Consecrated Life Options

Hi all,

I just entered the Church this past March (I’m a 24-yo F). My family is all Methodist, and growing up in the South, I was never exposed much to Catholic, well, anything. Since joining the Church (and even a little bit before during Lenten Season), I have felt very pulled to academic & religious life in the Church. I immediately applied to graduate school for theology after Confirmation, and academically I feel like I have already put myself on the right path. However, religiously I am having a hard time discerning my call. I was wondering if I could ask for help from those who have had much more experience with the Faith?

I feel a very strong pull towards a consecrated life option within the Church, but I’ve found it hard to find good & accurate information on the various options. I’ve tried doing research online, including the Vocation Tree, but there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of information on the topic (or at least, not readily available information). I was hoping I might get ideas of vocational options if I gave a bit of background on how I feel I want to live my faith, and I hope that’s not too much to ask :).

Basically, I know this might seem odd considering I just joined the Church, but I am 99.9% sure that I want to make vows. That is the singlemost important vocational attribute I am looking for. I want to throw my complete self into the Faith, and dating really isn’t part of that for me anymore. The other thing that I absolutely want is to be somewhere where I can work with kids a lot in their character formation and in taking care of them, particularly foster kids. I was hoping to work with an orphanage, but I have heard that they apparently no longer exist. Are there still Sisters who work with foster kids?

Now, the major issues for me with living in a convent are twofold: first, I want to be exposed to the world. I want to make sure that I have the maximum potential to provide an apostolic mission to those in need.

Secondly, and while this may seem like a dumb reason for finding communal living to be an unavailable option, I can’t wake up early physically. My health rapidly declines when I consistently wake up before 10 am, and I am only at peak health waking up after 11 am. I know it sounds ridiculous, and I feel a bit…whiny discussing it, but I failed out of high school multiple times because of my health, and I know that I can’t work around it despite previous efforts to do so. It doesn’t matter when I go to bed; I can sleep 3 am to 11 am and feel great all day, but if I wake up at 7 am, I feel horrible, even if I go to bed at 8:30 pm the night before (which is what I often did for undergraduate science labs).

I worked around this issue in undergraduate, making sure I woke up no earlier than 10 am at least every other day and sleeping in abnormally long (e.g. 2 pm) on Saturday to ‘catch up,’ and my graduate school classes are evenings-exclusive, so I have been able to manage until now. However, I know that living in a convent involves waking up extremely early; I talked to one Sister about her convent, and she said that she wakes up at 5 am daily. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear if this was the norm. Certainly this is not the only time my odd sleep schedule has made (or will make) my life difficult (night work is very hard to find, for example), but it is certainly the most impactful & important time.

I have looked at secular institutes, because from my understanding it would allow me to keep my own schedule, but they don’t seem to have binding vows, which is very important to me, and I’ve found almost no online information regarding them. Sadly, I did not live a very chaste life at all before joining the Church, and as a result, I can’t achieve my preferred option of consecrated virginity. Any other information or suggestions for alternative vocations within consecrated life would be greatly appreciated.

Also, if I may add at the end, if God ultimately calls me to religious life within a convent, I will be obedient, even if it completely wrecks my physical health. I am just looking to see if there are options that could work for both vows and my health. Thank you all for reading a very long post and for all your responses. God Bless :).


Most female religious orders/congregations have their horarium (daily schedule) posted on their websites. And yes, as a rule they all start quite early in the morning. It is indeed a sacrifice that one must get used to.

As far as Secular Institutes go— I’m not sure what problem you have with understanding the seriousness of their vows. Whether vows are “simple” or “solemn”, renewed yearly or are permanent and final, vows publicly made are serious and binding!

I think with your particular needs a Secular Institute might be the best fit.

God bless you.

It would be a great honor to be called by God to be in his service. All are not called.

Really? That would be fantastic if true. I just remember seeing on a few different sources that secular institutional vows were not binding in the same way that religious institutional vows are, and that they were done more to express the will of the individual instead of to bind the will of the individual. If that is not true, then a secular institute would be very fitting! Do you know a good book (or other source) with information on them? I know they’re relatively recent (circa 1947 right?), so I had trouble finding out much. Thank you for replying!

I suggest you read Provida Mater, available online. Secular Institutes do provide binding vows. The vows are for the evangelical counsels but lived IN the world as opposed to Separated from the world (a hallmark for hermits and religious). Some secular institutes have commitments other than vows (like promises). The main thing is that the consecration is on equal playing grounds as the consecration of religious, consecration of virgins, and consecration of hermits. However, the state of life continues to be the same and doesn’t change for the individuals who are members. Thus, being a member of a secular Institute does not place you into the consecrated state. However, the consecration itself is equal in dignity to the consecration of the consecrated state forms of life.

If I was in a secular institute, would I be able to take part in the vocational mission of the Order I’m in? As I mentioned in the OP, I absolutely want to make sure that wherever I join, I am working with foster kids/orphans. Historically from what I know (though maybe this is wrong), the religious sisters have taken care of that job by living in the same buildings. Would this bar me from being able to work there, or would it be Order-specific? (Or, alternatively, do religious orphanages not exist at all anymore?).

Thank you for the reading by the way. I am glad that I can still make binding vows if I join a secular institute.

Secular Institutes are not Orders. If you belong to a religious Order, you cannot belong to a Secular Institute. They are mutually incompatible. I don’t know if there are any orphanages left. There are Congregations that provide day care services but as far as orphanages are concerned, they probably only exist - if at all- in developing countries. Good luck in your discernment.

Oh, I thought secular institutes were kind of…side chains to the religious order for those who wanted to live a non-cloistered life. Thank you for your help and well wishes and God bless :).

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