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Vowed Membership
“The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” —Frederick Buechner

If you are a woman whose heart draws you to reach out in love to others, who is seeking to make God the center of your life, and who wants to do so within a circle of friends in community, please consider joining the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Becoming a BVM is a time of growing in relationship and a process of mutual discernment. We encourage you to begin this time in the spirit of wanting to deepen your relationship with God, of being open to self-reflection and greater self-knowledge, and creating healthy relationships with BVM sisters and our associate community. It is our hope that at the end of this discernment time a decision can be made that is life giving for both you and the community.


What is vowed religious life?

A vow is a sacred promise. As women religious in the Catholic Church, we make public vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience to God. Our vows free us to express God’s love, mercy, compassion, and justice in service of God’s people.

What is the difference between a nun and a sister?

While nuns and sisters are both called “sister,” there is a distinction made in the Catholic Church. Nuns take solemn vows and are cloistered, meaning that they reside, pray, and work within the confines of a monastery. Sisters take simple vows and live a life governed by the particular mission, vision, and charism of the respective order or congregation of sisters. Sisters embrace ministries that serve people in hospitals, schools, parishes, social services, or wherever the need is the greatest.

What is the charism of the BVM sisters?

A distinctive quality of our call as a congregation (charism) is expressed in our Constitutions:

God, who is love, has called us to follow Jesus Christ as Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. As women of the church, we are motivated by the vision and courage of Mary, the Mother of God, and of BVM Foundress Mary Frances Clarke. Ours is a pioneer heritage enabling us to move into the future responsive to the Spirit speaking in the exigencies of the time. Our mission of freedom is expressed in ministries of education, justice, and peace. We serve the people of God by living the Gospel in the spirit of simplicity, humility, and charity. Our choice of ministry is in keeping with our BVM mission: being freed and helping others enjoy freedom in God’s steadfast love.

What are the steps to vowed membership?

The timing and length of the following steps are flexible. Initially, a woman comes to know the community in relationship with an Initial Membership Coordinator and BVM sisters who live in her area, and if possible, with others who are discerning religious life.

  • Following this period of introduction, a woman may request to initiate a formal relationship with the congregation; the candidate prays with and participates in local gatherings of the sisters.
  • As a resident candidate, she shares daily life with sisters in a local community and maintains her own ministry.
  • The novitiate is a two-year deepening experience: The canonical year is a time of spiritual growth and learning about the heart of BVM life and how we live out our mission. As a second-year novice, a woman continues to deepen and integrate her experience of BVM life and mission while engaging in ministry and/or formal study.
  • Temporary vows are made at the completion of the novitiate years and renewed until the time of final vows.

Is religious life for me?

Vocation goes much deeper than a job or a career. The question of vocation, or calling, lies within the heart of each individual: How can I use my gifts in relationship to God, oneself, others and all of God’s creation? Talking to a spiritual director can be helpful to discern what the Spirit is suggesting.



Contact Us

For more information about becoming a BVM sister, contact:

Office of BVM Life and Mission
Sisters of Charity, BVM
1100 Carmel Drive
Dubuque, Iowa 52003-7991

BVM Stories

LaDonna Manternach, BVM

LaDonna finds the experience of being a BVM sister empowering. “I felt they were calling me beyond who I knew in myself to be. I think it was calling me out of my comfort zone and I was ready for that.”

Paulette Skiba, BVM

Of her vocation, Paulette shares, “I didn’t want to just do this for one year or two years, I wanted it to be my life.”

Jane Rogers, BVM (Jananne)

As a grief counselor, Jane expresses her gratitude, “I am eternally grateful for all the gifts I have from the community . . . I always knew I had their support and I am so grateful. I couldn’t do it otherwise.”

Marie Corr, BVM (Dona)

After leaving Butte, Mont., to become a BVM, Marie never looked back. “Religious life has been a rich way of life. I was able to do something with my own life personally and know that I was always being supported.”

Judy Callahan, BVM (Eugene Mary)

Actively retired, Judy says, “I have come to a greater awareness and appreciation of what community is. We say that ‘wherever one BVM is, there we all are.’”

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