Canon Law, Religious Life, and Dependents


Would canon law prohibit the formation of a religious institute of single Catholic women with dependent children? I don’t see this mentioned as an impediment in canon 643 although I know proper law can include/establish additional impediments.

Of course, women with dependent children are not accepted into traditional religious communities, but if an institute were established with this charism in mind, with the children living in community.

Please note: I am not necessarily seeking opinions on whether or not this would be advisable, just curious if it would be possible under canon law.

Thanks for your help!

Can. 643 §1. The following are admitted to the novitiate invalidly:
1/ one who has not yet completed seventeen years of age;
2/ a spouse, while the marriage continues to exist;
3/ one who is currently bound by a sacred bond to some institute of consecrated life or is incorporated in some society of apostolic life, without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 684;
4/ one who enters the institute induced by force, grave fear, or malice, or the one whom a superior, induced in the same way, has received;
5/ one who has concealed his or her incorporation in some institute of consecrated life or in some society of apostolic life.
§2. Proper law can establish other impediments even for validity of admission or can attach conditions.


I don’t see how a religious institute, properly speaking, could ever be formed from/by women along with their minor children (see c. 607).



Lay Association/third order/oblature; and/or secular institute are the only two that I can think of. SIs can have a habit. The other can have a distinctive garb/uniform of some sort.

I wouldn’t recommend a habit, though. I would think the women involved would prefer to ask St. Joseph for a good husband for the sake of the children. And if you’re leaving open the possibility for such, be sure to write it into the constitutions.

Mrs Cloisters OP
Lay Dominican


Thank you for your response!


Thank you, Cloisters!


I would wonder about single women with children. Why are they single? Are they widowed, divorced, had a child out of wedlock? I am not sure how the demands of motherhood would fit in. Whether they were contemplatives or active I do not see how they could accommodate commitment to the religious life and motherhood. You state religious institutes require aspirants to be free of dependents. There is an obvious reason for this requirement.


Most communities will not take a mother (single or otherwise) until her children are no longer dependent on her.

MANY mothers have become religious. At least 2 communities in the US were founded by unwed mothers. At least four were founded by divorcees. The case of Cornelia Connelly is fascinating and well documented. More have been founded by widows.

In a few cases, older daughters have entered religious life with their mothers. The Tiffin, Ohio, Franciscans were founded by a widow and 2 daughters, for instance.

Habits not really relevant to the canonical issues here, I don’t think.


Thank you, nunsuch!


If you are specifically seeking to be consecrated, then Secular Institutes might be your best bet. Assuming of course you are free (that is either a widow or single). I know Cloisters mentioned them, I am just saying that I know they accept ladies with children as long as they are free. You do not live in communities generally though (it can happen though is rare). Usually you continue to live in your own home and work you own job but offer it all to God and meet with your sisters on or at specified times. Sorry to sound so vague but it varies and as you are in another country I can’t give you links with more specifics. But I think Cloisters did. Oh here it is a US link from one of my Uk ones… hope it is useful


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