Vocation discernment is the name we generally give to the stages of inquiry and getting to know the community and eventually deciding to join.The whole process of vocation/formation usually takes about a decade. It may be a little longer for some and a little shorter for others. There's no prize for finishing earlier or later. It's just a matter of each person getting what she or he needs, and the community coming to know the person. Increasingly both the candidate and the community see one another as part of the same group or tribe, part of the same community.
Formation is the name we give to the process of entering a community, in continued discernment, through a series of stages (candidate, novice, temporary profession) becoming a member of the community.
Along the way, there are various people and experiences there to facilitate the process. In my community, we've been pondering how this happens in the most holistic way. As more and more people in the community play roles in the vocation/formation process, we have had more conversations about the new model we are trying to develop.
In prayer this morning, pondering our conversation, I came to this. Each of us is a Sister of St. Joseph, and each of us is a sister in a unique way, though we share the common call and charism. The candidate is who she is and she would like to become a sister too. The candidate brings a lifetime of experience in being the best of herself. We bring our experiences of being the best of ourselves, and our commitment to accompany others into the community.
I am reminded of the poem Two Roads Diverge in a Yellow Wood... In the case of vocation/formation journey, two roads converge in that yellow wood.
As I ponder this journey, I wait in joyful hope that we can balance these elements in a holistic and life-giving way.