The search for religious life with the Sisters of St.Anne - Madras (SSAM) passes through different stages as it is a growing into religious life. These stages diversify in their length of time. The following are the stages we follow in forming the young girls into religious in our Congregation: Vocation Facilitation, Initial Formation, Aspirantate (one year), Pre-Novitiate (one year), Novitiate (two years), Juniorate Formation and Tertianship
We, the Sisters of St.Anne - Madras who listened to the voice of God as prophet Jeremiah who stood up and said in loud voice, “for surely I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. Then, when you call upon me and come and pray to me I will hear you, when you search for me, you will find me, if you seek me with all your heart” (Jer 29:11 - 13), have a mandate to invite followers for Christ.
Vocation is a gift given to us by God to be united with Him personally and bear witness to Him. Jesus Christ calls others also through us, hence it is our responsibility both as individuals and as communities to foster vocation to enable the youth to work for the Kingdom of God through our Congregation.
Aspirancy is known as a time of searching. The aspirant and the Congregation come to know each other and together discern the aspirant’s call to Annites’ way of life. The Aspirants’ Mistress assists the aspirant in her growth towards spiritual, social and emotional maturity. The aspirant will grow in her relationship with Christ through personal prayer, spiritual reading and discernment.
A woman applying for the aspirancy should be at least 18 years of age and normally not over the age of 30. She will have completed her secondary education with adequate points to enable her to later pursue a professional education. The period of aspirancy is one year.
This period is a time of discernment intended to help young women make their personal decision regarding God’s plan for them. The purpose of this stage is to provide young women who show signs of having a religious vocation with the necessary formation as they prepare to follow Christ with a generous spirit and purity of intention.
During this stage of formation, they are taught the value of silence, study, work, rest, etc., seeing to it that they observe these with an upright intention and exactness and considering these values to be advantageous as a disciplinary, formative and educational process for their future postulancy. Emphasis is given to maximizing the potential of all their qualities, attitudes and human and Christian capacities that allow them to discover their vocation and respond appropriately.,
The formation program during Aspirancy seeks to be a process for continuing discernment of the possibility of an authentic call from God to our Congregation, provide human - spiritual - intellectual - pastoral and ministerial formation and evaluate each aspirant yearly by the Formator.
Our candidates are trained in our formation house to have pleasant personality with character in order to bring forth committed religious to work in the vineyard of God. The spirit of our Foundress Servant of God Mother Thatipathri Gnanamma, the spirituality of our Congregation, the shepherding leadership, the systematic syllabus and the methodical training bring about a real change in their lives that they will certainly bloom into beautiful and integrated persons in our Mother Congregation.
The vision of the pre- novitiate is to make the pre-novices fully aware of what God’s call really means in one’s life.
As we feel that the pre-novitiate formation involves the whole person, we programme a holistic formation concentrating on human development, spiritual life, community life, intellectual life and socio - apostolic life
Novitiate holds an indispensable place in formation and in the entire religious life into which it is to be an authentic initiation, an encounter between the love of the Lord who has called and the love of the disciple who responds with the gift of herself which embraces all the dimensions of her life. The two years of a novice’s life is spent in the novitiate programme. During the novitiate the novices experience the manner of life of our Congregation and form their minds and hearts in its spirit.
The chief aim of the novitiate is to help the novices to have a greater understanding of their divine vocation as enunciated by the Charism, Constitutions and Statutes of our Congregation. The aims of the novitiate are clearly defined by the Canon Law and our Constitutions. The novitiate aims at the formation of the candidate to be capable of real commitment to the following of Jesus for the service of His Kingdom. This implies: interiorizing the option made for Jesus and a progressive discovering of the demands of the Gospel; testing their own capacities for commitment and interested service, especially to the poor and the needy; learning to live in communion with God through a life of prayer that integrates all that it implies to become a ‘contemplative-in-action’; discovering the deeper meaning of the Evangelical Counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience and to be trained in a way of life consecrated to God and to humankind; studying the Constitution of the Society and prepare them to live its Charism and Mission; and understanding the authenticity of their motivation, their emotional maturity and personal integrity with which they can take up the obligations of the committed life in St.Anne’s Society.
The four fundamental goals during this time are the verification of one’s vocation; a more intimate relationship with the Lord; the growth in authentic self-knowledge and an increasing love for our Congregation.
It is a time of Sabbath. The novitiate stage is a two year program. The first or canonical year is a time of relative seclusion. Its character is more enclosed, focused and involves a curtailment of outside contacts. Although more experiential than academic, the novitiate is a period in which the Novice begins the process of assimilating a basic foundation and understanding of religious life and specifically our way of life. The goals of the first year program center around the development of a personal spiritual life, an appreciation for liturgical prayer, an understanding of the tradition of our Congregation, gaining a sense of ministry by simple acts of service as well as continued human and psycho sexual growth and development.
In our novitiate, we initiate the first year novices gradually into the essential and primary requirements of the religious life through prayer, reflection and instruction. The first year novice’s time is devoted principally to deepening her spiritual life.02. The second year
(i). Formation to apostolic mission model of religious life
Only through radical commitment to the poor and the oppressed can one claim to follow the Lord more freely as He presents Himself in the Gospel. This model has taken a new dimension in the last few years. Radical commitment to the poor and the oppressed is seen as not merely liberating them from economic bondage, but establishing right relationship with them. It is not doing things for others. It is becoming a sister to the other. This needs a radical change in attitude to people especially the poor. This attitude can come about only if the formee is inserted in the midst of the poor, share their struggles, hopes and begin to have a heart for them. This is possible only when the heart of the person is centered on God. Formees need to be helped to realize that they are not merely social reformers rather they are transformers of society based on the Gospel values. Their concern needs to be people and not mere achievements.
(ii). Experience - reflection mode
is experience that forms, not theory. The whole method of formation is in the experience-reflection mode. Hence various levels of experience are organized and reflection and assimilation follow. We give emphasis to experience than with theory.
(iii). Clarity about Charism living
It is experience that forms, not theory. The whole method of formation is in the experience-reflection mode. Hence various levels of experience are organized and reflection and assimilation follow. We give emphasis to experience than with theory.
(iv). Learning to be contemplative with apostolic love
The second year novitiate stage continues to prepare the novice to combine contemplation with apostolic love in a formation that is spiritual, communal, intellectual and apostolic. The novices are guided through a more intense study of the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience in preparation for their first profession.
The religious is not just called and consecrated once. The call of God and the consecration by Him continues throughout life, growing and developing in mysterious ways. All through her life the religious is being formed so that she becomes more like Christ; sharing His mind, His way of loving and serving and His total gift of Himself to His Father.
Each religious community helps each junior to grow in knowledge of God and relationship with Him through prayer. The support of the community helps them to stay faithful to the vows and consecration to God. God’s grace is absolutely essential for the living of the consecrated life.
In our Congregation, we have different levels and varied designs of formation. The most crucial part of that formative structure is tertianship programme. For it is in this phase, we get a band of mature individuals whom the Congregation accepts as professed members committed to the mission of St.Anne’s. By this, we realize a deep sense of ownership on the part of the Congregation and commitment on the part of the formee.
Having gone the full cycle of studies (Novitiate, academic courses) and then a few years of apostolic work, Tertianship gives the young sisters the opportunity to re-immerse herself in the spirituality of our Congregation. This includes experiencing, for the second time, the thirty day retreat of the spiritual exercises, studying our history, Constitutions, Church and the society. After the retreat, Tertians then go for insertion experiences, often to live among the poor and the marginalized, similar to those made in the novitiate. It is a time to spend in a quiet atmosphere in order to keep in touch with oneself, one’s feelings and one’s process and areas of growth. During this period each tertian is enabled to grasp more deeply and realistically the vision of the foundress.