Through the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, a woman chooses to live her life according to the Third Order Rule of St. Francis as a member of the Sisters of St. Francis, Clinton, Iowa. The first years of this relationship are spent in initial discernment. These years provide opportunities for each individual to observe, search, pray, ask questions, and "learn by doing" in order to determine if this way of life is what God is asking of her. After the discernment period, if she believes she is being called by God, she asks to make a life commitment before God, her family, friends, and other Sisters to serve God's people for the rest of her life. Although we share that same choice for our lives, our individual stories are very different.
"Called by God to participate in the mission of Jesus, our growing relationship with God causes us to move outward in service to others."
-Philosophy of Discernment, Sisters of St. Francis, Clinton, Iowa
Step One: Candidating
A woman interested in exploring her call to religious life may apply to become a Candidate. Without necessarily moving from her home or work, she participates for six months to a year in congregational gatherings and meets regularly with the Initial Discernment Coordinator. A small group of Sisters, Associates, and friends -- called a mentoring circle -- as well as a professionally-trained spiritual advisor, will help her process her experiences.
Step Two: The Novitiate
Having decided to pursue her call to religious life, a woman becomes a Novice -- an apprentice learning the Franciscan way and integrating into the mission of the Clinton Franciscans by living in community with other Sisters and participating fully in community life and prayer while continuing to meet with her mentoring circle and spiritual advisor. Maintaining an active ministry, she will study Scripture, the writings of St. Francis and St. Clare, the Third Order Regular Rule of the Franciscans, the social teachings of the Church, and the Clinton Franciscan Chapter commitments.
The Novitiate ordinarily lasts two years. One year is specifically set aside for deepening the Novice's prayer life and for studying the vows, theology, Scripture, prayer, and Franciscan spirituality, as well as the Constitutions and Directives of the Clinton Franciscans. As a volunteer, the Novice engages in a ministry experience with poor and marginalized persons.
Step Three: First Vows/ Temporary Profession
Choosing to formally become a member of the congregation, a Novice requests permission to take the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience as a Clinton Franciscan for three years. She will enter fully into the life of the congregation, living in community and pursuing active ministry. She also continues in the initial discernment process which culminates in final vows.
Step Four: Final Vows/Perpetual Profession
A Sister may remain temporarily professed for three to nine years while she continues to discern her call to Gospel life as a vowed Clinton Franciscan. Perpetual vows bind her to the congregation and the Church for life.
At perpetual profession, the Sister makes the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience for life as a Sister of St. Francis, Clinton, Iowa.