Aspirants arrive with just bedsheets and a few personal items. No makeup, jewelry, cell phones or computers are allowed. They will never have sex, own possessions or have their own money. The clothes they wear to the convent will be sent home with their families after they receive postulant outfits—a vest, a skirt, a black belt and black shoes. "It's like when you fall in love and you meet the person that you're supposed to marry," aspirant Kirsten says. "I know it in my heart that this is what I'm supposed to be doing."
The first year is focused on studying, praying and training to become nuns, but it's not always easy for new arrivals. Family communication is limited to letters, three visits a year and no phone calls. "In the first year, they really have to make those breaks with so many of their friends and their family," Sister Joseph Andrew says. "There has to be that setting apart for Christ to become all to us. And then we can really love them again in a more complete manner."
At the end of that first day, families watch aspirants perform their first procession and prayers with their new sisters. For many parents, it's a bittersweet goodbye. "For me as a father, when you give your daughter to a husband you expect to see him again or see her, see them," a father named Steve says. "But we're not going to see her. It's a severance, like cutting the umbilical cord. And that's hard."
Watch Steve talk after the show about how his family is coping