What is a Postulant?

The article below is an excerpt taken from “And The Truth Shall Set You Free,” a weekly podcast series hosted by Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP. The producer of the series was GoLEDigital, a digital community created by the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist.

For the Audio Presentation of this article, click here:

Today we have two very special guests who are very dear friends of mine and our entire community. Sr. Amata Veritas and Sr. Mary David Klocek. These two sisters have been involved in formation much of their religious life. I thought they would be perfect because some of you girls out there wondering about a religious vocation might have heard the term postulancy in the course of your discernment. The postulants are the young women who enter and are in the first year of their formation. Sister Mary David and Sister Amata Veritas, both involved in religious formation, are here to discuss this very important year.

For the Video Presentation of this article click here:

Sr. Joseph Andrew:
Why is this first year, this year of postulancy, so important?

Sr. Amata Veritas:
I think it’s important for a lot of reasons. When you enter as a postulant, you’ve spent this whole time discerning and talking with your family. You continue to discern as a postulant, but now you’ve left what is familiar to you and are in the reality of the everyday, living religious life, living the schedule, praying with the sisters, recreating with the sisters, learning with the sisters. So now this life becomes your own. It’s not just something you have thought about, but your daily reality. So that’s an important part of the beginning of discernment.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:
Sister Mary David, from your own postulancy, or from your formation work with many young women who are entering our community, thanks be to God, what would you say is one of the most common difficulties for young women?

Sr. Mary David:
That’s a great question. I think the answer kind of depends on the person, and also, in particular, the age at which a person enters because their lived experience is going to color what the transition looks like. For me, I was 25, so I had worked and gone to college and been out of school a few years. I was a teacher and worked at a pregnancy help center in Milwaukee. And so when I entered, it was coming from being a single woman in the world and having control of my schedule. It was a pretty full schedule, but it was my schedule. I decided when I went places and when I would go to Adoration and when I would stay up a little later and do what I wanted to do. When you enter, your time is suddenly not your own. It belongs to the Lord in a way that you might not expect because most of the day is scheduled, and moreover it is scheduled to be with the other sisters. And so I think – no matter what age you enter – the aspect of community life is an adjustment. If you come from a good family, there’ll be many similarities. But there’ll also be differences because we all have different backgrounds, whereas in your family, you have the same family background, family culture, family humor. In your first year, you begin to learn a lot about yourself and that you can, by living with these women, acquire a much bigger picture of the world, of holiness, and of how God works in different people. Before entering, you may have had a good picture, just smaller.

Sr. Amata Veritas:
I think another challenge that I’ve seen for the younger postulants is missing their family. I entered a little bit older; a similar age as Sister Mary David. Even at that age, I really struggled with missing my family. I was surprised to be homesick because I had lived away from home for so long. But there is a separation from your family that takes place, and a separation from your friends that takes place, and you’re living in an unfamiliar area. As you go through that first year, you’re acclimating to the traditions and the beauty of the community family, but then you’re also going through a challenging time of also missing your family. Lots of times, those feelings would pop up for me, and I wouldn’t be necessarily expecting them. But I really found that that was a beautiful part of the call, as well, because you realize the good thing that you’re giving up for the Lord; that your family is this good and that giving up time with them is part of the sacrifice.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:
That’s beautiful. I want to thank you for bringing up both of those aspects. One thing we should point out is the fact that we never really do give up our families. Sisters, how do the parents respond or families respond when the postulates come and enter?

Sr. Amata Veritas:
There are a variety of ways families respond to their daughters’ vocation, but I think, universally, we can say that as you live religious life, the family comes to a deeper understanding of what this is as they experience your vocation within the midst of their family now. So I think for most families, it starts to be integrated into the family in lots of different ways. One way that I’ve seen that’s very beautiful is the sisters’ families become part of our greater family, and so they gain this whole community of daughters in a way that’s different than their biological daughter, and yet they see how much their daughter is loved. They see how their daughter becomes more of who she is in the convent. And most families want their daughter to be happy. When they see their daughter happy in her vocation then I think they ultimately start seeing our religious life as part of their family life. But that happiness is kind of the peak. That’s what parents want for their family or their daughters. They want them to be happy.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:
Sr. Mary David, the Postulants have a lot of studies that are very particular to that year. Could you explain to our audience some of those studies and why the community gives those studies to them?
Sister Mary David:
Sure, and maybe Sr. Amata Veritas can chime in if I make a mistake? She taught some of those classes to me. I think there’s kind of two basic areas: The first is Theory of Catholic Doctrine, prior to getting into the more intensive study that comes later on of the vows. Postulants study the Catechism in-depth, and, at the end of the year, are even tested on their knowledge of the faith. For all sisters, but in a special way for Dominicans, this is very important going forward because they’re going to be teaching the faith. The second is being introduced to community life and the Dominican spirit. We have Dominican history class and readings about the Dominican saints. When I entered all I knew about Saint Dominic was that he had the name Dominic. So we live the life, but then, it’s also explained to us why we have this particular tradition. This includes how we pray for the dead: each night, right before dinner, we have a very particular procession and practice. And it’s very special to know that we have that and to have it explained. First, we’re taught how to do it, and then we learn why. So you learn the particulars, but it’s in a very organic way. You’re also learning a lot of human things. Like I said, you’re living with all these different people. How are you going to do this for the rest of your lives?

Sr. Joseph Andrew:
What are some of those things they have to learn today? Parents, pay attention. If you teach them before we get them, your daughter would be ahead. So what are some of those things?
Sr. Amata Veritas:
It is funny because, again, every family, every sister, comes from a particular culture in their family, with a different skill set. We start with the basics, like learning to cook very simple things that the whole community can eat. You have to learn your social graces, your manners. And, if you didn’t already have manners, you kind of have to brush up on them. This includes how to communicate, speak and express your ideas and difficulties with a wide variety of people. Also we teach how to make your bed because we make our rooms nice and not everybody learns that. While these are very simple things, they really give a unified action and vocabulary that allow us to live in community, no matter the different ideas and different backgrounds that we come from. But with that said, I really think what’s actually symbolic of that postulant year is the postulant outfit.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:
Ha! Which nobody in their right mind would ever want to wear! Polyester skirt, polyester blue vest (who wears vests?) and a white Oxford shirt, blue knee-highs for any age, and black tie shoes. After a year, you get this beautiful Dominican habit. Explain why this is.

Sr. Mary David:
So yes, it does stick out. It gets you used to wearing the same thing every day. It gets you used to wearing something that identifies you with something. It also serves as the great equalizer because whether you’re 18 and entering or 25 and entering, you’re now wearing the same thing. There is this kind of unity with what we are wearing, and it is symbolic of that postulant year where you are learning how to be in community and to do things that allow us to live together in charity and greater growth because, ultimately, we all want to be Saints.

Sr. Joseph Andrew:
That’s beautiful, Sisters. One thing that this speaks to is that there is joy in the religious vocation, the joy of total abandonment to divine providence. That requires trust, which is really something that the young woman has to learn. And so you can see how these sisters, in formation, are able to lead these young women into deeper virtues.
Sisters, I really want to thank you for everything you have given and continue to give to our community. It is truly a very beautiful life, and we love the postulants very specially, as has been brought out. The element of surprise, the joy, the freshness that they bring, the silly mistakes that they’re just full of – we sit back, the old-timers that understand all these things, and laugh hysterically. So they bring a real element of renewed freshness, and God, in His great mercy and goodness to us, continues to bless us with many, many vocations. So we hope that you’ve enjoyed this. Thank you, Sr. May David and Sr. Amata Veritas. You are both just delightful, God bless you.

Sr. Joseph Andrew Bogdanowicz, OP is a Foundress and Vocations Director for the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist. Her podcast And The Truth Shall Set You Free can be downloaded every Friday at 1:00 p.m. EST from iTunes. The podcast can be seen on YouTube at GoLEDigital.

We would love to stay in touch. Make sure to subscribe below so you can receive our articles, podcasts, and videos.


If you are enjoying receiving content and resources from GoLEDigital, please click here. Your generous gift provides expanded opportunities for programming that can be shared more widely and frequently.


Want to Republish this Article? Request Permission Here

Request to Republish:

Share This Post On

By subscribing, you agree to LEDigital's terms of use and privacy policy.