Religious life is a form of consecrated life within the Church wherein the members profess vows of chastity, poverty and obedience within a Congregation or Community approved by the Church. Shared community life is an integral part of this form of consecrated life. In professing vows and living within community, the members individually and as a whole witness to a life of communion with Christ, the Church, and one another.
Apostolic religious congregations develop their own traditions based on the original vision of their founders or foundresses, while continuing to focus their ministries to meet the needs of the Church today. While every religious congregation is unique, together they form a rich source of inspiration for the entire Church.
Consecrated life, in the canonical sense defined by the Catholic Church, is a stable form of Christian living by those faithful who feel called to follow Jesus Christ in a more exacting way recognized by the Church.
It “is characterized by the public profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, in a stable state of life recognized by the Church”.
The Code of Canon Law defines it as “a stable form of living by which the faithful, following Christ more closely under the action of the Holy Spirit, are totally dedicated to God who is loved most of all, so that, having been dedicated by a new and special title to his honour, to the building up of the Church, and to the salvation of the world, they strive for the perfection of charity in the service of the kingdom of God and, having been made an outstanding sign in the Church, foretell the heavenly glory.
Charism of the Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross
Bay Settlement/Green Bay, WI
Each religious congregation has a particular “charism.” A charism is a special identifying grace or gift given to the congregation for the common good of the Church.
Our charism links us to our Crosier founder, Father Edward Francis Daems, who desired that we live simply, humbly, and joyfully. Fr. Daems’ love of the Holy Cross of Jesus Christ, his deep and selfless living of the Gospel among the early immigrants of Wisconsin and the strength he drew from daily Eucharist remain a part of our hearts and lives. He chose the rule of St. Francis for us so that St. Francis’ values of conversion, contemplation, poverty and minority/service might be expressed in our daily lives personally, communally and in ministry.
We describe ourselves as Sisters rooted in the Cross, Word and Eucharist who value simplicity, hospitality and prayer. We compassionately respond to the needs of our times to uphold human dignity, pursue peace and promote Gospel justice. We pray and strive to live our charism among all in the Church and world.
Who’s Entering Religious Life?
Newer entrants identify their primary reasons for coming to religious life as a sense of call, a desire to deepen their prayer and spiritual life, and a desire to live and work with others who share their faith and values.
In 2014, there were nearly 1.2 million religious brothers, sisters, and order and diocesan priests in the world:
– 705,529 religious sisters and nuns
– 279,561 diocesan priests worldwide
– 134,752 religious order priests
– 55,314 religious brothers
– Newer entrants are attracted to communities that have a strong Catholic identity, are hopeful about their future, have members who live together in community, and have a structured prayer life.
– More than 100 women and men profess perpetual vows annually
– In 2014, 477 entered priesthood – 266 to diocesan priesthood (from 114 dioceses) and 96 to religious priesthood. Among religious orders, the largest number of respondents came from the Jesuits, Dominicans, and Benedictines.
Download the Consecrated Life Infographic here as a PDF to share with others
Consecrated Life Through the Ages Poster – download as a PDF here
The Difference Between a “Sister” and a “Nun”
Most people use the term, “nun,” generically to mean a” woman religious,” that is, a member of a religious order. But there is a technical meaning and distinction to “nun.” In the Church’s language of canon law, a “nun” is a member of a cloistered community. Her ministry is prayer and sacrifice and she often has little contact with the world outside the monastery. She takes solemn vows, lives in a monastery, and may have some connection with other monasteries that follow the same rule – but usually each monastery is autonomous. Nuns often keep silence most of the day to be able to devote full time to prayer and reflection.
A “religious” or more commonly used, a “sister” is a member of an order or community that also takes vows and most often does active apostolic work like teaching or hospital work and parish ministry.
GLOSSARY OF TERMS
The call to “religious life” in the Catholic Church – also known as “vowed life” or “consecrated life” – is a call to become more like Christ by living the values of prayer, ministry, and community. This call can be lived out in a number of unique ways. Yet all religious priests, sisters, and brothers take vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience, commonly called the “evangelical counsels.”
While prayer and community life are important to them, apostolic religious communities are engaged for the most part in active ministries, such as teaching, parish ministry, health care, social work, care for the elderly, work with young people, service to the poor, and many others.
Missionary communities focus their lives on spreading the gospel in areas in need of evangelization and service. These communities serve in a variety of ministries, such as preaching, teaching, health care and other forms of witness among the people with whom they live.
Members of the contemplative religious communities focus on daily prayer, especially the Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours, and individual prayer. They tend to live in greater solitude than apostolic communities so that they can direct their prayer and work toward contemplation, though some communities that consider themselves contemplative are also engaged in apostolic ministries.
Often, contemplative religious communities are cloistered or partially cloistered. That is, they live separated from the outside world and focus on prayer, including prayer for the needs of the world. As cloistered religious, they rarely leave their monasteries, and all or most of their work is done within the monastery.
Monastic communities fall somewhere in between apostolic and cloistered. Monastic men and women place a high value in prayer and community life, but many are also engaged in active ministries. Monasticism centers on living in community, common prayer, and Christian meditation.
–Glossary Source: VocationNetwork.org
Prayer for Consecrated Persons
God our Father, we thank you for calling men and women to serve in your Son’s Kingdom as sisters, brothers, religious priests, consecrated virgins, and hermits, as well as members of Secular Institutes. Renew their knowledge and love of you, and send your Holy Spirit to help them respond generously and courageously to your will. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Open their hearts to great ideals, to great things.
for vocations blossom in the
good soil of faithful people.
ministries, and families with the confidence
and grace to invite others to embrace
the bold and noble path of a life
consecrated to you.
so that we may cooperate
with you in building your reign of mercy
and truth, of justice and peace. Amen.
— Pope Francis
Adapted from the Message on the 51st World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
Parish Resource Packet for Year of Consecrated Life – get all packet materials here