Together program builds bonds among new religious

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Newer members of religious communities aren't often accompanied by a large cohort as they each go through an order's formation process, on the way to making final vows as a Catholic sister or brother.

"As a newer member coming in, I think all of us bemoan the lack of companions on the journey," said Mumbi Kigutha, a Sister of the Precious Blood.* "Very few are lucky to join with somebody else at the same time."

But that doesn't mean newer religious have to be alone, Kigutha added. A new program, Together: A Collaborative for Theological Education, Formation, and Community, is intended to help Catholic sisters and brothers deepen their connections and support each other's formation. The program is sponsored by Catholic Theological Union in Chicago and the Religious Formation Conference.

Kigutha is a member of Together's visioning team and will also be part of its pilot class this fall. The program, funded by a grant from the GHR Foundation, is open to sisters and brothers who have completed their novitiate year but have yet to make final vows.

Although only four or five people will participate in the pilot beginning Aug. 27, about as many are already interested in joining the following year. Ellen Dauwer, a Sister of Charity of St. Elizabeth and executive director of the Religious Formation Conference, who has headed Together's planning, said she is eventually hoping for an incoming class of about 10 each year.

Participants must study at Catholic Theological Union and are encouraged to complete master's degrees and remain in the program for two or three years, said Dauwer, meaning there may eventually be up to 20 people total in Together any given year.

*An earlier version of this story misidentified Sr. Kigutha's religious community. 

Read the full story at National Catholic Reporter.