If a person has a vocation, how can he/she know which community to join? I would like to start with a promise from God's word as the premise for answering your question. "I know well the plans I have in mind for you, says the Lord, (. . . )plans to give you a future full of hope." (Jer. 29:11-14a)
God has a place of service for you in His Church. As you continue seeking His will, He will lead you there. However, there are some things you can do to make sure you are on the right track.
What all religious communities have in common is the profession of the three evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Besides these, each community brings a special gift of service to the Church and that's what makes them different.
Some communities are cloistered where the Sisters devote their lives to prayer and sacrifice in a hidden way for the salvation of souls. Then there are communities devoted to the more active apostolates of preaching the Gospel, caring for the sick, educating, and other works of love and mercy.
The apostolate of our community, which follows the rule of life of St. Francis of Assisi, is to evangelize and bring people into a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit. We do this in many different ways: Prayer, Life and Growth in the Spirit Seminars, youth retreats, Vacation Bible Schools, teachings to prayer groups, parish missions, and several other ways.
Usually when God calls, he puts a desire in the heart to serve in one of these many ways and that can help narrow down the various possibilities. But sometimes He might call you to do something completely different. That's why the process of discerning is a vital part of knowing what God wants for you.
Advice for Discerning
Finally, Pray! Pray! And pray again! Realize as you continue to discern your Religious Vocation by looking into various communities, it is God who calls and sets a person apart for a particular dedication to Himself. With that call He offers the grace to respond. In your correspondence, phone calls, or visits to different Religious Communities, realize that the Vocations Director or Formation Sister who meets with you, is also discerning your suitability to their particular Institute.
In your initial zeal, you may be convinced of where God wants you to serve, and how to go about doing it. I challenge you to be open and docile to the process of finding the community that seems to fit what God is calling you to. But don't revert to discouragement if the community itself recommends you to look elsewhere. Remember, and trust, that the Lord will lead and guide you to where He wants you to be. Pray for a docile and surrendered heart that can say like Mary, "Let it be done to me according to your word." (Lk. 1:38)
Sister Cecilia, DLJC