Forms of Consecrated Life

In the Church, which is like the sacrament, or the sign and instrument, of God’s own life, the consecrated life is a special sign of the mystery of redemption. To follow and imitate Christ is to be more deeply present in the heart of Christ, as one demonstrates a willingness to receive God’s divine will.

Those who are on this “narrower” path encourage their brethren by their example and bear striking witness “that the world cannot be transfigured and offered to God without the spirit of the beatitudes.” The Catechism of the Catholic Church – 932*

“Consecrated men and women are aware that besides recounting the great stories they have written in the past, they are called to write a no-less-beautiful and great story in the future.”

— Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life

Religious Institutes

“Religious institutes are societies in which members pronounce public vows (perpetual or temporary), live in community and share financial sustainability. Religious render a public witness to Christ and to the Church, which entails a separation from the world proper to the character and purpose of each institute.” (See Men’s Religious Institutes - See Women’s Religious Institutes)

Religious institutes can be separated into apostolic and contemplative congregations. Apostolic congregations are devoted to apostolic and missionary activity, and to the many different works inspired by Christian charity outside of the cloister. Contemplative congregations live a life of cloister, constant prayer, offering of self and the daily recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours. See Canon 607.

Societies of Apostolic Life

One of the distinguishing characteristics of these societies is that they are defined by their apostolic goal. They are bound by simple vows, renewed annually, rather than perpetual vows, which are professed for life. Societies of apostolic life live in community with their lifestyle and spirituality in support of their apostolic goal. Examples include Paulist Fathers, Vincentians, Daughters of Charity, etc. See Canon 731.

Consecrated Virgins

The call to a life as a consecrated virgin is distinct from other forms of consecrated life, in that it is entered by the Prayer of Consecration rather than by vows or promises. Characterized by a spousal spirituality with Christ, the consecrated virgin lives individually under the direction of the diocesan bishop, dedicates her prayer to the mission of the Church and the people of God, wears a ring of consecration and earns her own living. Click here for more information. See Canon 604.

For anyone interested in pursuing a call to consecrated virginity in the Archdiocese of Chicago, please contact Sr. Mary Beth Bromer, Vicar for Religious, at [email protected].

Private Vows in Lay Movements

Lay associations, also known as “ecclesial associations,” are relatively new groups in the Church. Members profess private vows in the name of the Church to a legitimate superior, live in community and put their salaries into the community of goods. Examples include Focolare, Regnum Christi, etc. See Canon 1192. For a listing of Lay Movements in the Archdiocese, please follow this link.

Secular Institutes

A secular institute is an organization of consecrated persons professing the Evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience while living in the world, unlike members of a religious institute who live in community. Secular institutes represent a form of consecration in secular life, not religious life. Click here for more information. See Canons 710 & 712.

The Eremitic Life – Diocesan Hermits

An ancient form of consecrated life begun in the third century, a hermit lives under norms prescribed in Canon Law under the direction of the diocesan bishop. The diocesan hermit publicly professes poverty, chastity and obedience before the bishop, devotes oneself to prayer, penance and solitude, and earns one’s own living. See Canon 603.

*Center for the Study of Religious Life, “Kindling,” Volume 7 Issue 2, Winter 2006