Scientific religious orders


I’m probably about to ask a supreamly stupid question.

Are there religious orders in which priests like Georges Lemaitre who also contributed to science tend to belong? Are there orders specifically for such a thing? Do they still exist? Do you enter them with that as your goal or can you end up doing something else (vows of obedience and all that)?

I’m wondering because I would feel tempted to at least learn more about it if it does exist. I don’t want to have wasted my time getting technical training, but I’m not closed to discerning something other than marriage.


Of course there are. Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans, Augustinians…


It’s not a stupid question. How would you know if you didn’t ask. I would think there are many orders where the sciences are important.


The Jesuits are the most obvious order. At least the last three directors of the Vatican Observatory have been Jesuits: George Coyne, José Gabriel Funes, and the present director, Br Guy Consolmagno, SJ, one of the most distinguished planetary scientists in America. Other Jesuit scientists include Fr Frank Haig, a theoretical physicist, Fr Kevin T. FitzGerald, a molecular biologist, and Fr Michael C. McFarland, a computer engineer.

Among secular clergy who are also scientists I’d mention Fr Michał Heller, a priest for the Polish Diocese of Tarnów who is internationally renowned in the field of cosmology (Michał Heller).


I’m not aware of any orders specifically oriented toward science, but orders that run universities might be good choices. The Jesuits particularly come to mind since they run both universities and the Vatican Observatory.


There have been scientists from many of the great religious orders.

However, the most obvious is the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), as previous posters have said. They are highly involved in academics (see the huge number of Jesuit-run colleges). Jesuit priests often pursue studies outside of just theology and philosophy. Therefore, you can find Jesuit priests who are also psychologists, biologists, physicists, etc.

This practice isn’t exclusive to the Jesuits, but it is certainly much less common to find outside of the Jesuits.


The Jesuits do not have a monopoly on higher education. There are Dominican and Franciscan universities with religious serving as distinguished faculty.

Study is one of the main pillars of Dominican spirituality, for instance.


Certainly! I think it was an Augustinian friar who discovered genetics. I love the Dominicans, and they certainly are smart. But they tend to focus mostly on philosophy and theology; and, rightly so, considering their charism.

However, in the field of the sciences, it’s hard to find anyone more proficient than the Jesuits. (And I am sometimes critical of the Jesuits, but it’s hard to argue against that.)


Mendel was indeed an Augustinian!

There are also some notable Dominican scientists such as Nicanor Austriaco (microbiology) and Thomas Davenport (physics) among others.

I’m not diminishing the Jesuits. I love them. However, our friend has options if he does not feel a connection to ignatian spirituality.


Many of the religious orders who are dedicated to education would obviously have scientific personnel, e.g., the Christian Brothers.

The Oblates of St. Francis de Sales run schools and universities. Our new pastor has been involved in education the last 30 years. He was moved to wanting to be a priest, as he put it, and offered to come lead us. Please pray for him. His parochial vicar and senior priest have been involved in parish work most of their careers.

Is there any way to tweak your attraction? Scientific, but is it active or contemplative?

Always look locally first. Contact the vocations director for your diocese. Retain a spiritual director. Adoration, sacraments, sacramentals. Stay close to Our Lady.

Mrs Cloisters OP
Lay Dominican


I would try the Ignatius first, the Jesuits, they educate to a very high level. However, to become a Priest in that order will take a very long time.


I will pray for him. I’m glad he has other experienced priests supporting him.


I’m not quite sure what you mean. I suppose the best way to describe my current situation is I’m deciding whether or not I should think about thinking about joining an order. I certainly don’t see myself as a parish priest if a priest at all. Although I think hearing confessions must surely be one of the greatest joys a person can have.

I’ve spent the last four years getting educated in mathematics and chemical engineering. I love those topics and would be sad to see them take a smaller role in my life. However as I’ve immersed myself more and more in prayer I’ve been becoming open to a vocation other than marriage as long as it can incorporate my past education.

I must further admit that I’ve felt some sort of draw to the Jesuits ever since I read a book on the Reformation era saints which included Saints Ignatius of Loyola and Francis Xavier.

But overall the answer here is that, yes there is abundant place in the modern Church for religious who study secular disciplines in many orders and particularly the Jesuits. Thanks for everyone’s input.


Jesuits for sure. If you are interested in consecrated life (non necessarily priesthood) supernumeraries of Opus Dei or memores domini in Communion and Liberation may be an other way to go. They are usually professionals (many in science) living celibate lives in small communities.


I know George Coyne! Although he is quite elderly now, he lives in the Jesuit Community at LeMoyne College in Syracuse, where I live. He is still quite active and a very delightful individual. There are, of course, other Jesuits who are scientists at their various colleges and universities.


Getting technical training is never a waste of time


Although I can’t find the article right now, I did read recently about some order that had recruited men who were already trained for/ engaging in careers, and one of them was some type of engineering or computer professional. He and the others would go out and work a full day and go home to the order at night, and use their paychecks to support the order.


In some sense I get what you’re saying: The whole knowledge for knowledge’s sake and all that.

But I spent 4 years of my life and close to 100k on my education. Not using that knowledge is a waste. Anyway my main point is that I love that sort of work and wouldn’t want to give it up.


Keep in mind that even if you enter a community that has scientists, you might not be assigned to that work. While it is true that most communities these days take talents and affinities into account, part of the vow of obedience is to be willing to do that which you might not choose for yourself. If the community needs someone to do something else, for instance, you might be the one they call on to do it. Religious life is not all about what the individual wants…


I wouldn’t either. So why not get a job and get married?

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