There are 3 stages, detailed below, to becoming a Fully Professed member of the Toronto Sisters of JOY. The journey begins by getting in touch with the House and becoming an Aspirant. Find out more below!
Aspirant is the term used to describe someone who has approached the Sisters with the intent to join as a nun or monk. This is called “declaring aspirancy”. Essentially it means they have taken an interest and decided they want to explore the Order further. The Mistress of the Novices will arrange to meet with the individual face to face to discuss their interest and also make clear the path of Sisterhood with a friendly discussion about the expectations the order has for every member. This is a chance for the individual to find out more about the Order and ask any questions they may have to be sure it is a good fit for them. At this point, the individual is not considered part of the membership yet and as such does not attend business meetings. The Mistress of the Novices may however invite the Aspirant to attend manifestations and events as an observer to see the Sisters in action. Once the Aspirant feels they have a good handle of what is required of them, they ask the Mistress of the Novices to petition them for Postulancy.
A Postulant is an inquirer or observer. This period is ruled by the eyes and centers on learning by watching rather than speaking. During this time, the postulant generally participates as fully as possible in the life of the community, watching the Novices and Fully Professed members at work. Postulants are expected to attend regular business meetings as observers, but may not yet vote or speak out on matters. They spend time researching the history of the Order (referred to as Sistory) both globally and locally and gain a working knowledge of OPI. The Bylaws and Handbook should be studied carefully. When manifesting with the Sisters in public, Postulants keep to the background observing more than interacting.
This period can also be considered a period of candidacy for the Novitiate. Since the candidate is not a formal member of the order at this stage, it is easier for an individual uncertain about their role to re-examine his or her intentions and commitment before entering the novitiate. It is also important at this stage that the candidate look at the personalitiesand dynamics that make up the house and how they would fit in. Likewise, the membership will be looking at the Postulant for suitability and how the group dynamics work together.
Postulants wear a predominantly black outfit of their choice that while being predominantly female in appearance, aways include fluid elements af gender identification. For their headgear, Postulants wear a smaller, thinner version of our house corornet (called a bourrelet), a simple bandeau and a plain, short, grey veil. The bourrelet may be wrapped in a fabric of the Postulants choice – perhaps in the Sister colour they have chosen. They may wish to accessorize their black outfit using this colour as well. Their charm or symbol may also be added to the outfit or bourrelet. Prayer beads may be worn at the waist. Postulants may wear white face with any desired eye and cheek makeup (including jewels and/or bindi as desired) but their lips must remain painted white symbolizing their dedication to watching and learning during this period. Postulants are expected to attend Business Meetings and manifest no less than 2 times a month.
Postulancy generally lasts between 3 - 6 months, depending on the individual. During this time, the Mistress of the Novies will mentor them, answering any questions they may have and gently guiding them on their path. Either the Mistress of the Novices or the Postulant may decide at any time and without the need for any formal procedure that the union is either not a good fit or not the right time to continue. They may also decide more time as a Poatulant is needed before moving forward. This is a natural part of the process tailored to the individual - as many Fully Professed Sisters will say, there is no "rush to the veil".
When the time is right and both parties agree, the the Mistress of the Novices will petition the Postulant of Novancy. This happens as a report to the membership at a Business Meeting. The Postulant will be invited to speak a little on their own behalf as well before leaving the room to allow the membership time for discussion and vote. The vote is by majority to either elevate the Postulant to Novice status, or to suggest the Postulant learn more at their current level before progressing.
A Novice is a prospective member of the order who is working towards suitability for admission. After initial contact with the community as an Aspirant, and a period of time as a Postulant, the individual moves on to a prescribed period of training called the novitiate where they are known as a Novice. This usually lasts one year. During this time, the individual takes what they learned by watching as a Postulant and applies it practically by doing as a Novice. They continue to be mentored by the Mistress of the Novices who will meet with them regularily to discuss their journey, give pointers and assign objectives designed to help meet specific challenges each individual faces. Novices are expected to prepare and execute a Novice Project consisting of an undertaking that benefits eiter the house or the community in some way. Likewise, Novices also to lend in hand in helping other Novices and nuns with house projects. Novices should complete their study of OPI history as well as research local LGBT history. Novices attend all Business Meetings and manifest no less than 2 times a month.
Novices may speak at Buisiness Meetings and vote on house maters. While the house is a Mission, Novices may also holdpositions on the Board of Directors. Novices are permitted to wear full Formalwear including a black habit, white guimpe, colored bandeau, regular size bourrelet, prayer beads and charms. The veil must be white though different textites are allowed as well as silver. Full whiteface should be worn including eyes and lips. Festivewear may also be worn when deemed appropriate by the house. Novices may seek out an additional mentor or sponsor who is a Fully Professed member of the house to act as a Big Sister if desired. The Novice is still very much on a learning curve and discovering how they fit into the group. If the Novice is found to be at odds with the goals and working order of the house too frequently, the Mistress of the Novices may decide to withdraw their support of the Novice by bringing a motion to the membership at a Business Meeting. This motion will ask the membership to vote on either a return of the Novice to Postulant status or seek dispensation to end the individuals membership altogether. The motion is passed by majority.
When the Mistress of the Novices feels the time is right, that the Novice is indeed a good fit and all tasks have been completed to satisfaction, she will petition the membership to elevate the Novice to Fully Professed status. This happens as a report to the membership at a Business Meeting. The Novice will be invited to speak a little on their own behalf as well before leaving the room to allow the membership time for discussion and vote. The vote is by majority to either elevate the Novice to Fully Professed status, or to suggest the Novice learn more at their current level before progressing. Once elevated to Fully Professed status - a Novice is given a veiing ceremony where her white veil is removed and a black (or coloured veil) is applied. This is often done by the Mistress of the Novices but may also be done by another member.
So what’s the difference between a Sister and a Brother? It is not gender as the names would suggest but rather the roles they take in the house. Sisters are nuns - the more public face of our order. They take vows to serve the community in a very public way. They are known for their striking, gender-bending look when manifesting (appearing in habit and makeup) as well as their outgoing, joyous personalities.
Brothers are monks that serve the house which in turn allows the Sisters to serve the community. Brothers work more behind the scenes and their monk uniform is much more subdued.
They may choose some makeup but it isnot full face. These choices allow Brothers to remain just out of the picture so that they can more easily do work the Sisters may have more difficulty with in their garb. Despite being known as Guards or Pallidins in some houses, Brothers are not considered part of a security detail, though acting as escorts and making sure the Sisters are safe on outings is part of the job. It should be noted that both nuns and monks are full-fledged members of the order with equal voting rights, time commitment and membership duties.