Orders of Priests


Can anyone tell me the common orders of priests? What do they stand for? Which ones are more doctrinally conservative or liberal?

Sorry if this is vague!



Most priests are diocesan priests; that is, they are incardinated to a particular diocese. Some priests are members of religious orders. For example, Pope Francis is a Jesuit. There are many religious orders, male and female, within the Church. The terms liberal and conservative should really not apply to religious orders. It would be wrong to classify some as more or less orthodox than others. All should be faithful to the Church.


FRANCISCANS: The Franciscans were founded in the 13th century by Saint Francis, who, in a vision, was charged by God to rebuild My Church, which as you see is falling into ruin. Franciscans are typically characterized by their lives of simplicity, penance, poverty, and love for the poor.

DOMINICANS: The Dominican Order (or “Order of Preachers”) was founded by Saint Dominic in the early 13th century, who saw the need for greater education and engagement of society. As the name implies, the charism of the Dominicans is primarily preaching and teaching “to combat heresy and propagate religious truth”.

JESUITS: The Jesuits (or the Society of Jesus) was founded by Saint Ignatius of Loyola in 1540 A.D., thus being one of the last of the great orders of history. The original name of the Jesuits was the “Company of Jesus”, to denote the soldier-like spirit of the order. Due to its thorough and rigorous formation

Marians of the Immaculate Conception: The Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception are an order of priests founded originally in poland in 1673 by Bl. Stanislaus Papczynski, who answered the call to found a Marian order devoted especially to the Immaculate Conception. In America, the Marians have carried on the spirit of its founder primarily through the Message of Divine Mercy.

from Religious Vocation. com


Just throwing this out there for reference: No order of priests is (or should be) different from the rest “doctrinally”. All Catholic priests share the same doctrine and should teach the same doctrine.


This s a good quick, albeit oversimplified, summary. To add:

The FRANCISCANS are divided into multiple different, um, sub-charisms (for lack of a better word).

The Coventuals, OFMconv, who typically wear a blackish habit. St Maximilian Kolbe is a famous OFMconv. The Conv started as a reform of the various Franciscan communities and are one of the older of the current confraternities.

The Capuchins. OFMcap, wear a cappuccino brown color habit with a hood that has a long pointed top. St (Padre) Pio of Pietrelcina is their most famous son. They were a reform of many Franciscan communities in the 1500s, but after the Conv.

The Franciscan Regulars, OFM, are a fairly recent confraternity that brought together several different ones.Their habit is more commonly noticed, especially in modern renditions of Franciscans of old.

The Third Order Regulars, TOR, are a wide variety of different groups that follow the spirit of St Francis; I think the Franciscans of the Renewal, CFR, are the most popular, at least where I am.

The DOMINICANS, O.P. (from Order of Preachers), are not divided but singular and we are celebrating our 800th anniversary this year. Their habit is nearly that of the Canons of St Augustine; it’s all white, including white scapular, with a black cape and hood. Dominicans spirituality is intellectualism. A common saying is “to contemplate, and to pass on the fruits of that contemplation”. We come close to God through study, and ten we pass on our “fruits” of that study. Even though Dominicans are intellectuals, there is a strong history of mysticism and spirituality within the order; e.g. Meister Eckhart. I’m a Lay Dominican (Tertiary Dominican to some).

The JESUITS, S.J. (from Society of Jesus), was founded in portion due to the lack of properly prepared and educated clergy. Their habit rules say to wear whatever the local priests wear, though before 35th GC, they often were a particular ‘Jesuit’ habit, that was the common cassock of secular clergy of St Ignatius’ day. They have recently (since about 1965 with 35th General Council) accrued a bad reputation as being liberal and traitors to orthodoxy, but this is unfair as they are a very large organization full of many different peoples. Their unifying theme is the famous “Spiritual Exercises” of St Ignatius. They have become synonymous with education since the beginning, though this was not what the original founders had in mind. It should be known that the Jesuits have constantly been berated and controversial by a wide range of “enemies”. Also, they seem, at least to me, to be more of a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ as they are into almost every form of intellectual and social work there is. They have a very powerful and interesting history. They are the largest single Order, but the Franciscans, in their totality, are the actual largest. They also have one of the most difficult formations of any priestly organization, taking about 10 years (depending on candidate). My personal note is that it is very difficult to distinguish between Jesuit and Dominicans, excepting, mostly, the habit. I was in discernment for the Jesuits for over 10 years and learned much about them and their history in that time, at the hands of Jesuits themselves, and ‘enemies’ (as they call themselves) of the Jesuits.

I’m afraid I don’t know too much about MARIANISTS, MIC or SM (not sure which/what difference), so I will not comment

Those are the active orders, at any rate. There are also several orders that are monastic, such as Benedictines (OSB), Carthusians (OCart), Cistercians (OCist), and Trappists (OCSO); those are the main ones anyway.

Again, this is simplification, but hope this adds somewhat to what’s already been stated.


Our Dominican priest told us a joke on the difference between them and the Jesuits. ;). Both orders, he said were crated to combat heresies: Dominicans to combat Albigiensians and Jesuits to combat Protestants. So, what is the difference?! Welll… My friends, when have you last met an Albigensian?! :smiley:


Lol, a very common one. However, if you know what the Albigensians stood for, you would know that their ideas are still out there, unfortunately.

That reminds me, I should’ve added that the Dominicans and the Jesuits have an interesting relationship that I liken to an Army-Marine relationship (because they often do the same work, so it’s more fitting than Army-Navy).


Additional (but lesser known) religious orders of priests are the Redemptorists (C.Ss.R.), founded by St. Aloyisius Liguiori (writer of the most well-known traditional meditations of the Stations of the Cross); the Norbertines (O. Praem.); the Carmelites (both calced and discalced - meaning with or without sandals); the Servites; the Basilians (CSB); the Augustinians; the Salecians of St. John Bosco; and many more. In general, the best way to learn about an order is to research it and talk with a vocation director from that order. Also, many, if not most, of these religious orders allow (and sometimes require) men to first join as a religious brother to first discern if membership in that particular order is proper to that man. It could be that a man is certainly being called to the priesthood, but not to that particular religious order. Also, a man could be called to belong to the religious order, but not be called to the priesthood (in addition to religious orders that include priests, there are also many orders of religious brothers that do not include priests in their order).

In general, though, diocesan priests are called to be obedient to the bishop. Most bishops try to fill their parishes with diocesan priests as much as possible. Priests that belong to religious orders are called to be obedient to their superiors in that religious order. Not all priests that belong to a religious order will have parishes assigned to them - in fact, if a priest from a religious order is pastor at a parish, it is usually because that particular religous order has been put in charge of running the parish. And though the bishop officially designates the pastor, it is generally a priest who has been recommended by his superior.


Great mention as many people don’t know that!

For me, when I was discerning (I ended up getting married instead, after 10+ years in discernment for Jesuits) I was strongly called to Jesuits and there was no discussion on other orders, but that sometimes makes me forgetful to others.


What about the Carmelites, who gave us the devotion to the brown scapular. I don’t know enough about them to say much.


They’re an interesting order. They are divided into two groups, though many tell me there’s not much difference these days. The two groups are the “original” Carmelites, OCarm, and the 16th Century reform lead by St Teresa of Avila and St John of the Cross known as the Discalced Carmelites (due to not wearing shoes), OCD. Their charism is mostly contemplation, similar to that of other monastics, however, they live a semi-hermit lifestyle rather than a typical benedictine-type monastic. This is why so many of our great mystics come from them, and why several of their saints are great contemplative masters. However, I have heard, from Carmelites, that some communities, and/or members within certain monasteris, that some of the friars engage in apostolic works outside the monastery grounds.

You are right, I should hav included them in with the other monastics as they are a major order.

For more, I suggest going to New Advent, which is basically the Catholic Encyclopedia

I apologize for typos, I am typing several projects at once.


Neither do I. But, the main reason for that is because the Carmelites are a cloistered order - they don’t leave their abbeys. They have two orders - standard (or “calced”) Carmelites and Discalced (barefoot) Carmelites. The Discalced Carmelites were co-founded by Ss. Teresa of Avila (for nuns) and John of the Cross (for priests and monks). St. Terese of the Child Jesus was also a Carmelite, and St. Catherine of Siena became a 3rd order (secular) Carmelite late in her life.


The only place I’ve seen Catharine mentioned in proximity to Carmel was when she and St. Teresa of Avila were both declared Doctors of the Church. Could you please provide more info on her switching orders?

Mrs. Cloisters, OP


Honestly, I probably misremembered. But I do know that she joined the order she did (I’m guessing the Dominicans from your post) as a secular member (3rd order) late in her life. She lived most of her life as a lay single woman, not belonging to any religious order.


She’s patroness of the Dominican Laity. While she never entered the convent, she kept a “cell” to herself in her father’s house, and went to a local hospital to help tend the sick. Therefore, she is both patroness of the OP laity and nurses.

Mrs Cloisters, OP


Thank you for correcting that, I almost had a heart attack thinking that she switched.

Your brother in Dominic


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