I’m widowed and my children are grown with families and lives of their own. I feel like I have so much of myself to give to the Church and finally have the time to do it. My kids always used to joke that one day I’d join a convent. I was hoping that “one day” was finally here, but at 48 I’m discovering that most communities won’t accept older women my age. I can’t help but feel a little discriminated against because of my age. I understand that some communities might not have the financial ability to care for aging nuns with health issues but I’m in good health. A simple physical would prove that. A man can become a priest at any age in his life but a woman is given an expiration date based on her usefulness? I’m sorry, but I’m having a difficult time accepting these age limits some communities are enforcing.
Nun Too Soon
Dear Nun Too Soon,
First off, don’t let your eligibility to enter a religious community determine your usefulness to the Church. You don’t have to be young or a nun to be considered useful or to grow in spirituality. Every praying, practicing member of the Church is useful.
Have you discussed whether you have a genuine vocation or not with a Spiritual Director or a Director of Vocations? They can direct you to communities that accept older postulants, and there are many that do.
A Spiritual Director can also determine whether you might be better suited to be a professed layperson — as a tertiary, or an oblate, or other religious associate — especially if grandchildren are involved. Kids need grandmas, especially grandmas who will help them to learn and grow into the faith.
There are many practical and economic reasons for the age limits that many communities put into practice. Yes, health reasons can be one of them. Some communities will not take a woman with children at all, no matter how old her children are.
A large reason for the age factor is that the older we are the more set in our ways we become, making the transition to communal life more difficult, especially when we may find ourselves taking orders from superiors who are 20 years our junior. We’re so used to living on our own terms and having things the way we want them that obedience and conformity become issues… like obedience and acceptance of community-set age limits. *ahem*
Your desire to grow in holiness and devote your life to the Church is highly commendable. I hope you take my advice and seek out the counsel of a Vocation Director. Please don’t be discouraged. Keep praying.
Below I include some links to information on religious communities open to older vocations to encourage you while you discern this next phase in your life. I’d like to thank our editorial team for recommending most of them. Also, check out this thread at Phatmass.
Visitation Nuns are known for taking older vocations, as you can see in the Brooklyn, NY, Massachusetts and Georgia, all take later vocations. Also some Carmelite communities, on a case-by-case basis.
Pray over it. Get that spiritual director. Ask God what he wants; he will always tell you.