Frequently Asked Questions
How do I know if I have a vocation to be a Carmelite nun?
If you are asking yourself this question and reading this page, it's possible that seeds of a vocation are already taking root in your heart. Admitting this is an important first step. Discerning a vocation properly takes time, effort and prayer and you will have to make leaps of faith - you will probably never feel 100% sure. This is because responding to God's call is an act of faith. Contacting a community, getting to know them and learning more about their way of life is a very important and helpful step in taking it further.
How long does it take to become a Carmelite nun?
As soon as someone makes contact, wanting to discern with us, the journey begins.
After an initial meeting with the Prioress and formators, an enquirer can ask to come back and stay for a while in the guest flat. If she would then like to pursue this further, the community might invite her to live alongside them in community for a few weeks. We call this aspirancy. Then after a period of reflection, prayer and discernment the aspirant can ask to either come back for a further live-in or ask to be admitted formally into the community. This step is called postulancy and lasts for about a year. The postulant is free to leave at any time at this stage.
Towards the end of this period, the community evaluates the postulant's sense of ease with the life and if she herself wishes to continue in her discernment, she will be invited to begin the novitiate. This is a time of intense discernment and preparation for vowed commitment to God as a Carmelite, which will be known as temporary Profession. The period of novitiate usually lasts two years and is a journey of self-discovery and living with others at close quarters. Its focus is to develop a life of prayer, silence and solitude, balanced by a joyful community life, according to the mind of St Teresa of Avila. These practicalities will help the novice to understand what commitment to the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience would entail so as to live as joyfully and fulfilled a life as is God's plan for us. During this time, the novice is still free to leave at any point.
Towards the end of these two years, should the novice wish to make Profession as a Carmelite, she will formally request to do so. If the community agree she will then go forward and make public Profession of the vows for three years. During this time of temporary Profession, should the Professed novice wish to leave, she will need a formal dispensation.
The overall time of initial formation before final vows is currently about nine years.
Is there an age limit?
We think it is important to have some experience of a normal working life before entering Carmel, so we would not normally accept anyone younger than 25. Our upper age-limit is normally 50 but there can be exceptions depending on individual circumstances.
Do you accept new members from outside the UK?
Because we live in an enclosed monastery and make a lifelong commitment, candidates must be able to fulfil the requirements of the UK Immigration Authority for long-term residency in the UK. We would expect any non-British applicants to have obtained citizenship, permanent residency in the UK or a British passport before approaching us.
Do you accept women who have been married?
Having been married is not necessarily an obstacle to entering Carmel. However, it is important that anyone seeking to enter does so with complete freedom from obligations outside the monastery. If you have children or grandchildren, even if they are grown-up, they should be your first priority. It would be difficult for you to be available for them from within an enclosed monastery.
I have elderly parents who might require care in the near future. Can I still enter?
We think the duty of care for our parents is very important and it has been known for Sisters to take time away from the monastery to care for elderly or ill parents. Initial formation is not a good time for this and so we would encourage anyone in this position to put their responsibility to their parents first.
Can I enter if I have personal debts?
Before making Solemn vows, Carmelite nuns must dispose of any personal property. Likewise any personal debts should have been paid off. If someone makes a real effort to pay off their own debts before entering, we would take this as a good indicator of integrity and determination.
Do I need any special qualifications?
Education to at least secondary level must have been completed. Apart from that, the only 'qualification' you need is a sincere desire to discover God's will for you. St Teresa always looked for a 'determined determination' and good common sense in those who sought to enter her Carmels.
Do I have to be a Roman Catholic?
If you feel attracted to our way of life but you are not a Catholic, we would still encourage you to get in touch and see if you would like to discern the way forward with us. You should be aware that Canon Law requires anyone entering a Roman Catholic religious order like the Carmelites to have been a Roman Catholic for at least three years.
Can I still see my family and friends?
We freely choose to live in enclosure to help us foster silence, solitude and a deeper attentiveness to the love of Christ who has called us. This creates an atmosphere of prayer which bears witness to God's loving presence. Our families are welcome to visit once a month if they are able, although in practice it tends to be less often. If they are travelling some distance, they can stay for a few days in our guest flat. We do not visit our families unless there is a very serious need. Visits from friends usually occur less often and for a shorter time.