Avow—A Discernment Program for Women

Described as being like “a book club and a prayer group ‘rolled into one,’” Avow is an innovative discernment program for young Catholic women.

The program revolves around a small-group discussion, study, and prayer as a means of mutual support for women who want to make the journey of discernment together.

Serra Participation

  • Inviting women religious or youth ministers to start an Avow group
  • Marketing the program at the parish level/inviting discerners to meetings
  • Underwriting meals/travel
  • Providing meeting space
  • Organizing speakers
09 discernment retreats

Summary

Described as being like “a book club and a prayer group ‘rolled into one,’” Avow is an innovative discernment program for young Catholic women.

The program revolves around small-group discussion, study, and prayer as a means of mutual support for women who want to make the journey of discernment together.

Using the book Discerning Religious Life as a guide and led by a woman religious or campus minister, participants learn about religious life, prayer, and principles of discernment.  They focus on their relationship with Jesus and a regular prayer life as the firm foundation for discerning their vocations.

During a series of meetings, Avow groups explore the many dimensions of religious life, including the nine essential elements taught by the Church.  Participants walk through a “six-month discernment challenge” with a view of moving from discernment to decision.  Meals and/or special events such as Holy Hours or trips to visit religious communities can also be included as part of the program.

Each group leader requests a free leader guide and free supporting materials via a special website designed to facilitate the Avow program.

Avow groups can be led by a woman religious, FOCUS missionary, or a campus minister.

Program Outline

  • Religious life discernment groups hosted by women religious or campus ministers for parishes, high schools, and college campuses
  • The group leader hosts, during a series of meetings, women who are discerning a vocation to religious life
  • Each group leader requests a free leader guide and free supporting materials via the Avow website
  • Marketing materials include free posters and cards to hand out
  • Mass announcements and bulletin items are also useful to get the word out
  • Meetings may include snacks or meals
  • Leaders may bring in guest speakers
  • Leaders may plan excursions, like a trip to a convent or a holy hour, as part of the program

Any Time

Lead Time 1-2 Months

f

Low Effort

Low Cost

Program History and Development

One of the newest vocations-related entities available—it was launched in 2018—Avow is an innovative discernment program created by Sr. Clare Matthiass, CFR, along with Vianney Vocations.  The program revolves around small-group discussion, study, and prayer as a means of mutual support for women who want to make the journey of discernment together.

Using Sr. Clare’s book Discerning Religious Life as a guide and led by a woman religious or a campus minister, participants—over a series of small-group meetings—learn about religious life, prayer, and the principles of discernment.  They focus on their relationship with Jesus and a regular prayer life as the firm foundation for discerning their vocations.  Avow groups explore the many dimensions of religious life, including the nine essential elements taught by the Church.  Participants walk through a “six-month discernment challenge” with the goal of moving from discernment to decision.

Avow adherents assert that the program’s means of proceeding—discernment in a group setting—is relied upon because it is an approach that has been proven to work.  This approach facilitates women’s discernment of religious life at large while also inspiring them to look into religious communities to which they feel called by God.  (On a related note, the Avow program does not favor or recommend any particular religious order; indeed, it is touted as being for all religious communities.)

Avow groups can be facilitated by a woman religious, FOCUS missionary, or a campus minister.

Resources

Reference Materials:

Information about the Diocese of Nashville’s Avow program at University Catholic.
University Catholic Launches Avow – Tennessee Register
Avow Program Looks to Expand – Tennessee Register

Main website for the Avow program; it contains overview-type information, access to free materials, and a link to purchase the book Discerning Religious Life:
Avow Program Website

Article in Catholic New York highlighting the Avow program and providing an overview:
https://cny.org/stories/announcing-avowdiscernment-groups-for-catholic-women,17556

Link to product page on Vianney Vocations website wherein the book Discerning Religious Life is available for purchase: https://vianneyvocations.com/product/discerning-religious-life/

Webpage from the Cincinnati, Ohio-based Children of Mary group which presents details about its own Avow discernment group and invites young Catholic women to join it. Use this to help compose your own Avow announcement:
Children of Mary (Cincinnati, OH) – Avow Discernment Group

Webpage from the Diocese of London (Ontario, Canada), which features information about the diocese’s Avow group and how to join:
https://dol.ca/discernment-for-women

““Let us face the vocations challenge with that equanimity and realism which take into account the
effectiveness of prayer,
and which are never devoid of supernatural hope.”

Pope St. John Paul II