How long does the process of discernment take? The process of discernment, and the length of time that it takes, is dependent on a number of factors. Candidates will have made different journeys of faith and the maturity or otherwise of their faith will determine the length of the process. Many who enquire and enter into discernment will have commitments to work, college and family and this will have an influence on the length of time needed to discern. Since the goal of discernment is to try and understand the will of God for a person, the process, of its very nature, demands a deal of time. Taking these factors, among others, into account will determine how long discernment takes. Ordinarily, it takes a year - but for many it can take longer depending on circumstances.
At what time in the process does a candidate become a postulant? After a period of intial enquiry with a candidate and ascertaining their level of interest in the Order, coupled with a commitment to undertake the process of discernment entitles a person to be properly called a postulant. It should be stressed that there is no commitment on the part of the postulant to the Order and likewise with the Order to the postulant and the process of discernment can be terminated at any time by either party.
Is there a pre-novitiate where enquirers can go for a period of time to get accustomed to living Dominican life? The short answer here is no. The Irish Dominican province did have a place of pre-novitiate about 20 years ago. The place of pre-novitiate has been replaced by what we now call a period of accompaniment. The pre-novitiate is now a period of time (animated by the director of vocations) rather than a place to live. Part of the period of accompaniment will include periods of time where postulants can go to live and experience the life and work of some of our communities. Indeed, many enquirers ask for this possibility as a means to understand Dominican life better.