The initial process of formation of the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus consists of several stages through which each candidate is helped to grow in her relationship with Jesus, in the Spirituality of Saint Raphaela Mary, and in the sense of belonging to the universal Body ofthe Congregation.
Stages of formation
This stage generally lasts for at least one year. This is a time of discernment, on the part of the person and the Congregation, before admission to the Congregation. The Postulant lives in a community, participates in its ministries and, at the same time, has the opportunity to seriously consider God’s call, her Christian life experiences, and get to know the Congregation, its Spirituality and its Charisma.
The Novitiate is a time of formation, especially spiritual formation, when the Novice begins to take part in the life of the Congregation. It generally lasts for two to two and a half years. The main aim of this time is to grow in a deeper knowledge of the Gospel; deepen one’s experience of God’s love and the desire to give one self completely to God in the Congregation, in order to share in its life and mission. It is also a time of discernment and confirmation of one’s call to be a Handmaid. At present, both the Postulancy and Novitiate take place in Palmela, Portugal.
At the end of the Novitiate the Novice consecrates herself to God through her Temporary Profession of the vows of celibacy, poverty and obedience, for a period of three years, having asked for admission to the Congregation.
The Juniorate is a time of study, of Theology or other subjects , in order to prepare the Handmaid for her mission in the Congregation and the Church. This stage lasts 3 to 5 years. After three years, if her vocation is confirmed, the Handmaid is invited to renew her vows for another three years.
At present the Juniorate takes place in Madrid (Entrevias), Spain, and in Paris, France.
Stage of temporary vows
After the Juniorate, the Handmaid continues her formation and begins to take part in the apostolic work of theCongregation. Once again, after a period of three years, if her vocation is confirmed within the Congregation, she renews her vows for another three years.
Tertianship or Third Probation
Before admission to Final Commitment and Profession, all Handmaids spend a period of 6 months in Rome, for what is called the “Third Probation”.This stage is in some way like a second Novitiate. It is a time to grow and strengthen the sense of belonging to the universal body of the Congregation and a preparation for a definitive commitment.
The formation of the Handmaid does not end here. Her commitment to the heart of Christ and to answer the world’s needs takes a life time of formation – the task of each Handmaid.