Stages of Formation

Discernment is a journey through which Jesus reveals his loving plan to those who really seek him. For those who feel called to follow Saint Jeanne Jugan as a Little Sister of the Poor, formation is a process of progressively taking on the mind and heart of Christ. It means living charity, humility, devotedness to the poor and unconditional trust in God’s loving Providence, just as our beloved foundress did.

Generally, single, Catholic women 18–40 years of age may be accepted into the formation program of the Congregation. Those over 40 who desire to share in our life are encouraged to consider membership in the Association Jeanne Jugan.

Initial discernment

A young woman visits one of our communities and spends time with the Little Sisters in prayer and service. She may choose to volunteer on a regular basis or to work as an employee in order to experience our life and spirit up-close.

Formal discernment

For a young woman who feels that God may be calling her to our community, a live-in experience in one of our homes gives her exposure to our life in its totality—prayer, community and apostolate.


A time of transition, the postulancy usually lasts about 9 months. The first few months are spent in one of our homes, where the postulants share our daily life and are introduced to our spirituality and traditions. The postulancy for the United States is currently at our home in Washington, D.C. The final months of the postulancy are spent in the novitiate, located in Queens Village, New York. Postulants wear a dark skirt and white blouse to distinguish them from our staff and other lay collaborators.


As they receive a new name and the novices’ habit (a black or white jumper, white blouse and veil), postulants enter the novitiate and officially become members of the Congregation. During this intense two-year period of prayer and study, novices deepen their relationship with the Lord, their understanding of the faith and of consecrated life, and their love of the Congregation. Each year they spend several weeks in one of our homes to gain direct experience of our hospitaller life. The novitiate culminates in the public ceremony of profession of chastity, poverty, obedience and hospitality for two years.

Click here for Profession 2011 slide show.

Temporary Vows

Each new Little Sister is sent out on mission to one of the homes of the Congregation, where she participates fully in our life. This period includes an additional year of doctrinal formation and further training in the care of the elderly. At the completion of their first two years of vowed life, the young Little Sisters remake their vows, usually for an additional three years.

Second Novitiate

Before pronouncing perpetual vows, each Little Sister spends a year of “second novitiate” at La Tour Saint Joseph, our motherhouse in Brittany, France. This period offers each one the grace of living where Saint Jeanne Jugan spent the last 23 years of her life. During this time each Little Sister becomes more imbued with the attitudes of our Mother and with the spirit of universality so important to our international religious family. The second novitiate culminates in perpetual profession, after which each Little Sister may be sent to any one of twenty provinces around the world.

Continuing Formation

Each Little Sister pursues a personal program of spiritual and apostolic formation throughout her life. Sessions of spiritual renewal enable each of us to respond to our vocation with ever deeper love.

“Joyfully undertaken and faithfully lived, this gift of ourselves—which embraces our whole existence—enriches the life of the Church. A vocation is a call which the Lord, always faithful, renews for us until the end of our life.… By his grace, we will always better understand its full significance and will respond to it with deeper maturity and greater love, for the greater glory of the one and undivided Trinity” (Constitutions).

  • Opening Day of the Postulancy, 2010

  • Novitiate, an intense time of prayer

  • Novices learn skills for hospitality

  • Novices gain practical experience, here in Baltimore

  • Novices portray our humble beginnings during a discernment weekend

  • Profession Ceremony 2010

  • A Little Sister of the second novitiate prays in La Tour

  • Profession Ceremony 2010

  • Perpetual Profession ceremony at our motherhouse

  • Follwing the Perpetual Profession ceremony