Our Formation Process
PHILOSPHY of FORMATION
We believe Formation is a life-long process of conversion to the life and mission of Jesus Christ.
We believe this Formation process is a journey that takes place within a community of equal disciples.
We believe in an adult model of Formation that is adapted to the unique and personal needs of the woman who responds to God’s call to love and serve as a Sister of St. Martha of Prince Edward Island.
We believe that Formation has both a personal and a communal dimension.
As Sisters of St. Martha, we are called by our Loving God to follow Jesus Christ in the intimate relationship expressed through love and service.
Commitment to personal growth is the responsibility of each woman. This commitment is exemplified by her openness to God’s grace, her willingness to use available resources, and her active participation in opportunities for growth that are provided.
Each woman’s call is personal and her response is unique. We respect and encourage this uniqueness among us. We encourage creativity and aliveness in our members as “we witness to God’s life-giving love in our apostolic mission.” (Constitutions #3).
Each woman is called to ongoing conversion as she journeys in prayer, in ministry and in community in a spirit of mutual respect and love.
The members of the community have the responsibility to share faith and to promote a climate for positive growth and balanced freedom.
While all are called to live Gospel values, we are guided by the spirit of our founder Bishop Henry O’Leary of the Diocese of Charlottetown. We recognize Bishop Henry O’Leary as being: ~ rooted in the Gospel ~ responsive to the signs of the times as revealed in the vision of the Kingdom. (Constitutions #3)
We are mindful of the spirit of our patroness, St. Martha of Bethany, as portrayed in the Gospel. We show our love for Jesus in a spirit of simplicity, attentiveness, and hospitality.
Building on her life experience, each woman lives and grows within the history and traditions, as well as, the future call of the Sisters of St. Martha.
Process of Formation
For the Sisters of St. Martha this process is based on the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) and is designed in fidelity to the Constitutions and Spirit of the Sisters of St. Martha of PEI.
1. Inquiry Phase 4. Temporary Profession
2. Affiliation Phase 5. Perpetual profession
3. Novitiate 6. Ongoing Formation
1. THE INQUIRY PHASE OF FORMATION
An inquirer is a woman who wishes to explore her vocation to religious Life seriously and is considered a suitable candidate.
An inquirer continues her spiritual journey which has been on-going and will continue throughout her life.
This is a time for questioning and storytelling. It is the time for an inquirer to get to relate to our Sisters by hearing our stories about ourselves as we journey through life.
An inquirer is accompanied by a Sister who is invited by the Sisters and then later joins an accompaniment group who journeys with her in and through the Inquiry Phase. Usually, the accompaniment group meets one weekend a month for 4-6 months up to a year depending on the readiness of the inquirer.
During this time an inquirer maintains her separate lifestyle and financial independence while meeting regularly for further discernment. Appropriate spiritual direction, suggested reading materials, and planned discernment sessions will be provided to the inquirer.
When an inquirer discerns she is ready, as well as the Sister Director and members of the accompaniment Group discern her acceptance, the inquirer is assessed as a possible candidate and a recommendation is made to the Leadership team. If accepted, the inquirer now becomes an affiliate member. The Affiliation Phase is a time of transition as the candidate usually lives in one of the homes of the Sisters to further explore the possibility of religious life as a vocation for her. She will be provided with spiritual and personal development programs as well as with ministry opportunities as she experiences life in community. This affiliation phase will last a number of months and no longer than a year.
Through a process of discernment, the affiliate member, in dialogue with her spiritual director, sponsor and Vocation Director, makes a formal, written request of the Leadership Team to enter the Novitiate Program. This two-year period of initiation allows the novice and the community to discern whether or not the novice has the commitment and desire to live as a Sister of St. Martha of PEI.
The novice will live in an intentional community that is both supportive and challenging. Each community member takes responsibility for a quality of presence that is dedicated to personal, spiritual and community growth.
The novice will take on a program of studies that will include Scripture, prayer, the Vows, Community life and other related topics for personal and spiritual growth as well as for learning.
During the two year Novitiate, the novice will continue with spiritual direction, meet regularly with the Novitiate director, and engage in Prayer of the Church and faith sharing in the community where she lives, as well as participate in Church liturgies and private prayer.
The novice will also be initiated into the “life and service” of the Marthas through visitation and volunteer participation. She will also be mandated to have a community and ministerial experiences outside the Novitiate community.
4. TEMPORARY PROFESSION
At the end of novitiate, the novice may formally express her response to the invitation to follow Christ in this life and she becomes a member of the congregation. She also is free to terminate her participation any time during the Novitiate or upon its completion, decide to return to lay life with the blessing of the community.
This first profession of the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience are renewable for a period of not less than three years and not more than six years.
This stage of formation provides time and opportunity for the goals of the previous stages of formation to be integrated more fully into the life of the individual sister. As a Sister, living as a vowed member, she is engaged in full-time ministry or ministerial preparation.
5. PERPETUAL PROFESSION
After satisfactory discernment, the Sister may request perpetual profession to the religious way of life according to the spirit of our congregation. This ceremony is preceded by at least one month of spiritual preparation.
6. ONGOING FORMATION
These are the days and years of the rest of a committed life. It involves planning, coordinating, celebrating, evaluating, re-visiting all varieties of programs and opportunities designed to foster community living, ministry, renewal of individual sisters, spiritual growth, on-going study and reflection and continued education in many aspects of our life and mission.