Difference between types of religious?

I am still so ignorant about the different types of religious.

Nun, sister, brother, monk…

How can I learn about the differences between these names?:shrug::blush:

Hi Mommamaree,

Are you interested in learning about the specific types (like what differentiates a monk from a friar, an Abbot from a Prior, etc.) or types of religious orders (Jesuits, Franciscans, etc.)?

I would suggest you can find some high level information simply by searching Wikipedia:

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monk (Roman Catholic monk is mid-way down)

If you want better information you can also look up the Catholic encyclopedia newadvent.org/cathen/


Hope this helps you.

God Bless!

Thanks! I will check out these links. Are the Wickipedia ones trustworthy sources, IYO?

When it comes to the men, I am always confused, but for the women here’s the deal-

All women religious are sisters, but not all sisters are nuns
The difference- a “sister” would live/minister/work in the community. She could be a teacher, nurse, social worker, etc. She would still be part of a religious community, and may or may not live with other sisters, but would be “obligated” to pray according to the charism of the order.

A “nun” (who is called ‘Sister’, which is why this is so confusing! :whacky:), is someone who “leaves” the world and lives in a cloister. Nuns live lives of prayer & contemplation, not so much in ways of “service”, except to each other in the convent.

So, to sum up, all nuns are sisters, but not all sisters are nuns!! :slight_smile:

Gotcha! Thanks.

A further question, then…

How would I know the difference between nun and sister? Would I ever see a nun in public? Or would they remain within the walls of their cloister, or whatever it is called?

Don’t feel bad! I admit to being somewhat ignorant myself. I think the average Catholic is.

They would remain in the cloister. They only leave to receive medical care or other types of emergencies. So if you see a sister anywhere, chances are she’s a sister, not a nun.

anp1215 is correct. You, more than likely, *would not *see a “nun” out in the community.

Among others, I was instructed in Catholic schools by Ursuline Sisters. Their website theursulines.org/ identifies the Ursulines as “nuns”. Their mission is to serve the Catholic community in many external ways. I guess I’m confused by your distinctions.

I can see where this might be confusing, especially when the 2 words have been use intechagably for years.

I recevied my explanation from a SSJ when I was discerning whether or not to join as as “associate”. Actually, I was “corrected” when I said I always wanted to be a “nun” when I was younger. Sister asked me how many “nuns” I knew and had any experience with, since most of them lived in cloisters. She then went on to explain the difference.

In my community, we have many “sisters”, who are very visible in their community outreach. We also have a cloister of Carmelite nuns, whom I have only seen, through the grate, when I attend Mass at their convent.

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