtue if she has not tread the way herself.
To this end, the novice does not take part in the active apostolate; but rather, she devotes her time to prayer, study, and various duties within the convent the better to assist her in this all-important preparation for the religious life and for active work in the community.
The Novitiate commences with the beautiful Vestition ceremony in which the Sister receives her name in religion and her religious habit. She exchanges her own name in the world for that of Mary, the Mother of God, and appends to this the name of a saint, whom she takes as her special patron. The novice is clothed in the habit of the community. This consists of a white wool dress, a white guimpe, and a black ﬁfteen-decade rosary to be worn at her side. The novice wears a white veil.
At her temporary profession, the Sister makes temporary vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience for three years. The professed Sister exchanges the white veil of her novitiate for that of the professed Sister, and receives the golden medallion of the Sisters of St. Thomas Aquinas in which is kept a parchment of her vows. During the three years of temporary profession, the Sister takes up duties in the active apostolate and may be assigned to another house of the Congregation should this be deemed necessary.
Final profession is the last step taken by the religious. Having lived in the convent for nearly six years, the Sister, if she and her Superiors believe that she truly has a religious vocation, will make perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. At the ﬁnal profession ceremony, she receives the golden ring of a Bride of Christ. She binds herself irrevocably to Christ as His spouse.