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Friday, January 09, 2009

Vocations Placement

Tonight at Mass, I learned that in the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis, this is Vocations Awareness weekend.

"How timely!", I thought to myself, as I have a little to say on this topic...

Often, someone just beginning to discern their Vocation, or maybe someone just wanting to do some research to check out their options, hits the internet as a way to do this quietly. It's what I did, and I found a wealth of information. Perhaps too much.

I didn't know the real difference between a Franciscan or a Benedictine or a Dominican. And then I found out there were Carthusians, Trappists, and Norbertines. And random Augustinians, and other varying communities. Where to begin?

Some time ago, I received an email from, and at the time I was working on putting together a presentation/information / resources for confirmation candidates, and of course, others who might be interested. I remember checking out the site and I took their placement "test", noting that I was "just browsing". (I'm not sure if that was the term or not).

Since then I've gotten random emails from them on updates and such, but never went back, not having a need, either personally or professionally.

Well, every so often, even from the professional end, I check things out to see if they should be on our list of resources and I couldn't remember my experience at Vocations Placement. So I went back, and since my personal circumstances have changed (i.e. I am seriously interested in religious life), I checked a different box to indicate that.

I might have mentioned this site once before, or read about it on another blog, as I seem to recall a commenter stating she'd gone there and checked that she was seriously interested, but did NOT want the Communities that fit her profile to be contacted on her behalf. She, like me, wanted information only. She was inundated with emails from these different communities.

Now, the site asks you to fill out your info, requiring your address, phone, and it asks you to log in with a user name and password so you can come back to make changes and not have to go through the test every time. They ask if you are looking for habited only, or non-habited only, or maybe you just don't care which. It's a non-biased test, looking for your preferences, ostensibly to find a "placement" for you. They ask you if you're interested in Dominicans or Benedictines, and even have one place to add any info; such as, if you know the name of a community offhand, a particular group, a particular spirituality (ie Augustinian; many communities have an Augustinian Rule, but there isn't an Augustinian Order that I know of, at least to the degree of the big ones).

Now, on the surface, it seems like this is a good idea; that it can help you narrow your search, or provide information on a cross-section that might be your interest at the given moment.

After completing the test, I also wrote in a few things, where indicated, as I actually know what I'm looking for. I'd asked specifically in a checked box to send me info on Dominicans and ONLY habited communities. I also indicated that I did NOT want any communities to be contacted.

I prefer to make the contact myself if I'm interested so as not to waste anyone's time.

Well, here's what happened:

* My browser crashed and I was booted out of the site while starting to take a second test with regard to...well, something else. I forget. I tried to go back and log in, but there was no place to log in to my own account. It appeared I'd have to retake the test once again, and I didn't have time. Thank God I didn't!

* A few hours later, I received over 25 or 30 seperate emails, each with information on an individual community. I didn't click on all of them, just a few to see what types of things they sent. I realized IMMEDIATELY that they did not answer my specific requests of Dominican and habited communities. In fact, they sent me Carmelites, Benedictines and non-habited Dominicans.

* Some of them seemed to be fine; I learned of a community of hermits or anchoresses, offering different options and a website. Unfortunately the website isn't yet developed and all one gets is the the name, the fact they are Augustinian, cloistered, and there's a photograph of nature. I also found a Dominican cloistered community that hasn't been listed on other sites (to my knowledge).


* I am now receiving emails from Vocations Directresses at these various communities. The first I received was from a Carmelite cloistered community, the second, from a Cistercian community in Wisconsin. (I didn't know they were there!).

Please note; I definitely did not indicate interest in Carmelite communities; the spirituality doesn't appeal to me, nor does their lifestyle. But God bless them! I may have clicked on Cistercian, just out of curiousity, not really realizing they would get an email to contact me.


So now, I'm in a bind. Firstly, I have a ton of mail in my inbox, and created a folder just in case there's something useful there, if not for me, than for someone else. I'm always happy to highlight a cool religious community on my blog especially if I haven't seen it elsewhere. So, I can deal with "junk mail"; it's part of life in this world. We all have to deal with it.

But I have a problem with the fact that all these Vocations Directors all over the country and maybe Canada are getting "false positives" on a potential vocation to their essence, they're getting junk mail indirectly from ME! And of course, they are responding with some very nice email invitations and questions about where I am in my discernment, etc.

Now I have to wonder...should I respond to apologize that they received my request in error? Did the Sister in question type up the response and send it herself, or is it a template? (I'm hoping the latter is the case!) Or should I respond, even to ask that info be sent to my work, for it would be good to have those materials around?

The email from the Cistercian Sister was an especially nice one and it makes me want to respond, even though I'm not interested in living that particular way of life. Then again, one never knows. After all , my good globe-trotting-outgoing-socialite friend is now in a Benedictine cloister headed for simple vows, then likely permanent vows a few years from now.

God has a sense of humor.

So I have to say I don't recommend the site as a good resource for someone who is seriously looking...but is perhaps more directed and focused in what she is looking for. I also would not recommend it to my Confirmation students, for fear they might be innundated by all sorts of things...and destroy a potential Vocation just by overwhelming them with information they aren't equipped yet to handle. In fact...who really is equipped to sort through all that without at least SOME foundation or exterior direction?

It kind of reminds me of choosing a college. Remember after you took the ACT or SAT how you were innundated with college materials? It's hard enough to sort that stuff out without adding thousands of religious communities to the mix!

Certainly the site can be helpful in isolated ways if you don't mind putting up with a lot of stuff that you shouldn't have to. Remember, I found out about a couple communities I didn't know existed. Unfortunately, even though they aren't for me, they may start sending me information I don't need or want, or take the time to contact me. That's a waste of their very valuable time and it shouldn't be happening.

There are better sites out there; stick with those.

I recommend:

Institute on Religious Life / IRL
Holy Vocations (blog - TONS of great resources for men and women!)
Roman Catholic Vocations (blog - news stories, photos, TONS of great resources including blogs of priests and religious)
Council of Major Superiors of Women Religious

There are others, including specific communities, but the above links can give you a good start and they DON'T involve contacting anyone you don't want to contact unless or until you are ready.

Happy Discerning!


Joe of St. Thérèse said...

To put it loosely, sometimes, it's God that could be speaking, yet our hearts are hardened to the message by whatever blocks us...If it's REALLY not the direction that God wants us to go, God himself will send the detour sign, it will not be of our own doing ;)...

Adoro said...

Joe ~ Sorry, but....wait a minute...WHAT? I'm not understanding exactly what you're responding to here!

MemoriaDei said...

The Cistercian nuns in Wisconsin is the same as what I just had my novitiate oblate ceremony with !

I filled out a long form answering questions and got the same amount of emails from so many places. I looked at it as a door that might be opened by God that we had not already thought of. Found a wonderful order that I can't do, but would SO recommend it for anyone thinking of this type of religious life.

Anyway...I thought for sure that I would be led to Dominicans and then found out God had me set for an entirely different path. God writes straight with crooked lines.


Unknown said...


ignorant redneck said...

I have twice entered a period of discernement. Once, in my youth--just before I misspent it--I even entered novitiate.
That didn't work, as the sexual ethic of the community didn't work for me. they were all gay, and active.

The second time, I met with my SD, read, studied, prayed and realized that my vocation was to do what had been set in front of me, and I'd be doin' good to get that much done.

But keep your eyes and mind open, because it can be suprizing what the Lord has in store for us.

Shall I ad you to my 'vocation project' list?

Adoro said...

IR ~ You allude to that problem on your blog. I don't know how all that happened, but I'm very sorry it was the case...very, very sorry. THAT'S not holiness!

God is amazing and surprising, so yes, please put me on your "project list" whatever it is! And thank you!

Sr. Denise LaRock said...

Being a vocation director I happened onto your blog! As far as your wealth of junk mail--the vocation directors wouldn't mind a reply that lets them know you are not interested. We know those things happen and we don't want to keep sending people things they do not want. I highly recommend the website for Vision Guide. They have a more complete survey so that the communities listed at the end fit you personally better. Also, there is an obvious button to click on if you want your info sent. In addition to the survey "vocation match" there are articles and other info. Check it out! God bless your search for your call! Sr. Denise, DC

Adoro said...

Sr. Denise ~ Thanks for your comment...and I'm happy to know it's not as much as an irritation to you as I feared! I did also take the test at Vision, although it had the same flaws I find in this one.

There probably isn't really a perfect system anywhere.

God bless!

Rachel said...

Thanks for the warning about that site!

Anonymous said...

Rachel ~ It has some usefulness, just be aware of the drawbacks. I've learned about communities I didn't know about before, and that's a good thing. However, if you don't want all the emails and mailings, it's best to avoid it!