If this is the first time you have thought about a religious vocation, there are some simple things you can do to see if religious life or priesthood is for you.
The first thing you want to do is pray and pray especially to the Holy Spirit for insight and guidance.
If one is considering a life of service to God as a brother, sister, deacon, or priest, our life should always begin and end with prayer to ask for the humility to do God’s will. Next, it is key to find a spiritual director. A good spiritual director will walk with you in your questions, hopes, and fears without judging. They will try to get you where you belong, whether that is religious life or not. One way to find a spiritual director is to approach a minister (sister, brother, or priest) and ask if they know of any good spiritual director that could help you discern your future. Be aware that sometimes religious ministers assume whoever comes to ask them about religious life is a vocation for their community; know that you are free to look around. The internet also has resources for finding spiritual directors (vocation.com is one).
After this, if you have not been involved with ministries in the Church, that is a good next step. Try out the youth or young adult group, become a reader or Eucharistic minister at Mass, join a Bible study or prayer group, help the poor, tutor children, teach religious education, or start volunteering in an area that uses your gifts or helps you to build new ones. If these things continue to inspire you, then begin to start researching various religious communities that are involved in the ministries that atract you.
There are many resources to help you with your discernment, such as this ¡OYE! magazine, as well as numerous internet options like oyemagazine.org that provide an online vocation match program. Also, religiousministries.com is another site that will give you information on many religious communities.
If you find that one or more of the communities interest you, then it is time to reach out to their vocation director. Once you do this, they will begin a relationship with you to share more about their group, as well as get to know you and where you are at with the discernment process.
A good vocation director will work with you at your speed and give you opportunities to grow in your calling, whether it is to religious life or not, whether it is their community or not.
After a time, you may be invited to a “Come-and-see” weekend; this is an ideal time to learn more and often when communities invite prospective candidates to apply. Some communities off er extended live-in experiences, which are even more helpful in the discernment process.
Please know that going on a weekend, applying, or even joining a community is not a life commitment; they are all steps of a process that is not permanent for several years.
How do you know this is right? There is no magic answer, but when you feel more energized, happier, and at peace, this is a sign of a vocation. When you desire to be more generous with your time and gifts to serve others, this is also a sign of a vocation. When others say they can picture you in this life, that too is a sign.
When in doubt, remember that Mathew 7:7 says: “Seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”