Process of Founding an Order


I wondered how, from start to finish, the process is for the founding of a new religious order. Can anyone tell me and include how long each stage takes? I’m guessing you start out as just a group of people but then what goes on? And at what point can you start to wear a habit?

  1. Personal Prayer Rule–may last for several years. Distinctive garb permitted.

  2. Private Lay Association–those without a vowed vocation usually come on the scene first. Accommodate them as your “third order”. Distinctive garb permitted.

  3. Private Preparatory Association–those with vocations will be a group-within-a-group. They will work on rule; constitutions (based on founder’s inspirations); formation program; remunerative work; horarium; stable source of habit parts; three or four persevering members. Habit permitted indoors. Distinctive garb permitted outdoors. Only after the group finds what works for them are they ready to approach the local bishop.

Formation program needs to be in place. A founder’s novitiate is recommended at this time. The host community would expect $100 per month for their hosting your novitiate. They will need the formation program to be complete so they know what to teach.

  1. Private Association of Christ’s Faithful with the Intention of Becoming a Religious Institute with juridic person–the bishop issues a letter restating what works for the group. Growth should be shown in this time, which lasts about 5 years.

  2. Public Association–permitted to make new foundations outside of the diocese.

After 10 years of growth, the institute can be raised to diocesan right.

After 25 years, they can be raised to pontifical right. This means they answer straight to the pope.

If you email the Institute on Religious Life, they can email you the guidelines. But our group, the Fullerton Society, supports founders before they get to the guidelines stage. A kind of founder incubator, if you will.




I don’t think it’s easy to found a new order. You have to follow the different steps recommended by the Romain Canon.

The first step concerns you and the subject of the order… You have to find solid reason, because we never found an order just to found, it’s like a vocation. So you need to have the calling for that.

Then when you confirm and you are sure about that (That suppose you talk about that with your Spiritual Director…) you have to contact your bishop, because first step of recognition of an order is in the diocese. The bishop has to give you all the necessaries authorisation for a certain time. He could make a point with you every three years, and like that during six years or more or less. All depend on the diocese, the number of member, the needs, the charisms…
And when the structure will be strong, the bishop can ask the recognition to Rome…


What is the difference between a habit and distinctive garb?


Distinctive garb is anything that won’t convey the impression of a habit.

Two communities who have just come through the preparatory association stage, and are now Private Associations are the Brides of the Victorious Lamb in Omaha, NE, and another group in Canada with “Mary” and “Queen” in their name.

The former adapted a jumper (sleeveless dress in the UK) which was navy blue with a repeated design. The latter adapted blue skirt, white blouse, and blue vest with their insignia, which was repeated on their scapulars when they took the veil (raised to Private Association).

I know lay eremites who wear something “uniform,” like all black, all brown, a combination of the two, or whatever, and practice “covering” by using a variety of head coverings which don’t look like a nun’s veil. Hair triangles, snoods, tiechels, and kerchiefs are all usually acceptable. As long as the “traditional” nun’s veil is not adapted, nor even a costume with a veil (like a Nativity robe and “hat”), one should be in the clear where distinctive garb is concerned.

I sponsor a group for UK discerners. You might be interested:



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