Postulants are having their habit "fittings." They learn how to hem and care for their habits. By far though the most exciting part for them is the veil. As they slowly get to try on different parts before the big day, the dear sisters see whether they have a good veil haircut! This begins quite a frantic search for the way to wear ones hair. Everyone wants to look nice on Reception Day. The other exciting part for them is their congregational crucifix. Once they find a chain that is the right length (tall sisters need longer chains, shorter need smaller) it goes to the jewelers. We don't have clasps because they usually break. It is just one long chain. All look forward to the day they come back shiny and "new" from the jewelers so that they can "hold it" overnight before it is put back into the habit closet and locked away for the big day!
The canonical novices feed off the excitement of the others because this is their year "off" from celebrations. They go out of their way to make sure that these days are wonderful for the other sisters. However, they are very ready to emerge from their intense year of formation to begin more apostolic work outside of the novitiate.
Senior novices are by far the most excited and nervous! These days mean making vows, but they also mean going out on the mission and teaching. They have both religious preparation to make but also practical preparation for school. Being changed to a new convent with an apostolic assignment is exciting but scary after spending three years in the Motherhouse. The novices love to shop for school supplies and personal supplies that they may need before they leave (Usually after three years, they are in sure need of new slips among other "worn out" "falling apart" items. Shoes are another big item.). While they are excited for their habits, they are already wearing them so the biggest change is the black veil and ring. Every novice longs for the black veil so they can "fit in" with the crowd but also because of its symbolism. They want to say I have given my life to Jesus.
There is usually an evening when, upon entering the community room, the novices are surprised by the "ring box" being open and all the sisters gathered to watch you try them on and see which one fits best and looks the nicest. Stories of receiving rings 25, 50, or 60 years ago abound and the anticipation of wearing one "for good" grows. We recycle our rings and when a sister dies her ring goes back "in the box" for another sister to wear. The same is true of our crucifixes. It is so special to know that another faithful sister wore that ring because of her consecration before you. The rings carry the inscription, "ego te sponsabo" - to You I am espoused. At final profession the rings are engraved with the hearts of Jesus and Mary on the outside. The chosen ring goes to the jewelers to have the hearts buffed off until the day the sister can say her vows "for all my life."
Junior professed are ready to get some summer rest now that a busy school year is over. Trips to help in the retreat house down the shore and working in our nursing home offer some relatively unstructured fun time to be together. When they come to our formation retreat in August, they prepare for renewal of their vows and enjoy some quiet time. They also enjoy watching everyone else get a little wild about the upcoming events! The sisters who will be making final vows have lots to do before the big day but make sure to have lots of fun also!
As these days draw near please pray for all the sisters who will be making these steps. They are fun-filled, exciting, and prayerful days of preparation for the "next step" of our life in an apostolic religious community. God bless!