SO YOU WANT TO BECOME A NUN?
Just what do the Sisters actually do?
The Sisters are a volunteer Order of 21st Century Nuns who take vows of service to their community. Ours is a "ministry of presence" where we interact with our community on a personal basis. The Sisters frequently act as educators, friends and advocates for those in need and comforters to those in distress.
Our mission is to “promulgate universal joy and expiate stigmatic guilt”. The Sisters help members of the community to understand that they are entitled to claim the universal joy that we are all born with. Just as young children find joy in the world, we grownups need to understand that this joy belongs to us as adults as well! Stigmatic guilt is the shame that we feel when society slams us with labels such as “queer” “fat” “ugly” “pervert” etc. We cast aside the stigmatic guilt when we understand that WE ALL are entitled to be happy and healthy JUST AS WE ARE. NO MORE GUILT!!
And just as every community is different, so are the Nuns that work with that community. Some Sisters live in “gay ghettos” and largely focus their work towards “gay ghetto” issues. The RR Sisters are different in that we work in a small and very diverse community of individuals, not just LGBT people. We work with schools, churches, senior centers, and other organizations to raise awareness of their respective issues and challenges and we also assist them in fundraising for their specific projects.
The Sisters have been extremely active in safer sex ministries, directed towards “at risk” members of our community. These “at-risk” members include men who have sex with men, those who use substances that affect their decision making processes, and people new to exploring their sexuality.
Our safer sex ministry is this. It is our mission that all sexually active people know and understand how HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases are spread and what steps they can take to protect themselves from exposure. To this end we provide safer sex information and supplies in a non-confrontational and non-judgemental manner. While we want them to be able to make happy and healthy choices regarding their sexuality, we do not condemn them for the choices that they have made.
We also work with the general public as activists in societal and political arenas, providing awareness of issues impacting the lives of our community members. We do not embrace divisive issues that intrude upon community harmony. We make the best interest of the entire community the decisive factor in addressing issues and challenges.
Who can become a Sister?
Any member of the community over the age of 18 is able to become a member of the Russian River Sisters, regardless of their age, race, sexuality, gender or societal status.
What matters is their desire to serve their community in harmony with the ideals of the Russian River Sisters. We acknowledge that we all are unique individuals and we bring these unique qualities to the Sisterhood, making for a vibrant and diverse Order of Nuns.
Being a Sister requires a lot of different skills and an investment in time, energy and money. In evaluating a potential new member, we look at a number of things. We look for drive, passion and commitment; a desire to perform community service; the ability to handle many tasks with grace; honesty and a genuine character; good people skills and the ability to interact with others in a meaningful way. However, having the drive and skills is not enough. The Order is made up of over 20 people who all must be able to work together smoothly and efficiently. We are far from perfect and, like any family, often have our misunderstandings. Despite that, we all work towards our common goals and often can make miracles happen. A new member must be able to mesh with the Order and should add to the group dynamic, not detract from it.
We are more than just another community service organization: we are Sisters. As with our more traditional counterparts, nearly all of us felt a genuine calling to do this work. There is room for a lot of fun in the Order, but we take our callings and our vows very seriously. The majority of Sisters consider this a lifelong vocation; the path may twist and turn, the outer manifestation may change, but the commitment to service never waivers. Being a Sister can be one of the most challenging and demanding things you can ever do but it also offers some rich and enlightening rewards.
What is the process of becoming a Sister?
If you are interested in joining the Order, we recommend that you attend our events, observe Sisters in action and engage them in conversation. Reading about being a Sister on a website pales in comparison to watching a Sister at work or hearing her individual story. Getting a better idea of who we are and what we do will help you to decide if this is the path for you. And getting to know the Sisters can serve you well as you move through the process. Your path towards Sisterhood starts with a conversation with the Mistress of Novices. During this conversation, the Novice Mistress will assess your motivations for approaching the Order and try to determine if you will be a good fit.
There are four steps to becoming a Sister and the entire process takes at least one year. Below is a very brief explanation of the process.
Aspirancy begins when you declare or “aspire” to join at one of our general membership meetings. This period lasts for at least three months; during this time you are encouraged to develop relationships with the other Sisters, participating in our events and watching how we work and operate. At this stage you are not a member and have no rights within the Order. If you and we both decide that you are a good fit, you will need to get the Novice Mistress' recommendation and select two Fully Professed Members to be your mentors (or Big Sisters). The Membership then votes on your elevation; if you get a two-thirds vote you are elevated to Postulant.
As a Postulant, you are a Member of the Order although you still have no rights. In addition to continuing to further your relationships within the Order, you are required to attend all of our meetings, most of our events and you must spend at least two hours in our Archives learning the history of the Order. You cannot wear whiteface or a wimple, but we do encourage you to wear festive garb that fits in with Order; a Catholic school girl's uniform, for example. Postulancy lasts for at least four months. During this time, if we still agree that you are a good fit, you will need to find a Fully Professed Member to be your sponsor (your Mother). With the Novice Mistress' recommendation and the sponsorship of your Mother, you will be brought up for elevation. Should you get the two-thirds vote required, you will be elevated to Novice.
3. Novice Sister
The Novitiate begins to manifest the outward appearance of a Sister. A Novice wears the whiteface and wimple, although she is only allowed to wear a pure white veil. Despite this, the general public still perceives you to be a Sister and your interactions will radically change. The Novitiate lasts for at minimum of six months. During this time you are a member without rights, you must attend a minimum number of meetings and events and you must spend four hours in our Archives. You are also expected to participate in committees and events planning and execution. With you Mother's help, you must also plan, organize and execute a Novice Project. The project can be an event or other task agreeable to your Mother and beneficial to the order. Once you complete the requirements and have the Novice Mistress' and your Mother's support, you may ask to be elevated to Fully Professed status.
4. Fully Professed (Black Veil)
Although this is the last step in the formal process of becoming a Sister, it is the beginning of a life of Sisterhood. As a Fully Professed Member of the Order, you have all of the rights and privileges of a Member: you may vote, represent the Order and manifest as you feel called to do so. Fully Professed Members also may hold office and help shape the direction and development of the Order. Our Fully Professed Members serve the Order in many different roles; taken as a whole, they make the Order what it is.
What's the first step? How do I aspire?
Still interested in becoming a Sister? Start by getting in touch with our Mistress of Novices, by clicking on 'Contact' above. If you live outside of the Russian River Area, check to see if there is an Order of Sisters near you.