Catholic religious order

A Catholic religious order is a religious order of the Catholic Church. According to the 1983 Code of Canon Law, they form part of a category of Catholic religious institutes.

Subcategories are canons regular (canons and canonesses regular who recite the Divine Office and serve a church and perhaps a parish); monastics (monks or nuns living and working in a monastery and reciting the Divine Office); mendicants (friars or religious sisters who live from alms, recite the Divine Office, and, in the case of the men, participate in apostolic activities); and clerks regular (priests who take religious vows and have a very active apostolic life).

Original Catholic religious orders of the Middle Ages include the Order of Saint Benedict, the Carmelites, the Order of Friars Minor, the Dominican Order, and the Order of Saint Augustine. As such, also the Teutonic Order may qualify, as today it is mainly monastic.

In the past, what distinguished religious orders from other institutes was the classification of the vows that the members took in religious profession as solemn vows. According to this criterion, the last religious order founded was that of the Bethlehem Brothers in 1673.[1] Nevertheless, in the course of the 20th century, some religious institutes outside the category of orders obtained permission to make solemn vows, at least of poverty, thus blurring the distinction.

Saint Francis of Assisi, founder of the mendicant Order of Friars Minor, as painted by El Greco.

Essential distinguishing mark

Solemn vows were originally considered indissoluble. As noted below, dispensations began to be granted in later times, but originally not even the Pope could dispense from them.[2] If for a just cause a religious order was expelled, the vow of chastity remained unchanged and so rendered invalid any attempt at marriage, the vow of obedience obliged in relation, generally, to the bishop rather than to the religious superior, and the vow of poverty was modified to meet the new situation but the expelled religious "could not, for example, will any goods to another; and goods which came to him reverted at his death to his institute or to the Holy See".[3]

Weakening in 1917

The 1917 Code of Canon Law reserved the name "religious order" for institutes in which the vows were solemn, and used the term "religious congregation" or simply "congregation" for institutes with simple vows. The members of a religious order for men were called "regulars", those belonging to a religious congregation were simply "religious", a term that applied also to regulars. For women, those with simple vows were called "sisters", with the term "nun" reserved in canon law for those who belonged to an institute of solemn vows, even if in some localities they were allowed to take simple vows instead.[4]

Francisco de Zurbarán 070
The Hieronymite monks.

However, it abolished the distinction according to which solemn vows, unlike simple vows, were indissoluble. It recognized no totally indispensable religious vows and thereby abrogated for the Latin Church the special consecration that distinguished "orders" from "congregations", while keeping some juridical distinctions.[3]

In practice, even before 1917 dispensations from solemn religious vows were being obtained by grant of the Pope himself, while departments of the Holy See and superiors specially delegated by it could dispense from simple religious vows.[5]

The 1917 Code maintained a juridical distinction by declaring invalid any marriage attempted by solemnly professed religious or by those with simple vows to which the Holy See had attached the effect of invalidating marriage,[6] while stating that no simple vow rendered a marriage invalid, except in the cases in which the Holy See directed otherwise.[7] Thus members of "orders" were barred absolutely from marriage, and any marriage they attempted was invalid. Those who made simple vows were obliged not to marry, but if they did break their vow, the marriage was considered valid.

Another difference was that a professed religious of solemn vows lost the right to own property and the capacity to acquire temporal goods for himself or herself, but a professed religious of simple vows, while being prohibited by the vow of poverty from using and administering property, kept ownership and the right to acquire more, unless the constitutions of the religious institute explicitly stated the contrary.[8]

After publication of the 1917 Code, many institutes with simple vows appealed to the Holy See for permission to make solemn vows. The Apostolic Constitution Sponsa Christi of 21 November 1950 made access to that permission easier for nuns (in the strict sense), though not for religious institutes dedicated to apostolic activity. Many of these latter institutes of women then petitioned for the solemn vow of poverty alone. Towards the end of the Second Vatican Council, superiors general of clerical institutes and abbots president of monastic congregations were authorized to permit, for a just cause, their subjects of simple vows who made a reasonable request to renounce their property except for what would be required for their sustenance if they were to depart.[9] These changes resulted in a further blurring of the previously clear distinction between "orders" and "congregations", since institutes that were founded as "congregations" began to have some members who had all three solemn vows or had members that took a solemn vow of poverty and simple vows of chastity and obedience.

Further changes in 1983

The current Code of Canon Law, which came into force in 1983, maintains the distinction between solemn and simple vows,[10] but no longer makes any distinction between their juridical effects, including the distinction between "orders" and "congregations". It has accordingly dropped the language of the 1917 code and uses the single term "religious institute" (which appears nowhere in the 1917 Code)[11] to designate all such institutes.[12][13]

While solemn vows once meant those taken in what was called a religious order, "today, in order to know when a vow is solemn it will be necessary to refer to the proper law of the institutes of consecrated life."[14]

"Religious order" and "religious institute" tend indeed to be used now as synonyms, and canon lawyer Nicholas Cafardi, commenting on the fact that the canonical term is "religious institute", can write that "religious order" is a colloquialism.[15]

Authority structure

Abbatia CIST Sbernadiensis 27a
Thomas Schoen 1903, OCist.

A religious order is characterized by an authority structure where a superior general has jurisdiction over the order's dependent communities. An exception is the Order of St Benedict which is not a religious order in this technical sense, because it has a system of "independent houses", meaning that each abbey is autonomous. However, the Constitutions governing the order's global "independent houses" and its distinct "congregations" (of which there are twenty) were approved by the pope. Likewise, according to rank and authority, the abbot primate's "position with regard to the other abbots [throughout the world] is to be understood rather from the analogy of a primate in a hierarchy than from that of the general of an order like the Dominicans and Jesuits." [16]

The Canons Regular of Saint Augustine are in a situation similar to that of the Benedictines. They are organized in eight "congregations", each headed by an "abbot general", but also have an "Abbot Primate of the Confederated Canons Regular of Saint Augustine". And the Cistercians are in thirteen "congregations", each headed by an "abbot general" or an "abbot president", but do not use the title of "abbot primate".

List of religious orders in the Annuario Pontificio

The Annuario Pontificio lists for both men and women the institutes of consecrated life and the like that are "of pontifical right" (those that the Holy See has erected or approved by formal decree).[17] For the men, it gives what it now calls the Historical-Juridical List of Precedence.[18] This list dates back many decades. It is found, for instance, in the 1964 edition of the Annuario Pontificio, pp. 807–870, where the heading is "States of Perfection (of pontifical right for men)". In the 1969 edition the heading has become "Religious and Secular Institutes of Pontifical Right for Men", a form it kept until 1975 inclusive. Since 1976, when work was already advanced on revising the Code of Canon Law, the list has been qualified as "historical-juridical" and still labels as orders the institutes for men of the Latin Church. However, it does not distinguish between orders and congregations in the case of the Eastern Catholic Churches and Latin Church women.

Within that long list, a relatively small section is devoted to Latin-Rite orders for men:

Canons Regular
Official Name Abbreviation Common Name
Sacer et Apostolicus Ordo Canonicorum Regularium S. Augustini C.R.S.A. Canon Regulars, Augustinian Canons
Congregatio Sanctissimi Salvatoris Lateranensis C.R.L. Canons Regular of the Lateran
Candidus et Canonicus Ordo Praemonstratensis O. Praem. Norbertines or Premonstratensians
Ordo Canonicorum Regularium Sanctae Crucis O.R.C. Canons Regular of the Holy Cross of Coimbra
Ordo Fratrum Domus Hospitalis Sanctae Mariae Teutonicorum in Jerusalem O.T. (formerly Teutonic Knights) German Order
Canonici Regulares Ordinis S. Crucis O.S.C. Crosier Fathers and Brothers
Canonici Regulares Sanctissimae Crucis a stella rubea O.M.C.R.S. Knights of the Cross with the Red Star
Monastic Orders
Official Name Abbreviation Common Name
Ordo Sancti Benedicti O.S.B. Benedictines (20 congregations)
Congregatio Eremitarum Camaldulensium Montis Coronae O.S.B.Cam. Camaldolese (joined the Benedictine confederation)
Ordo Cisterciensis O. Cist. Cistercians (13 congregations)
Ordo Cisterciensis Strictioris Observantiae O.C.S.O. Trappists
Ordo Cartusiensis Cart. Carthusians
Ordo Fratrum S. Pauli Primi Eremitae O.S.P.P.E. Pauline Fathers
Ordo Sancti Hieronymi O.S.H. Hieronymites
Ordo Libanensis Maronitarum O.L.M. Baladites
Mendicant Orders
Official Name Abbreviation Common Name
Ordo Fratrum Praedicatorum O.P. Dominicans
Ordo Fratrum Minorum O.F.M. Franciscans
Ordo Fratrum Minorum Conventualium O.F.M. Conv. Conventual Franciscans
Ordo Fratrum Minorum Capuccinorum O.F.M. Cap. Capuchin Franciscans
Tertius Ordo Regularis S. Francisci T.O.R. Brothers of Penance
Ordo Fratrum Sancti Augustini O.S.A. Augustinian Friars
Ordo Augustinianorum Recollectorum O.A.R. Augustinians Recollects
Ordo Augustiniensium Discalceatorum O.A.D. Discalced Augustinians
Ordo Fratrum Beatissimae Mariae Virginis de Monte Carmelo O. Carm. Carmelites
Ordo Fratrum Discalceatorum B. Mariae V. de Monte Carmelo O.C.D. Discalced Carmelites
Ordo Ssmae Trinitatis O.SS.T. Trinitarians
Ordo B. Mariae Virginis de Mercede O. de M. Mercedarians
Ordo PP. Excalceatorum B.M.V. De Mercede O.M.D. Discalced Mercedarians
Ordo Servorum Mariae O.S.M. Servites
Ordo Minimorum O.M. Minims
Ordo Hospitalarius S. Ioannis de Deo O.H. St John of God Order
Ordo Fratrum Bethlemitarum O.F.B. Bethlehemites
Clerics Regular
Official Name Abbreviations Common Name
Congregatio Clericorum Regularium S. Pauli, Barnabitarum B. Barnabites
Societas Iesu S.J. Jesuits
Ordo Clericorum Regularium a Somascha C.R.S. Somascans
Ordo Clericorum Regularium Ministrantium Infirmis M.I. Camillians
Ordo Clericorum Regularium Minorum C.R.M. Clerics Regular Minor
Ordo Clericorum Regularium Matris Dei O.M.D. Clerics Regular of the Mother of God
Ordo Clericorum Regularium Pauperum Matris Dei Scholarum Piarum Sch. P. Piarists
Ordo Clericorum Regularium vulgo Theatinorum C.R. Theatines

The 2012 Annuario Pontificio, which devotes 19 pages to this information on Latin-Rite "orders" for men, gives 35 pages to Latin-Rite "congregations" for men, 7 to Eastern "orders, religious congregations and societies of apostolic life" for men, and 198 pages to more concise information on religious institutes for women.

See also



  1. ^ Álvarez Gómez, Jesús, C.M.F., Historia de la vida religiosa, Volume III, Publicaciones Claretianas, Madrid, 1996.
  2. ^ Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 88, a.11
  3. ^ a b Paul M. Quay, "Renewal of Religious Orders, or Destruction?", in Commentarium pro Religiosis et Missionariis, vol. 65 (1984), pp. 77-86
  4. ^ 1917 Code of Canon Law, canon 488
  5. ^ William Edward Addis, Thomas Arnold, A Catholic Dictionary Containing Some Account of the Doctrine, Discipline, Rites, Ceremonies, Councils and Religious Orders of the Catholic Church, Part Two, p. 858 (reprinted by Kessinger Publishing 2004)
  6. ^ 1917 Code of Canon Law, canon 1073
  7. ^ 1917 Code of Canon Law, canon 1058
  8. ^ 1917 Code of Canon Law, canons 580-582
  9. ^ Yūji Sugawara, Religious Poverty: from Vatican Council II to the 1994 Synod of Bishops (Loyola Press 1997 ISBN 978-88-7652-698-5), pp. 127-128
  10. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 1192 §2
  11. ^ IntraText concordance to the 1917 Code
  12. ^ Robert T. Kennedy, Study related to a pre-1983 book by John J. McGrath – Jurist, 1990, pp. 351-401
  13. ^ Code of Canon Law, canons 607-709
  14. ^ E. Caparros, M. Thériault, J. Thorne (editors), Code of Canon Law Annotated (Wilson & Lafleur, Montréal 1993 ISBN 2-89127-232-3), p. 745
  15. ^ Article published in Theological Exploration, vol. 2. no. 1 of Duquesne University and in Law Review of University of Toledo, vol 33
  16. ^ See "The Benedictine Order" in New Advent, Catholic Encyclopedia
  17. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 589 Archived April 18, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2008 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2012 ISBN 978-88-209-8722-0), pp. 1411-1468

External links

Official websites

Acronyms and denominations



The Camillians or Clerics Regular, Ministers to the Sick (Latin: Clerci Regulari Ministeri Infirmaribus) are a Roman Catholic religious order, founded in 1582 by St. Camillus de Lellis (1550-1614). A large red cross was chosen by the founder as the distinguishing badge for the members of the Order to wear upon their black cassocks, which was later adopted as the international symbol of medical care. As of 2018, 1080 Camillians serve in 35 countries. They use the postnominal initials of M.I. (Ministri degli Infermi).


The Order of the Immaculate Conception (Ordo Inmaculatae Conceptionis), also known as the Conceptionists, are a contemplative religious order of nuns. For some years, they followed the Poor Clares Rule, but in 1511 were recognized as a separate Catholic religious order, taking a new Rule and the name of Order of Immaculate Conception.

Crutched Friars

The Fratres Cruciferi (cross-bearing brethren) are a Roman Catholic religious order. There were four main independent branches of Fratres Cruciferi: an Italian order, a Portuguese order, a Belgian order, and a Bohemian order. They were also known as Crutched Friars, Crossed Friars, Crouched Friars or Croziers because of the staff they carried with them surmounted by a crucifix.

Daylesford, Pennsylvania

Daylesford is an unincorporated community in Tredyffrin Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania, United States, in the southeastern part of the state, near Philadelphia. Located near the end of the Main Line, it is served by its own stop on the SEPTA Paoli/Thorndale Line.

In 1954, the Norbertines (a Roman Catholic religious order of canons regular) opened a novitiate at the former Cassatt Estate in Daylesford. In 1963, the Norbertine community moved to neighboring Easttown Township, near the community of Paoli, and established Daylesford Abbey.


Dominican may refer to:

Someone or something from or related to the Dominican Republic, on the island of Hispaniola in the Greater Antilles, in the Caribbean

People of the Dominican Republic

Demographics of the Dominican Republic

Culture of the Dominican Republic

Someone or something from or related to the Dominican in the Caribbean

Demographics of Dominica

Culture of DominicaDominican Order, a Catholic religious order

Jesuit Asia missions

The Jesuits, or Society of Jesus, a Roman Catholic religious order, have had a long history of missions in East and South Asia from their very foundation in the 16th century; St. Francis Xavier, a friend of St. Ignatius of Loyola and co-founder of the Society, visited India, the Moluques, Japan and died (1552) as he was attempting to enter China.

Mary Wilson

Mary Wilson may refer to:

Mary Wilson, Baroness Wilson of Rievaulx (1916–2018), British poet, wife of Harold Wilson

Mary Louise Wilson (born 1931), American film, musical theatre, stage and television actress

Mary Wilson (singer) (born 1944), American singer, original member of The Supremes

Mary Wilson (album), a 1979 album by Mary Wilson

Mary Wilson, host of Radio New Zealand's Checkpoint news programme

Mary Ellen Wilson (1864–1956), child abuse victim whose case spurred on the founding of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children

Mary Wilson (broadcaster), Irish broadcaster and journalist

Mary Elizabeth Wilson (1893–1963), serial killer known as "the Merry widow of Windy Nook"

Mary Evans Wilson (1866–1928), Boston civil rights activist

Mary Ann Wilson (born 1936), nurse and TV exercise presenter

Mary Wilson, character in Angels with Broken Wings

Mary Wilson, widow of Ralph Wilson and leader of the trust that holds ownership of the Buffalo Bills

Mary Pat Wilson (born 1963), Puerto Rican Olympic skier

Mary Wilson (politician), Canadian politician

Mary Florence Wilson (1884–1977), librarian for the League of Nations

Mary Jane Wilson (1840–1916), founded the Catholic religious order, the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Our Lady of Victories

Minim (religious order)

The Minims (also called the Minimi or Order of Minims, abbreviated O.M.) are members of a Roman Catholic religious order of friars founded by Saint Francis of Paola in fifteenth-century Italy. The Order soon spread to France, Germany and Spain, and continues to exist today.

Like the other mendicant orders, there are three separate components, or orders, of the movement: the friars, contemplative nuns and a Third Order of laypeople who live in the spirit of the Order in their daily lives. At present there are only two fraternities of the Minim tertiaries; both are in Italy.

Missionary religious institutes and societies

A missionary order is a Catholic religious order devoted to active missionary work. No Catholic religious order was founded for that purpose, but all the mendicant orders have been active in this field and others too, in particular the Jesuits, whose members include outstanding missionaries such as Saint Francis Xavier and Matteo Ricci. Even monastic orders have engaged and still engage in missionary endeavours, as did, for instance, the Benedictines whom Pope Gregory the Great sent to evangelize the Angles.

A missionary congregation is a religious congregation devoted to active missionary work. Some, as that of the Marist Fathers, have that field of work as the purpose for which they were founded.

A Catholic missionary society is a society of apostolic life devoted to active missionary work. Orders and congregations are classes of religious institutes, but societies of apostolic life, while similar, are of distinct character in that their members do not take religious vows. Missionary societies include the Paris Foreign Missions Society, the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, the Missionary Society of St. Columban, and the Catholic Foreign Mission Society of America.

Order of Augustinian Recollects

The Order of Augustinian Recollects (O.A.R.), whose members are known as Augustinian Recollects, is a mendicant Catholic religious order of friars and nuns. It is a reformist offshoot from the Augustinian hermit friars and follows the same Rule of St. Augustine.

Order of the Most Holy Annunciation

The Order of the Most Holy Annunciation (Latin: Ordo SS. Annuntiationis), also known as the Turchine or Blue Nuns, is a Roman Catholic religious order of contemplative nuns formed in honour of the mystery of the Incarnation of Christ at Genoa, in Italy, by the Blessed Maria Vittoria De Fornari Strata.

Pope Clement VIII approved the religious order on 5 August 1604, placing it under the Rule of Saint Augustine.

At present, the order has monasteries in Brazil, France, Italy, the Philippines, Portugal, Romania, and Spain.

Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary

The Order of the Visitation of Holy Mary ( V.H.M., Latin: Ordo Visitationis Beatissimae Mariae Virginis) or the Visitation Order is an enclosed Roman Catholic religious order for women. Members of the order are also known as the Salesian Sisters (not to be confused with the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco) or, more commonly, as the Visitandines or Visitation Sisters.In 1905 a group of the sisters from St. Louis came to Springfield, Missouri, to start St. de Chantal Academy, a boarding school for girls, at the Elfindale Mansion. They stayed until 1980 when they moved to the Pacific Northwest taking their buried sisters with them.

Reform of a Religious Order

Reform of a religious order is the return of the order from a mitigated or relaxed observance to the rigour of its primitive rule. An example of this includes the Cluniac Reforms.

St. Xavier's College, Ranchi

St Xavier's College, Ranchi, is an autonomous college affiliated to Ranchi University, located in the Indian state of Jharkhand. It was founded in 1944 by the Patna province of the Society of Jesus, a Catholic religious order that traces its origin to St. Ignatius of Loyola in 1540.

Superior General of the Society of Jesus

The Superior General of the Society of Jesus is the official title of the leader of the Society of Jesus – the Roman Catholic religious order which is also known as the Jesuits. He is generally addressed as Father General. The position sometimes carries the nickname of the Black Pope, because of his responsibility for the largest Catholic, male religious order and is contrasted to the white garb of the pope. The thirty-first and current Superior General is the Reverend Father Arturo Sosa, elected by the 36th General Congregation on October 14, 2016.

Teutonic Order

The Order of Brothers of the German House of Saint Mary in Jerusalem (official names: Latin: Ordo domus Sanctæ Mariæ Theutonicorum Hierosolymitanorum, German: Orden der Brüder vom Deutschen Haus der Heiligen Maria in Jerusalem), commonly the Teutonic Order (Deutscher Orden, Deutschherrenorden or Deutschritterorden), is a Catholic religious order founded as a military order c. 1190 in Acre, Kingdom of Jerusalem.

The Teutonic Order was formed to aid Christians on their pilgrimages to the Holy Land and to establish hospitals. Its members have commonly been known as the Teutonic Knights, having a small voluntary and mercenary military membership, serving as a crusading military order for protection of Christians in the Holy Land and the Baltics during the Middle Ages.

Purely religious since 1929, the Teutonic Order still confers limited honorary knighthoods. The Bailiwick of Utrecht of the Teutonic Order, a Protestant chivalric order, is descended from the same medieval military order and also continues to award knighthoods and perform charitable work.

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace

The Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace are a Roman Catholic religious order of women which was founded in January 1884 in the Diocese of Nottingham, England by Margaret Anna Cusack.Cusack was raised in the Anglican church, but converted to Catholicism in 1858. She entered the Poor Clare Sisters, and was then known as Sister Francis Clare. She worked in many forms of ministry in Ireland over the years, and was known for her writing. In 1881, she went to Knock, in County Mayo, to open a school for young woman during the day, which held evening classes for daytime land workers. Other women were inspired by this work, and this led her to decision to form her own community, the Sistes of Saint Joseph of Peace. Conflict with Church leaders in Knock caused her to seek support in England, and in 1884, with the support of Cardinal Manning and Bishop Bagshawe, she received approval for her new order from Pope Leo XIII, and the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace was founded.

The order is governed as a single congregation located in three regions:

Sacred Heart Province in the United Kingdom includes Sisters and Associates living in England, Ireland, and Scotland.

St. Joseph Province in the Eastern United States includes Sisters and Associates living in Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island.

Our Lady Province in the Western United States includes Sisters and Associates living in Alaska, California, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, El Salvador, and Guatemala.In 2009, the sisters joined the mission at the Hôpital Sacré Coeur in Milot, Haiti.


The Trappists, officially the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance (Latin: Ordo Cisterciensis Strictioris Observantiae, abbreviated as OCSO), are a Catholic religious order of cloistered monastics that branched off from the Cistercians. They follow the Rule of Saint Benedict and have communities of both monks and nuns that are referred to as Trappists and Trappistines, respectively. They are named after La Trappe Abbey, the monastery from which the movement and religious order originated.


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