Religious institute

A religious institute is a type of institute of consecrated life in the Catholic Church where its members take religious vows and lead a life in community with fellow members.[1] Religious institutes are one of the two types of institutes of consecrated life; the other is that of the secular institute, where its members are "living in the world".[2]

Societies of apostolic life resemble religious institutes in that its members live in community, but differ as their members do not take religious vows. They pursue the apostolic purpose of the society to which they belong, while leading a life in common as brothers or sisters and striving for the perfection of charity through observing the society's constitutions.[3] In some of these societies the members assume the evangelical counsels by a bond other than that of religious vows defined in their constitutions.[4]


Since each and every religious institute has its own unique aim, or charism, it has to adhere to a particular way of religious living that is conducive to it, whether "contemplative", "enclosed", mendicant, or apostolic. Thus some religious institutes – especially of nuns who are subject to "Papal Enclosure" – strictly isolate their members from the outside world, of which the "grilles" in their parlours and churches are tangible evidence.[5] Other religious institutes have apostolates that require their members to interact practically with the secular world, such as teaching, medical work, producing religious artworks and texts, designing and making vestments and writing religious instruction books, while maintaining their distinctiveness in communal living. Several founders, in view of their aim, require the members of their institute not only to profess the three Evangelical Counsels of chastity, poverty, obedience, but also to vow or promise stability or loyalty, and maybe certain disciplines, such as self-denial, fasting, silence.

Religious orders are subdivided as:

  • monastic made up of monks (who may be clerics) and/or nuns who are bound to live and work at their monastery and recite the Liturgy of the Hours in common
  • mendicant made up of friars (clerics or lay people) who, while living and praying in common, may have a more active apostolate, and depend on alms for their life
  • canons regular made up of canons (clerics) and canonesses regular, who sing the liturgy in choir and may run parish-like apostolates
  • clerics regular made up of priests who are also vowed religious and who usually have a more active apostolate

Traditionally, institutes for men are referred to as the "First Orders" and those of women as the "Second Orders". Some religious orders, for example the Franciscans or the Dominicans, have "Third Orders" of associated religious members who live in community and follow a rule (called Third Order Religious or TOR), or lay members who, without living in formal community with the order, have made a private vow or promise to it, such as of perseverance in pious life, hence are not "religious", that is to say, not members of the Consecrated life (often called Third Order Secular, or TOS).

In common parlance, all members of male religious institutes are often termed "monks" and those of female religious institutes "nuns", although in a more restricted sense, a monk is one who lives in a monastery under a monastic rule such as that of Saint Benedict and the term "nun" was in the 1917 Code of Canon Law officially reserved for members of a women's religious institute of solemn vows,[6] and is sometimes applied only to those who devote themselves wholly to the contemplative life and belong to one of the enclosed religious orders living and working within the confines of a monastery and reciting the Liturgy of the Hours in community.[7] Religious who are not clergy tend to be called "Brother" or "Sister", while the term "friar" properly refers to a member of a male mendicant order.

Priests in vows retain their usual title of "Father", and "Reverend Father". With a few exceptions, all men in vows who are not priests and would therefore not be addressed as "Father" are addressed as "Brother". Women religious are addressed as "Sister". The 1917 Code of Canon Law reserved the term "nun" (Latin: monialis) for women religious who took solemn vows or who, while being allowed in some places to take simple vows, belonged to institutes whose vows were normally solemn.[8] It used the word "sister" (Latin: soror) exclusively for members of institutes for women that it classified as "congregations"; and for "nuns" and "sisters" jointly it used the Latin word religiosae (women religious). The current Code of Canon Law has dropped those distinctions. Some women superiors are properly addressed as "Mother" or "Reverend Mother". Benedictines have traditionally used the form of address "Dom" for men and "Dame" for solemnly professed nuns.

Historically, what are now called religious institutes were distinguished as either religious orders or religious congregations. The Church no longer makes that distinction and applies to all such institutes the single name "religious institute" and the same rules of canon law.[9] While solemn vows once meant those taken in what was called a religious order, and although the distinction between solemn and simple vows is still maintained,[10] "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."[11] "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.[12]

Admission and religious vows

Admittance to a religious institute is regulated not only by Church law and the religious Rule it has adopted but also by its own norms. Broadly speaking, after a lengthy period spanning postulancy, aspirancy and novitiate and whilst in "temporary vows" to test their vocation with a particular institute, candidates wishing to be admitted permanently are required to make a public profession of the Evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience by means of a vow (which may be either simple or solemn) binding in Church law. One of the effects of this vow is that members of a religious institute are no longer free to marry; and should they subsequently want to leave the institute after permanent profession, they would have to seek a papal indult of dispensation from their vow. The benefits of the profession are of a spiritual nature.[13]

After completion of the novitiate, members of religious institute make religious profession, which is "a public vow to observe the three evangelical counsels" of chastity, poverty and obedience.[14] A vow is classified as public if a legitimate superior accepts it in the name of the Church, as happens when one joins a religious institute. In making their religious profession, they are "incorporated into the institute, with the rights and duties defined by law", and "through the ministry of the Church they are consecrated to God".[14]

Religious profession can be temporary or perpetual: "Temporary profession is to be made for the period defined by the institute's own law. This period may not be less than three years nor longer than six years."[15]

Typically, members of Religious Institutes either take vows of evangelical chastity, poverty and obedience (the "Evangelical Counsels") to lead a life in imitation of Christ Jesus, or, those following the Rule of St Benedict, the vows of obedience, stability (that is, to remain with this particular community till death and not seek to move to another), and "conversion of life" which implicitly includes the counsels of chastity and evangelical poverty. Some institutes take additional vows (a "fourth vow" is typical), specifying some particular work or defining condition of their way of life (e.g., the Jesuit vow to undertake any mission upon which they are sent by the Pope; the Missionaries of Charity vow to serve always the poorest of the poor).

Daily living in religious institutes is regulated by Church law as well as the particular religious rule they have adopted and their own constitutions and customaries. Their respective timetables ("horarium") allocate due time to communal prayer, private prayer, spiritual reading, work, meals, communal recreation, sleep, and fixes any hours during which stricter silence is to be observed, in accordance with their own institute's charism.

The traditional distinction between simple and solemn vows[16] no longer has any canonical effect. 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."[17]

Religious rules, constitutions and statutes

Religious institutes generally follow one of the four great religious rules: Rule of St Basil, Rule of St. Benedict, Rule of St. Augustine, and the Rule of St. Francis.[18] The Rule of St Basil, one of the earliest rules for Christian religious life, is followed by monastic communities of Byzantine tradition. Western monastics (Benedictines, Trappists, Cistercians, etc.) observe the Rule of St Benedict, a collection of precepts for what is called contemplative religious life. The Rule of St Augustine stresses self-denial, moderation, and care for those in need.

Jesuits follow what is called not a Rule, but the Constitutions composed by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, which laid aside traditional practices such as chanting the liturgy in favour of greater adaptability and mobility under a more authoritarian regime.[19][20] Other institutes combine a Rule with Constitutions that give more precise indications for the life of the members. Thus the Capuchin Constitutions of 1536 are added to the Rule of St. Francis[21] In addition to the more fundamental provisions of the Rule or Constitutions, religious institutes have statutes that are more easily subject to change.[22]

Foundation and approval

Religious institutes normally begin as an association formed, with the consent of the diocesan bishop, for the purpose of becoming a religious institute. After time has provided proof of the rectitude, seriousness and durability of the new association, the bishop, having consulted the Holy See, may formally set it up as a religious institute under his own jurisdiction.[23] Later, when it has grown in numbers, perhaps extending also into other dioceses, and further proved its worth, the Holy See may grant it formal approval, bringing it under the Holy See's responsibility, rather than that of the Bishops of the dioceses where it is present.[24] For the good of such institutes and to provide for the needs of their apostolate, the Holy See may exempt them from the governance of the local Bishops, bringing them entirely under the authority of the Holy See itself or of someone else.[25] In some respects, for example public liturgical practice, they always remain under the local bishop's supervision.


First millennium

Roots in Egypt and Syriac- and Greek-speaking East

From the earliest times there were probably individual hermits who lived a life in isolation in imitation of Jesus' 40 days in the desert. They have left no confirmed archaeological traces and only hints in the written record. Communities of virgins who had consecrated themselves to Christ are found at least as far back as the 2nd century.[26] There were also individual ascetics, known as the "devout", who usually lived not in the deserts but on the edge of inhabited places, still remaining in the world but practicing asceticism and striving for union with God, although extreme ascetism such as encratism was regarded as suspect by the Church.[27]

Paul of Thebes (fl. 3rd century), commemorated in the writings of St Jerome, is regarded as the first Christian hermit in Egypt, his withdrawal into the desert apparently having been prompted by the persecution of the Christians at the time. Saint Anthony was the first to leave the world to live in the desert for specifically spiritual reasons; St Athanasius speaks of him as an anchorite. In upper Egypt, sometime around 323, Saint Pachomius decided to organize his disciples into a form of community in which they lived in individual huts or rooms (cellula in Latin), but worked, ate, and worshipped in shared space. Guidelines for daily life were drawn up (a monastic 'rule'); and several monasteries were founded, nine for men and two for women. This method of monastic organization is called cenobitic or "community-based". Towards the end of his life St Pachomius was therefore not only the abbot of a monastery but also the head of a whole group of monasteries.

The Greeks (e.g. St Basil the Great of Cappadocian Caesarea) and the Syriac-speaking east had their own monastic traditions (e.g. St Ephrem of Nisibis and Edessa).


The earliest forms of monasticism in Western Europe involved figures such as Martin of Tours, who after serving in a Roman legion converted to Christianity and established a hermitage near Milan. He then moved on to Poitiers, where a community gathered around his hermitage. In 372 he was called to become Bishop of Tours, and established a monastery at Marmoutiers on the opposite bank of the Loire River. His monastery was laid out as a colony of hermits rather than as a single integrated community.

John Cassian began his monastic career at a monastery in Palestine and Egypt around 385 to study monastic practice there. In Egypt he had been attracted to the isolated life of hermits, which he considered the highest form of monasticism, yet the monasteries he founded were all organized monastic communities. About 410 he established two monasteries near Marseilles, one for men, one for women. In time these attracted a total of 5,000 monks and nuns. Most significant for the future development of monasticism were Cassian's Institutes, which provided a guide for monastic life and his Conferences, a collection of spiritual reflections.

Honoratus of Marseilles was a wealthy Gallo-Roman aristocrat, who after a pilgrimage to Egypt, founded the Monastery of Lérins, on an island lying off the modern city of Cannes. Lérins became, in time, a center of monastic culture and learning, and many later monks and bishops would pass through Lérins in the early stages of their career.


The anonymous Rule of the Master (Regula magistri), was written somewhere south of Rome around 500. The rule adds administrative elements not found in earlier rules, defining the activities of the monastery, its officers, and their responsibilities in great detail.

Benedict of Nursia was educated in Rome but soon sought the life of a hermit in a cave at Subiaco, outside the city. He then attracted followers with whom he founded the monastery of Monte Cassino around 520, between Rome and Naples. His Rule is shorter than the Master's. It became by the 9th century the standard monastic rule in Western Europe.[28]


The earliest Monastic settlements in Ireland emerged at the end of the 5th century. The first identifiable founder of a monastery was Saint Brigid of Kildare, who ranked with Saint Patrick as a major figure of the Irish church. The monastery at Kildare was a double monastery, with both men and women ruled by the Abbess, a pattern found in many other monastic foundations.

Commonly, Irish monasteries were established by grants of land to an abbot or abbess, who came from a local noble family. The monastery became the spiritual focus of the tribe or kin group. Irish monastic rules specify a stern life of prayer and discipline in which prayer, poverty, and obedience are the central themes. However Irish monks read even secular Latin texts with an enthusiasm that their contemporaries on the continent lacked. By the end of the 7th century, Irish monastic schools were attracting students from England and from Europe.

Irish monasticism spread widely, first to Scotland and Northern England, then to Gaul and Italy. Saint Columba and his followers established monasteries at Bangor, on the northeastern coast of Ireland, at Iona in Scotland, and at Lindisfarne, in Northumbria. Saint Columbanus, an abbot from a Leinster noble family, travelled to Gaul in the late 6th century with twelve companions. He and his followers spread the Irish model of monastic institutions established by noble families to the continent. A whole series of new rural monastic foundations on great rural estates under Irish influence sprang up, starting with St. Columbanus's foundations of Fontaines and Luxeuil, sponsored by the Frankish King Childebert II. After Childebert's death St. Columbanus travelled east to Metz, where Theudebert II allowed him to establish a new monastery among the semi-pagan Alemanni in what is now Switzerland. One of St. Columbanus's followers founded the monastery of St. Gall on the shores of Lake Constance, while St. Columbanus continued onward across the Alps to the kingdom of the Lombards in Italy. There King Agilulf and his wife Theodolinda granted St. Columbanus land in the mountains between Genoa and Milan, where he established the monastery of Bobbio.

Developments around 1100

A monastic revival already begun in the 10th century with the Cluniac reform, which organized into an order with common governance the monasteries following the Benedictine Rule that chose to join it or were founded by it,[29] continued with the foundation in 1084 of the Carthusian monasteries, which combined the hermit life with that of the cloister, each monk having his own hermitage, coming together only for the liturgy and an occasional meal, and having no contact with the outside world, and the foundation a few years later of the Cistercians, a foundation that seemed destined to fail until in 1113 a band of 30 young men of the noblest families of Burgundy arrived, led by Bernard of Clairvaux, then 23 years old, who was to prove a dominating figure in the life of Western Europe for forty years. This was followed by the foundation in 1120 of the Canons Regular of Prémontré, not monks but clergy devoted to ascetism, study and pastoral care.[30] These aggregations of monasteries marked a departure from the previously existing arrangement whereby each monastery was totally independent and could decide what rule to follow. It also prepared the way for the quite different religious orders of the 13th century.[31]

13th century

The 13th century saw the founding and rapid spread of the Dominicans in 1216 and the Franciscans in 1210, two of the principal mendicant orders, who supported themselves not, as the monasteries did, by rent on landed property, but by work and the charitable aid of others.[32] Both these institutes had vows of poverty but, while for the Franciscans poverty was an aim in itself, the Dominicans, treating poverty as a means or instrument, were allowed to own their churches and convents.[33] Similar institutes that appeared at about the same time were the Augustinians, Carmelites and Servites. While the monasteries had chosen situations in the remote countryside, these new institutes, which aimed at least as much at evangelizing others as at sanctifying their own members, had their houses in the cities and towns.[31]

16th century and later

By the constitution Inter cetera of 20 January 1521, Pope Leo X appointed a rule for tertiaries with simple vows. Under this rule, enclosure was optional, enabling non-enclosed followers of the rule to engage in various works of charity not allowed to enclosed religious.[34] In 1566 and 1568, Pope Pius V rejected this class of institute, but they continued to exist and even increased in number. After at first being merely tolerated, they afterwards obtained approval,[34] finally gaining on 8 December 1900 recognition as religious by Pope Leo XIII.[35] Their lives were oriented not to the ancient monastic way of life, but more to social service and to evangelization, both in Europe and in mission areas. The number of these "congregations" (not "orders") increased further in the upheavals brought by the French Revolution and subsequent Napoleonic invasions of other Catholic countries, depriving thousands of monks and nuns of the income that their communities held because of inheritances and forcing them to find a new way of living their religious life.

Examples of such institutes are the Claretians, La Salle Brothers, Passionists, Redemptorists, and Vincentians.

A special case happened in 1540. Ignatius of Loyola obtained authorization for the members of the Society of Jesus to be divided into professed with solemn vows and coadjutors with dispensable simple vows.[36] The novelty was found in the nature of these simple vows, since they constituted the Jesuit coadjutors as religious in the true and proper sense of the word, with the consequent privileges and exemption of regulars, including them being a diriment impediment to matrimony, etc.[37] In theory, the recognition as religious for simple vows had universal validity, but in practice, the Roman Curia considered it an exclusive privilege to the Society of Jesus.[38] Had this recognition been accepted with universal validity, religious with simple vows wouldn't have needed to wait until the 20th century to be recognized as regulars.

20th century

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 those 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 simply "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.[39]

The same Code also 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" (institutes with solemn vows) from "congregations" (institutes with simple vows), while keeping some juridical distinctions between the two classes.

Even these remaining juridical distinctions were abolished by the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which distinguishes solemn from simple vows but does not divide religious into categories on that basis.

By then a new form of institutes of consecrated life had emerged alongside that of religious institutes: in 1947 Pope Pius XII recognized secular institutes as a form in which Christians profess the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience while living in the world.[2]


In 1972, the French Jesuit Raymond Hostie published his study Vie et mort des ordres religieux: Approaches psychosociologiques (Paris. Desclée de Brouwer), an English translation of which appeared in 1983 as The Life and Death of Religious Orders (Washington: CARA). Hostie argued that the life of a religious institute passes through successive stages: 10–20 years of gestation, 20–40 years of consolidation, a century or so of expansion, another century or so of stabilization, 50–100 years of decline, followed by death, even if death is not officially declared until later. In this view, a religious institute lasts 250–350 years before being replaced by another religious institute with a similar life-span. Hostie recognized that there are exceptions: Benedictines, Franciscans, Dominicans, Augustinians, and some others have lasted longer, either because transformed from what they were originally or because of the prestige of their founders. In 2015, Giancarlo Rocca suggested that attention should be given not so much to the life-span of individual religious institutes, as to the duration of what Rocca called "religious institutions", corresponding to the juridical categories of monastics, canons, mendicant orders, clerks regular, priestly societies, religious congregations, secular institutes. The religious institutes that have disappeared since 1960 have mostly been congregations. This class of institutes with simple vows and a strong emphasis on apostolate arose shortly before the French Revolution. They modernized the Church, the State, and religious life itself. Older institutes adopted some of their features, especially in the fields of education and health care, areas, however, that the State has now almost entirely taken over. This suggests that the life-span of a religious institute is largely determined by the point at which it comes into being within the life cycle of the "religious institution" to which it belongs. "Religious institutions" themselves do not necessarily disappear altogether with time, but they lose importance, as happened to monasticism, which is no longer the force it was in the Middle Ages before the mendicant orders eclipsed it.[40]

See also


  1. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 607 § 2|The full quote: "a society in which members, according to proper law, pronounce public vows, either perpetual or temporary which are to be renewed, however, when the period of time has elapsed, and lead a life of brothers or sisters in common"
  2. ^ a b Code of Canon Law, canon 710
  3. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 731 § 1
  4. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 731 § 2
  5. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 667
  6. ^ 1917 Code of Canon Law, canon 488, 7
  7. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 667
  8. ^ Code of Canon Law of 1917, canon 488
  9. ^ Code of Canon Law, canons 607-709
  10. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 1192 §2
  11. ^ E. Caparros, M. Thériault, J. Thorne (editors), Code of Canon Law Annotated (Wilson & Lafleur, Montréal 1993 ISBN 2-891272-32-3), p. 745
  12. ^ Article published in Theological Exploration, vol. 2. no. 1 of Duquesne University and in Law Review of University of Toledo, vol 33
  13. ^ cf. Dom Columba Marmion, Christ the Ideal of the Monk, ch. VI.
  14. ^ a b "Code of Canon Law, canon 654". Retrieved 2011-10-12.
  15. ^ "Code of Canon Law, canon 655". Retrieved 2011-10-12.
  16. ^ "Code of Canon Law, canon 1192 §2". Retrieved 2011-10-12. It is solemn if it is recognised by the Church as such; otherwise, it is simple.
  17. ^ E. Caparros, M. Thériault, J. Thorne (editors), Code of Canon Law Annotated (Wilson & Lafleur, Montréal 1993 ISBN 2-89127-232-3), p. 745
  18. ^ "Religious life". Catholic Encyclopedia. 1911.
  19. ^ Edward A. Ryan, "The Jesuit Constitutions" in Encyclopædia Britannica
  20. ^ John A. Hardon, "History of Religious Life: St Ignatius of Loyola and the Society of Jesus
  21. ^ Texts at Rule and Constitutions of the Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal
  22. ^ Jason Gray, "Canonical Content of the Proper Law of an Institute"
  23. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 579
  24. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 589
  25. ^ Code of Canon Law, canon 591
  26. ^ Carolyn A. Osiek, David L. Balch, The Families in the New Testament World (Westminster John Knox Press 1997 ISBN 978-0-66425546-6), p. 152
  27. ^ 1 Timothy 4:1-5
  28. ^ Fred S. Kleiner, Gardner's Art Through the Ages (Cengage Learning 2009 ISBN 978-0-495-57360-9), vol. 1, p. 298
  29. ^ Philip Hughes, A History of the Church (Sheed and Ward 1935), vol. 2, pp. 206-207
  30. ^ Philip Hughes, A History of the Church (Sheed and Ward 1935), vol. 2, pp. 258-266
  31. ^ a b Religious Orders – Historical Development
  32. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, "Mendicant"
  33. ^ Anne Derbes, Mark Sidona, The Cambridge Companion to Giotto (Cambridge University Press 2003 ISBN 978-0-521-77007-1), p. 105
  34. ^ a b Arthur Vermeersch, "Religious Life" in The Catholic Encyclopedia (New York 1911), vol. 12. Archived 2012-01-15 at the Wayback Machine Accessed 18 July 2011
  35. ^ Pope Leo XIII's Constitution "Conditae a Christo," 8 December 1900
  36. ^ Karl Rahner, Sacramentum Mundi, article "Religious Orders"
  37. ^ Quanto fructuosius (1-2-1583) and Ascendente Domino (5-24-1584).
  38. ^ History of Religious Life, Vol. 3, Jesús Álvarez Gómez, CMF, 1990 (Spanish)
  39. ^ 1917 Code of Canon Law, canon 488
  40. ^ Giancarlo Rocca, "Il ciclo della vita: Qual è la durata di un istituto religioso?" in L'Osservatore Romano, 12 March 2015, p. 7]

External links


Congregation may refer to:

Congregation, a large gathering of people, often for the purpose of worship

Church (congregation), a Christian organization meeting in a particular place for worship

Church (building)

Congregation (Roman Curia), an administrative body of the Catholic Church

Sacred Congregation of Rites

Congregation for Bishops, in the Roman Curia

Congregation (Catholic), a religious institute or a grouping of religious institutes in which only simple vows, not solemn vows, are taken

Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which oversees the process of canonization

Qahal, an Israelite organizational structure often translated as congregation

Congregation (university), an assembly of senior members of a university

The general audience in a ward in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Congregation (Catholic)

In the Roman Catholic Church, the term "congregation" is used not only in the senses that it has in other contexts (to indicate, for instance, a gathering for worship or some other purpose), but also to mean specifically either a type of department of the Roman Curia, or a type of religious institute, or certain organized groups of Augustinian, Benedictine, and Cistercian houses.


In the canon law of the Catholic Church, exclaustration is the official authorization for a member of a religious order (in short, a religious) bound by perpetual vows to live for a limited time outside their religious institute, usually with a view to discerning whether to depart definitively.

Master of novices

In the Roman Catholic Church, the master of novices or novice master is someone who is committed the training of the novices and the government of the novitiate of a religious institute.


A motherhouse is the principal house or community for a religious institute. It would normally be where the residence and offices of the religious superior of the institute would be located. If the institute is divided geographically, it is referred to as the provincial motherhouse and would be where the regional superior would be in residence.


A postulant (from Latin: postulare, to ask) was originally one who makes a request or demand; hence, a candidate. The use of the term is now generally restricted to those asking for admission into a monastery or a religious institute, both before actual admission and for the period of time preceding their admission into the novitiate. Currently, however, common usage terms the person who has not yet been accepted by the institution as an "inquirer" or "observer".

The term is most commonly used in the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion (which includes the Episcopal Church, which uses the term to designate those who are seeking ordination to the diaconate or priesthood. Postulancy is generally considered the first formal step leading to candidacy and ordination). The Eastern Orthodox Churches uses this term less frequently.

Profession (religious)

For Profession of faith (public avowal of faith according to a traditional formula), see Creed.The term religious profession is used in many western-rite Christian denominations (including those of Roman Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and other traditions) to refer to the solemn admission of men or women into a religious order by means of public vows.

The term is defined in the 1983 Code of Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church in relation to members of religious institutes as follows:

By religious profession members make a public vow to observe the three evangelical counsels. Through the ministry of the Church they are consecrated to God, and are incorporated into the institute, with the rights and duties defined by law.

Canon Law also recognizes public profession of the three evangelical counsels on the part of Christians who live the "eremitic or anchoritic life" without being members of a religious institute:

A hermit is recognized in the law as one dedicated to God in a consecrated life if he or she publicly professes the three evangelical counsels, confirmed by a vow or other sacred bond, in the hands of the diocesan bishop and observes his or her own plan of life under his direction.

The three evangelical counsels, which are considered in greater depth in the article about them, are those of chastity, poverty and obedience. The Benedictine religious profession of "stability, conversion of manners and obedience", though historically preceding the profession of the evangelical counsels by several centuries, includes the three evangelical counsels implicitly. Some orders add to the three evangelical counsels special vows inspired by the purpose of their own founder (see in particular the fourth vow unique to the Society of Jesus).

Religious profession is often associated with the granting of a religious habit, which the newly professed receives, with or without ceremony, from the superior of the institute or from the bishop. Acceptance of the habit implies acceptance of the obligation of membership of the religious institute, including the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.

Religious profession can be temporary or perpetual: "Temporary profession is to be made for the period defined by the institute's own law. This period may not be less than three years nor longer than six years.""When the period of time for which the profession was made has been completed, a religious who freely asks, and is judged suitable, is to be admitted to a renewal of profession or to perpetual profession; otherwise, the religious is to leave."Conditions for making a temporary religious profession are a minimum age of 18 years, completion of a regular novitiate, freedom of choice on the part of the person making the profession, and acceptance by the superior after a vote by the superior's council. Additional conditions for making perpetual profession are a minimum age of 21 years and the completion of at least three years of temporary profession.The traditional distinction between simple and solemn vows is no longer taken into account for canonical effects.

Provincial superior

A provincial superior is a major superior of a religious institute acting under the institute's Superior General and exercising a general supervision over all the members of that institute in a territorial division of the order called a province—similar to but not to be confused with an ecclesiastical province made up of particular churches or dioceses under the supervision of a Metropolitan Bishop. The division of a religious institute into provinces is generally along geographical lines, and may consist of one or more countries, or of only a part of a country. There may be, however, one or more houses of one province situated within the physical territory of another since the jurisdiction over the individual religious is personal rather than territorial. The title of the office is often abbreviated to Provincial.

Among the friars and Third Order Religious Sisters of the Augustinian, Carmelite and Dominican orders, the title "Prior Provincial" or Prioress Provincial is generally used. The Friars Minor, in contrast, use the title "Minister Provincial", in line with their emphasis on living as brothers to one another.

Religious (Western Christianity)

A religious (using the word as a noun) is, in the terminology of many Western Christian denominations, such as the Catholic Church, Lutheran Churches, and Anglican Communion, what in common language one would call a "monk" or "nun", as opposed to an ordained "priest". A religious may also be a priest if he has undergone ordination, but in general he is not.

More precisely, a religious is a member of a religious order or religious institute, someone who belongs to "a society in which members...pronounce public vows...and lead a life of brothers or sisters in common".Some classes of religious have also been referred to, though less commonly now than in the past, as regulars, because of living in accordance with a religious rule (regula in Latin) such as the Rule of Saint Benedict.

Religious sister (Catholic)

A religious sister in the Catholic Church is a woman who has taken public vows in a religious institute dedicated to apostolic works, as distinguished from a nun who lives a cloistered monastic life dedicated to prayer. Both nuns and sisters use the term "sister" as a form of address.

The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism (1995) defines as "congregations of sisters institutes of women who profess the simple vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, live a common life, and are engaged in ministering to the needs of society." As William Saunders writes: "When bound by simple vows, a woman is a sister, not a nun, and thereby called 'sister'. Nuns recite the Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office in common ... (and) live a contemplative, cloistered life in a monastery ... behind the 'papal enclosure'. Nuns are permitted to leave the cloister only under special circumstances and with the proper permission."

Roman Catholic Diocese of Tagum

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Tagum (Latin: Dioecesis Tagamna) is a diocese of the Catholic Church in the Philippines.The diocese is a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Davao. It was canonically erected as Prelature Nullius on January 13, 1962 by Pope John XXIII, with Joseph Regan M.M. as its local ordinary. It was elevated to the status of a diocese on October 11, 1980 by Pope John Paul II, who appointed Pedro Dean as its first Filipino bishop ordinary, and Ramon Villena as the auxiliary bishop.

The diocesan territory comprises the entire civil provinces of Davao del Norte (except the city of Samal, the southern portion of the Lasang River) and Compostela Valley.

Secular clergy

The term secular clergy refers to deacons and priests who are not monastics or members of a religious institute. A diocesan priest is a Catholic, Anglican, or Eastern Orthodox priest who commits himself or herself to a certain geographical area and is ordained into the service of the citizens of a diocese, a church administrative region. That includes serving the everyday needs of the people in parishes, but their activities are not limited to that of their parish.

Sisters of Social Service

The Sisters of Social Service (SSS) are a Roman Catholic religious institute of women founded in Hungary in 1923 by Margaret Slachta. The sisters adopted the social mission of the Catholic Church and Benedictine spirituality with a special devotion to the Holy Spirit.

Sisters of the Apostolic Carmel

The Sisters of the Apostolic Carmel are members of a Carmelite religious institute dedicated to female education. It was founded in the latter part of the 19th century by Mother Veronica of the Passion, O.C.D., under the guidance of her mentor, Bishop Marie Ephrem of the Sacred Heart, O.C.D., who had envisioned the birth of a "Carmel for the Missions" in India, devoted to teaching and education.

Sister Veronica of the Passion had come to India as a member of the teaching congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition, founded in France in 1832 by Saint Emily de Vialar (+ 1856). She had entered the congregation in 1851, shortly after her conversion to the Roman Catholic Church from the Church of England. She met Bishop Ephrem upon her assignment to India in the early 1850s. Like the other Discalced Carmelite friars providing pastoral care to western India, they had sought to provide Catholic education to the women and young girls under their care.

Inspired by his vision of such a religious institute of Carmelite Sisters, Sister Veronica entered the Carmel of Puy, France, as a novice in the Discalced Carmelite Order. After her profession, she began to train a group of young European women of varying nationalities for the task of education in India.

On November 19, 1870, the first group of Sisters arrived in Mangalore, under the leadership of Mother Mary of the Angels, who was the first Superior General and novice mistress, to start the Mission. St. Anne Convent, which became the Motherhouse, was the cradle of the Apostolic Carmel.

The Apostolic Carmel has spread its branches into the various parts of India, Sri Lanka, Kuwait, Pakistan, Kenya, Rome and Bahrain. The Congregation is governed under Six Provinces and centrally administered by the General Team from the General Motherhouse in Bangalore, with Sister Agatha Mary as the present Superior General (2008).

The mission of the religious institute was and remains Catholic Education. It provides a Catholic value-based education, with special attention given to the disadvantaged sections of society through various levels of education: pre-primary, primary, secondary, pre-university, higher, technical and special education for the disabled.

The other ministries include: healing ministry, nursing care, de-addiction and rehabilitation of alcoholics and drug addicts, self-help groups, prison ministry, ministering to persons with different disabilities, community-based-rehabilitation, Catechism and faith education.

Sisters of the Destitute

Sisters of the Destitute (S. D.) is a Syro-Malabar Catholic women's religious institute.

Solemn vow

In Catholic canon law, a solemn vow is a vow ("a deliberate and free promise made to God about a possible and better good") that the Church has recognized as such.Any other vow, public or private, individual or collective, concerned with an action or with abstaining from an action, is a simple vow. Even a vow accepted by a legitimate superior in the name of the Church (the definition of a "public vow") is a simple vow if the Church has not granted it recognition as a solemn vow. In canon law a vow is public (concerning the Church itself directly) only if a legitimate superior accepts it in the name of the Church; all other vows, no matter how much publicity is given to them, are classified as private vows (concerning directly only those who make them). The vow taken at profession as a member of any religious institute is a public vow, but in recent centuries can be either solemn or simple.

There is disagreement among theologians as to whether the distinction between solemn and simple vows derives simply from a decision of the Church to treat them differently or whether, in line with the opinion of Saint Thomas Aquinas, a solemn vow is, antecedently to any decision by the Church, a more strict, perfect and complete consecration to God.Aquinas held that the only vows that could be considered solemn were those made by receiving the holy orders as a member of the Catholic Hierarchy, or by the religious profession of the rule as a member of a Catholic religious order. As a unique exception to this traditional dichotomy, the Benedictine abbots could be consecrated bishops by an analogue apostolic authority (like another bishop, an archbishop, or the pope). This practice was contemplated by the canonical law since the Middle Age, as it is testified by the later life of Peter Cellensis. Since the XVIII century, consecrators and episcopal lineage were extended to the Benedectine monks-bishops.As support for his view, he cited the fact that these two vows alone were considered to make the celebration of marriage invalid. A man who promised, either to a human being or to God (thus making a vow), to marry a certain woman was bound by that promise or vow, but if he broke it and married a different woman, the marriage was nonetheless considered valid. Similarly, if he made a vow to enter a particular religious institute or become a priest, but instead entered a different institute or decided to marry, the religious profession or the marriage, despite being a violation of his vow, was still considered valid. But once he had received holy orders or made religious profession, any marriage he contracted was considered null and void.

Solemn vows were originally considered indissoluble. Not even the Pope could dispense from them. If for a just cause a religious 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".

Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer

The Congregation of the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer (Latin: Filii Sanctissimi Redemptoris; siglum: F.SS.R.), commonly known as the Transalpine Redemptorists or The Sons, are a religious institute of the Catholic Church canonically erected in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Aberdeen and based on Papa Stronsay in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, as well as in the city of Christchurch, New Zealand. They were formed in 1988 as a traditionalist offshoot of the Redemptorists, following a monastic rule based on that of St. Alphonsus Liguori, and was later formally erected as a religious institute in 2012.

Superior general

A Superior General or General Superior is the leader or head of a religious institute in the Roman Catholic Church. The Superior General usually holds supreme executive authority in the religious order, while the general chapter has legislative authority.The figure of Superior General first emerged in the thirteenth century with the development of the centralized government of the Mendicant Orders. The Friars Minor (Franciscans) organized their community under a Minister General, and the Order of Preachers (Dominicans) appointed a Master General.Due to restrictions on women religious, especially the obligation of cloister for nuns, congregations of women were not initially able to organize with their own Superior General. In 1609, Mary Ward was the superior general of a religious institute that imitated the Jesuit model, but the institute was not accepted by the Roman Curia. It was in the nineteenth century that religious congregations of women were able to organize with a General Superior and the role is now very common. Mother Teresa, for example, was the Mother General of the Missionaries of Charity. Following the Second Vatican Council women religious formed the International Union of Superiors General.

In canon law, the generic term Supreme Moderator is used instead of Superior General. Many orders and congregations use their own title for the person who holds this position. Some examples are:

Abbot general


Master general

Minister General

Mother General

Prior General

Rector general

General Director / DirectressIn many cases there is an intermediate level between the Superior General and the superior of the individual monasteries or of equivalent communities, often named the provincial superior.

Vow of obedience

The Vow of Obedience in Catholicism concerns one of the three counsels of perfection. It forms part of the vows that Christian monks and nuns must make to enter the consecrated life, whether as a member of a religious institute living in community or as consecrated hermit.

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