by guest contributor, Postulant Allison
What is a postulant? The quick answer is that a postulant is someone in the first stage of becoming a sister. Postulancy is the start of our preparation after we’ve entered the community. For the Daughters of St. Paul, postulancy generally lasts two years. During this time, we live with the sisters, pray with them, carry out the mission with them, have fun with them, and study with them. But we don’t change our names, we aren’t called “sister,” and we don’t wear a veil (though we do wear a sweater vest).
It’s not always easy being a postulant since there is so much to take in! On top of that, most people have no idea what a postulant is. They see us with the sisters and assume we’re either sisters without veils or students from a Catholic school. As awkward as this can sometimes be (“No, actually I’m 24 years old, thank you!”), it’s a great opportunity for explaining what, exactly, a postulant is.
Being a “Sister-in-Training”
As postulants, we’re a part of the community of professed Daughters, but we also form our own “postulant community,” made up of all the postulants in formation (currently there are four of us) and our formator. The formator is the sister who accompanies us throughout postulancy, with responsibilities ranging from teaching us classes about the community and giving us spiritual direction, to making soup for us when we’re sick and giving us tips on how to best wring out a mop. Our formator is the sister who helps us transition to convent life and go deeper in discerning our vocation.
So, What’s it Like?
We postulants live at our convent in St. Louis, Missouri, with five professed sisters. We spend our days praying, helping with the mission, studying, and learning what it’s like to live in community. In the summer, we go to our motherhouse in Boston, Massachusetts, where we meet more of the sisters, gain experience in the publishing aspect of the Pauline mission, and make our five-day annual retreat.
It’s hard to give someone an overall sense of what postulancy is like (if you really want to know, just come and visit us!), but here are the answers to some questions we get asked pretty regularly:
It’s Not Prison
Are you allowed to leave?
Yes. Believe it or not, they do not keep us locked up. Postulancy is a time of deeper discernment, so it is understood that we might realize that God is calling us to do something else with our lives. The sisters just want God’s will to be done, and they’re there to support us on our journey, wherever it may lead.
Do you have free time?
Free time? What’s that?
Just kidding. Usually three evenings a week are set aside for us to have time to ourselves, though when our schedules become busy this can get shifted around. Learning how to be flexible and available is a big part of postulancy.
It’s Certainly Not Boring
Are you allowed to have fun?
Yes, we’re even encouraged to have fun. We spend three nights a week in recreation, which is convent code for “fun time.” We take turns choosing what we do together, and it can be anything from watching a movie to having a dance party to playing basketball to reciting poetry. But it’s not like we only have fun during recreation. Daughters of Saint Paul like to laugh. And a good sense of humor is not just permitted; in many ways it’s essential for community life.
What’s your day like?
I’d love to answer that, but we do so much every day that it would take another whole blog post to answer. Which isn’t a bad idea…
Do you like being a postulant?
Yes, I really do. I’ve learned a lot about myself as a person and about how to live in a community with other people. Most importantly, I’ve come to love and appreciate God so much more because of my time here. (God is way cooler than I gave him credit for.) Oh, and I got to hold an alligator once, which was pretty cool. That’s not a required part of postulancy, though, don’t worry.
You Don’t Have to be Perfect
What I love most about postulancy is that it’s all about learning. Nobody expects you to be perfect or know what you’re doing when you walk in the door. Being open to that learning and coming to listen to God more deeply has been a great joy in my life, and I am so glad Jesus invited me to enter the postulancy of the Daughters of Saint Paul.
Postulant Allison entered the convent of the Daughters of Saint Paul in 2017.