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Formation Process

Formation Process

Stages of Initial Formation

The period of initial formation allows a candidate to experience the lived reality of Carmel in preparation for the total consecration of her life to God at Solemn Vows. Initial formation lasts approximately nine years and can be extended up to twelve, during which both the candidate and the community discern and cooperate with the work of the Holy Spirit.

During the time of formation, a candidate receives instruction in prayer, lectio divina, Scripture, the Saints and history of Carmel and of the Church, liturgy, and theology. While these studies are very important, the goal of formation is primarily to introduce the candidate to the lived reality of Carmel.


Aspirancy (1-2 years) is a time of discernment for the candidate and the community, in which regular contact and visits allow for a deep listening to the movements of the Holy Spirit. The candidate continues her regular life in the world, but is accompanied through a program of prayer and discernment which includes opportunities to experience life in the cloister, sometimes for extended periods.


The candidate who feels called to apply for admission, once accepted, enters the community as a postulant. Postulancy (1-2 years) allows for further discernment of the vocation and a progressive adaptation to the religious life. Instruction focuses on laying a firm foundation of prayer, within the Carmelite tradition.


The novitiate (2 years) marks the beginning of religious life and membership in the Order of Carmel. The novice receives the habit of Our Lady of Mount Carmel and her religious name. During this stage of formation, she enters more deeply into the Carmelite experience and prepares for religious vows by prayer and instruction.

First Profession of Vows

By public profession of the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, the Sister is consecrated to God through the ministry of the Church. For the next five to seven years, she will strive to conform her life more and more to Christ as she lives out the vows each day. While continuing to receive instruction, she will take more responsibility for her own formation in both study and prayer.

Solemn Profession of Vows

Solemn Profession is the moment of complete and permanent commitment to God in the Order of Carmel. The solemnly professed Sister receives the black veil, signifying that she is consecrated to Christ…forever! This day of great joy marks the end of initial formation, but it is only the beginning of a life journey of contemplation and love in the heart of the Church.