Answering a call to religious life requires an initial period of training and formation both in the spiritual and consecrated life as in the particular charism of each institute. This stage is known as initial formation.
The process of formation is not ended when a Sister makes her perpetual profession, for even then, a Sister must continually renew her response through on-going formation on religious life and training for the apostolic activities of the institute.
The process of formation fosters conversion, which increasingly conforms one's life to that of Jesus in holiness and perfect love. This is a life-long process of "putting on Jesus Christ" and living "in accord with the Spirit." However, the initial stages of that process is essential to laying a strong foundation for fulfilling one's vocation to consecrated life.
For the Disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, this process includes the following stages:
After a period of corresponding with the vocation directress, a candidate may apply to be accepted in the pre-admision program, which consists in a period of Aspirancy and Postulancy.
The Aspirancy lasts at least three months. The aspirant lives in St. Bonaventure Formation House at Prayer Town and participates in the life of the community. She continues to wear lay clothes during this stage. She also receives classes to familiarize her with the spirituality and history of the community, as well as general notions of Religious Life, and Scripture study.
If she completes that stage she may request to be admitted in the Postulancy.
The Postulancy lasts for nine months. The postulant lives in St. Bonaventure Formation House at Prayer Town and participates in the life of the community. She wears a simple uniform consisting of a black skirt and white blouse, and black shoes or sandals. She also wears the community's crucifix.
She receives classes on the community's Rule (The Rule and Life of the Brothers and Sisters of the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis) and Constitution. She also receives classes on, among other subjects, the Basics of the Faith, Scripture study, and the History of the Franciscan Order. She participates in the work and ministries of the community as an apprentice.
After completion of the Postulancy, she may request to be admitted into the Novitiate.
A young woman officially becomes a member of the community when she enters the Novitiate, as a learner. She also receives the habit of the community, with the white veil of a novice. At the reception to the Novitiate, she also receives the TOR rule.
The Novitiate lasts two years, of which the first one is called a "canonical" year. During the first year the Novice does not participate in apostolates, and she concentrates more in her studies. On the second year she participates in the apostolic activities of the community, although continuing with her study program.
The classes that she receives during the Novitiate include, among others: a more in-depth study of Religious Life, History of the Church, Franciscan Spirituality, Scripture, basic Theology, and so on.
By the end of her Novitiate, a novice may submit a request to make her first vows. If she is accepted, she will profess her vows of Chastity, Poverty and Obedience, as well as the promise of Fellowship in the Spirit, for one year, then renew it for another year, and then renew it for two years, before making her Perpetual Vows.
During this time the sister is already a consecrated woman, yet does not have the same degree of responsibilities and privileges of a Perpetually Professed sister. She participates in the life, work, and apostolates of the community, while continuing to have classes and study time. On the day of her First Profession the Sister receives a gray veil and the Constitution of the institute.
At the end of the Temporary Profession stage the sister may request to be admitted for Perpetual Profession. At her Perpetual Profession a sister makes her vows "for the rest of her life." She now wears the blue band on her veil signifying her consecration to Mary, and a ring on her hand as a sign of her consecration for life.
Although the time for formal classes is over, the sister takes responsibility to continue her human and spiritual growth through reading, study and spiritual direction. She makes an effort to continue her formation so as to better live out her consecrated life each day.
Perpetually Professed members have a greater degree of responsibilities and privileges in the community. They bear the duty of live the charism that the Lord entrusted to the community and pass it on to younger ones, while bearing abundant fruit for the Church through the witness of their consecrated lives, their prayers, and their apostolic activities.