Something that I really struggled with after leaving the convent was an overwhelming sense of shame and embarrassment that I had entered that life and then not stuck it through to the end. I felt divorced from God and distanced from all the people who had supported me in entering and prayed me through the three years I spent in Religious Life.
Even my departure itself left me feeling abandoned and unwanted by the community. I was asked not to say goodbye to the others in my group because of the timing of everything, and I left in secret. Of course, my community had no intention of making me feel that rejected. There was the good of all the other Sisters to take into account, and my superior prayed about the best way to do everything. It is challenging to know one thing in your head and feel something entirely different in your heart. While I knew the Sisters loved me and wanted what was best for me, I felt like everything was falling apart and my faith was slowly extinguishing.
My family added to my own sense of shame by either trying to pretend like I had never entered Religious Life or by saying I left because I wanted my cell phone back. Which, of course, could not be further from the truth. I didn’t even want a cell phone when I came back. When my Dad finally forced me to come to the cell phone store with him, he told the man that I didn’t currently own a cell phone because I had lived overseas for the past three years and couldn’t talk about what I had done over there. Awkward to say the least!
Luckily, shortly after I returned home, the Lord placed a few different people in my life who slowly lead me back to the Faith and helped me to process everything that happened in my departure from Religious Life. I realize now that I would not have been as happy as the Lord wants me to be if I had failed to listen to His call back into the world, and the time I spent in Religious Life will bear fruit in whatever the Lord has planned for me. There is no reason to be embarrassed of my three years as a sister – it is still a gift even though I did not remain there. The Lord did so much for me in those three years, and I don’t want to throw it all away because it feel weird to even think about sometimes. Each day has its ups and downs, but I know the Lord is leading me ever closer to Himself and the vocation He has laid out for me. He, of course, knows the reason for all of this and the good He intends to bring out of all of it.
I’ve never understood why the leaving has to be done in secret and no goodbyes said. Can someone enlighten me? It has been 26 years since my own leave-taking, and I remember very little of it, but I am sure I got to say quick goodbyes. I was told not to expect them to keep in touch with me, and I more or less understood that, but this secrecy stuff seems off to me.
When I left it was the same, no goodbyes and no contacting the sisters for a year. The argument was the same as above -it was for the benefit of the other Sisters and myself. I still believe this is one of the most harmful, misguided and hurtful things they could have done. What harm would it have done to simply say goodbye and thank you? If it is not shameful to leave the convent neither should there be any need for secrecy.