The stages of formation vary between communities, but in general they follow this pattern:
Some communities have a candidacy, where someone who is interested in entering lives with them for a month or two.
After that, they become a postulant. This usually lasts about a year. During this time they keep their own name. It is a time of gradual transition from the lay life, and a period of mutual discernment for the community and the postulant if it is God’s will or not.
Next they become a novice. At this time they usually receive a new name and receive the habit of the order. The novitiate generally lasts for a year or two during which the novice studies the rule and constitutions of the community, takes part in all the activities of the community, and prepares to make the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
“For a book from which to learn how to grow in the love of God, there is no better book than Jesus Christ crucified.” (St. Maximilian Kolbe)
After the novitiate, they are temporarily professed (they make vows for a certain amount of time, usually a year and renewed each year). During this time, the Sister receives guidance in the actual living of her vows and it is a chance for the confirmation of the genuineness of the vocation. The amount of years in temporary vows can vary but often it is 3-5 years.
The final step is solemn profession, and perpetually binding vows are made.
“My beloved is mine and I am his” (Song of Solomon 2:16).