When a young woman first arrives at the Convent she becomes a postulant. Postulancy is a period of time which intervenes between the acceptance of a person into religion and the beginning of the novitiate, and during which the young woman is initiated into religious life.
Postulants need to be at least eighteen years of age, of sound physical and mental health, and having the capacity to teach and study. Our constitutions strictly forbid the acceptance of anyone who is unable to read, those with notable deformities of body or with exceptional defects of character.
The entry date for postulants is usually (not necessarily) during January. The postulancy has a duration of between six to twelve months, ending prior to the reception of the habit in January. Postulants do some study as well as taking classes.
A period of pre-postulancy may be required if aspirants are under eighteen years old, if they have language difficulties or if they need extra time to adjust to religious life. Both postulants and pre-postulants wear a simple attire consisting of a black skirt and white blouse.
After the postulancy comes the Novitiate, that period of time given to a candidate so that she can become acquainted with the rule and routine of the congregation and find out for herself if she is capable of observing them faithfully, prior to making vows. It also allows the congregation to assure itself concerning the disposition, habits, intelligence and capacities of the aspirant.
The two-year novitiate begins on the day that the young woman receives the habit of the Order and the white veil. The first year is a canonical year of formation, while in the second year the Sister is permitted to do part-time teaching. During the canonical year, the novice concentrates on her own spiritual formation. To use an analogy, if we think of the religious life as being like a magnificent building, then the novitiate is like the time when the strong and sturdy foundations are laid: a good building needs a good foundation. During the canonical year the novice is not permitted to work in the apostolate (that is, she cannot teach), and she is not permitted to study secular subjects, although she may keep up a skill, such as maintaining her current knowledge of Latin or of a musical instrument.
At the end of the two Novitiate years, if the Novice and the Congregation are still of the same mind, the Novice is accepted for Profession. As other Dominicans do, she makes only a vow of obedience but she understands that she is also binding herself to poverty and chastity. These vows are made for three years at first, then renewed for another two years. During this time the Sister wears a black veil. At the end of her temporary vows the Sister can make Final Profession, and at this ceremony she is given the gold ring of a Sister with permanent vows.