How are new order formed?


Reading the news of Fr. Corapi as well as a biography of St. Mary of the Cross (Mary MacKillop) has got me wondering...

What is the process for the formation of new religious orders? How does it go from an idea in someone's head to a full fledged order? Who makes all the "rules"? Who decides exactly what kind of order it will be? Who is in charge during the process? Is this different for men and women? How has the process changed over time (now for Fr. Corapi, the late 1800's for St. Mary of the Cross)? What kind of vows/promises to people make at the beginning of the process before everything is figured out? What happens if some of the rules change during the process? Who gets to change things during the process? When does it become a full fledged order?

I know there are tons of questions, but please just answer what you can. Or feel free to point me to a book or website that could be helpful.



You might want to google a site on the history of one of the great orders, maybe Benedictine, Franciscan, Jesuit, Dominican.

Generally each was started in a different way, for a different purpose. There is really no “How to…” published anywhere. To become an order really needs the support (and permission) of a Bishop or the Pope. That is the classic way to finally form a permanent order. But just browse through the lives of the saints who founded various orders, male and female, and you will find all unique stories.

They are fascinating.


It's true that there's no one-size-fits-all approach, but many of the present-day requirements are sketched out in the Code of Canon Law, Book II, Part III: Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.


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