Based on the theology of Dominican St. Thomas Aquinas that grace builds on nature, the formation period takes into consideration the individuality of each candidate, with clearly defined objectives in each phase of formation. It reflects the centrality accorded to charity, and being solidly based in Sacred Scripture and Christian Doctrine, it shapes lives. One of the tasks of the novice director is to teach the novice to “suspect the good.”
1) Inquirer: After her initial contact with the community, the young woman communicates with the novice mistress by letter and personal visits to discern if the Lord is calling her to the Dominican monastic life. Sister shares information on the contemplative life and the monastery, and also offers guidance and advice.
2) Aspirant: The community invites the inquirer to experience the monastic life for a duration of several weeks by making an aspirancy. The aspirant will live in the monastery enclosure and gain first-hand knowledge to assist her in making her choice to embrace the life.
3) Postulant: When the aspirant decides to pursue her vocation, she applies to enter the community, and upon its approval, she becomes a postulant, and begins her initial formation classes in the novitiate, which includes such subjects as Sacred Scripture, Christian Doctrine, Dominican History, and Monasticism. The postulancy lasts for approximately one year. The postulant wears a blue veil, white blouse and blue jumper.
4) Novice: After the postulancy, the next step of commitment is the novitiate period, which lasts for two years. The sister is clothed with the Dominican habit and white novice veil, and may be given a new religious name. Her knowledge of the life is deepened and intensified through classes on the Vows, the Liturgy, the Sacraments, and the Nuns’ Constitutions, all to prepare her for her eventual first profession of vows.
5) Temporary Professed Sister: On the vote of the community, the sister is admitted to first profession, and makes vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in the hands of the prioress for a period of three years. She continues her studies, this time in philosophy and theology, in the nuns’ theological formation program. The sister renews her vows for one year and begins her year of integration in the professed community. She moves out of the novitiate, and lives with the professed community, and takes on more responsibilities and work assignments in the monastery.
6) Solemnly Professed Sister-“A Bride of Christ”: On the vote of the community, the sister makes her final commitment in spousal love to the Lord and to the Order of Preachers by professing obedience to the Dominican way of life “until death.” The sister is now a member of the monastery chapter, the governing body of the monastery. Although her initial formation is concluded, her on-going formation in the life is continuous and perpetual, assisted by classes, retreat conferences, and community study projects.