Questions About Becoming a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur

What is religious life like?

Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur - Making Known God's Goodness

Sisters are ordinary women who have chosen to follow God's call to them through a life with prayer and community living as its center. With the support of one another, we work in various ministries such as education, church and social ministries and healthcare. 

Each religious community or congregation has a certain "charism" or "signature" way of carrying out its mission. Most congregations have a distinctive emblem, such as a cross, which members wear as a sign of their commitment. Sisters live in small groups or alone, in a simple lifestyle, usually near their ministries, sharing tasks of daily living. 

Each of us commits her one and only life to work with others to create justice and peace for all.

  • Our prayer may include formal prayer such as the liturgy of the hours, liturgy of the Eucharist, scripture reflection, meditation and spiritual reading. Shared prayer and faith are balanced with private and public prayer. 
  • Sisters commit to this way of life by observing three vows: poverty, celibacy and obedience. 
  • We are ordinary women, but together, we do extraordinary things.

Am I called?

Discerner/Pre-Affiliate (six months to two years)
The Discerner stage provides support while you explore your call to religious life. If you feel called to religious life, you will enter the Pre-Affiliate stage while you discern your call to be a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur. During this time, you may: 

  • Live independently as you prayerfully consider your decision.
  • Meet and spend time with individual Sisters and local communities.
  • Share with a vocation minister and a mentor in your area.

Is this Congregation right for me?

Affiliate (six months to one year)
Affiliation is a time for you to live in a Notre Dame community and experience life with congregation members. As you continue to discern, you will: 

  • Continue your current job and studies. 
  • Participate in community life, prayer and activities. 
  • Continue to learn about the spirit and mission of Notre Dame. 
  • Maintain your financial independence. 

Is God calling me to a life of poverty, celibate chastity and obedience?

Novice (two years)
As a novice, you will live in a community and participate in all aspects of community life. During your first year, the canonical year, you will learn more about religious life, study scripture and theology, and deepen your connection to the history, mission and spirituality of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. During your second or apostolic year, you will participate in a full-time ministry while deepening your contemplation and living the vows in the community. 

Am I able and willing to make a commitment to Notre Dame?

Temporary Vows (approximately five years)
Upon making your first vows in a public ceremony, you will receive the Notre Dame cross, identifying you as a member of the Notre Dame community. You will live in a Notre Dame community and continue to discern your readiness to make a lifetime commitment as a Sister of Notre Dame. You will balance ministry, prayer, community life and personal enrichment to prepare for permanent commitment during this time. A Sister mentor and the formation team will accompany you during this period. 

How can I continue loving and serving the Good God?

Final Vows
At the time of your final vows, you dedicate your entire life to God and God's people as a member of the congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. Through God's faithful love, you will know the grace to live out and grow in that commitment. Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur will be involved in ongoing formation for the rest of our lives. 

What does a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur do all day? 

While Sisters' days are varied, each includes time for prayer, ministry, community and recreation. Days begin or end with prayer. Ministries are tailored to each Sister's individual gifts. Our community lifestyle fosters close relationships, recreation and meaningful interaction with other Sisters and lay people. 

Why do some Sisters wear habits? 

There are many symbols Sisters use to indicate their faith in God and commitment to Christianity. Some congregations choose a habit to be their sign. They believe it helps them live out their vows, and some say it is also a sign of penitence and a separate lifestyle. Most Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur opt to wear street clothes instead of habits. This is because we believe it helps us build bridges of understanding with all people and that it makes us more personally accessible to the people we serve. Although we wear the Notre Dame cross given to us at our initial commitment, we work to make our Christian lifestyle the most obvious sign of our commitment. 

How do congregations or orders differ from one another? 

Typically, religious congregations are different in their emphasis on prayer and community life. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur live an active and open apostolic life in the tradition of St. Julie, whose unique experience of prayer and action enabled her to find God's presence everywhere and in a special way among the poor. In contemplative congregations, members live together in one building, and their primary ministry is prayer. Most members of monastic congregations also tend to live and work together in one building, though they work in various ministries. They gather together frequently for prayer, usually several times a day. 

What ministries are the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur involved in? 

Our strength as Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur is found in our deep union with God and our common aim to express that God is good. We are encouraged to use our diverse and unique talents as we go throughout the world, proclaiming God's loving care for all people. We are committed to standing with the poor, especially women and children, celebrating the gifts of many cultures, educating for justice, and building community with all those we live and work with. We minister as teachers, counselors, social workers, religious education directors, health care workers, lawyers, pastoral counselors, spiritual directors, community organizers and in many other capacities as directed by the Spirit, community needs and our own talents. 

Learn more about our Calls to Action

How often do you pray? 

We are committed to being women of prayer who seek in all aspects of our lives to be united with God and responsive to the Spirit of Jesus. We support one another in a simple, communal and prayerful life. Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur pray alone, in small groups and with the larger community. Our prayer takes different forms, including liturgy, reading and quiet meditation. 

Is prayer always easy for you? 

It's not always easy. But prayer is our way of communicating with God. Like any relationship, there are times when we need to act on motives deeper than feelings and trust in God's presence and unconditional love. 

Do Sisters have free time, and if so, what do they do with that time? 

We have about the same amount of leisure time as most other adults. We spend that time as we choose and in various ways. Some sisters enjoy sports and athletic activities, while others enjoy the arts. We also spend our free time watching television, watching movies, reading, working out and visiting friends or family. While the activities are as diverse as our members, and this diversity is encouraged, we remain true to our vows and commitment to Christian living at all times and places. 

What does it mean to be an international religious congregation? 

St. Julie, the woman who launched this congregation in 1804, said it this way: "Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur are women who have hearts as wide as the world."

Our hearts stretch to embrace the people of Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Congo, Brazil, Peru, Nicaragua, Japan, Belgium, Italy, Great Britain and the United States. 

Interested in pursuing a life as a Sister of Notre Dame de Namur? Contact us at to learn more.