On the Solemnity of Our Holy Father Dominic, Sr. Maria received the habit and her new religious name of Sr. Maria Johanna (pronounced Yohanna) of Our Lady of Grace. The private vestition ceremony was held in the nuns' choir due to the August heat. Usually the ceremony takes place in the Chapter Hall.
During the ceremony the postulant prostrates before the prioress to ask for "God's mercy and yours" while the sisters pray for her as she officially begins her religious life. While postulants wear a uniform and veil and are called "sister", they are not actually members of the community nor religious. They are still lay women, but lay women who are asking ("postulare" is Latin for "to ask") for admission to the community and the Order. When a postulant receives the habit and begins her novitiate she becomes a member of the community and a religious, however she is not yet a member of the Order nor a consecrated religious. She makes no commitment and the community makes no commitment to her, except that both sides will continue to discern God's will for her during the next two years. She is free to leave at any time and the community is likewise free to send her away.
Postulancy is basically a time of 'detoxing' from the world and a time to become acquainted with the ins and outs of monastic life. During the novitiate the novice begins classes on Consecration and the Vows and focuses more intensely on the inner life. The postulant learns the rubrics of the Liturgy, the novice begins to let the liturgy 'work' on her and form her.
We are often asked if the novices sew their own habits. The answer is no, at least not the one they receive at vestition. There is important symbolism in the novice receiving the habit from the community. It is not so much something she takes on herself, but something that is given to her as she is accepted into the community. During vestition she kneels before the prioress and novice mistress as they literally clothe her in the habit, fastening her belt, attaching the rosary and crucifix, placing the white novice veil upon her head.
At the very end of the ceremony the new novice receives her religious name. The postulant to be clothed may request a specific name, but it can be vetoed by the prioress (although that is unusual). Only the novice, novice mistress, prioress, and often the other novitiate sisters know the name that will be given. For everyone else it is a much anticipated surprise!
Below is a gallery of pictures from Sister's clothing ceremony.