Societies of Apostolic Life

I have been a Secular Franciscan and entered a new emerging community ten years ago that aspired to be an Institute of Consecrated Life. It did not last. Now I have been asked to look into Societies of Apostolic Life in the U.S. while I am discerning the beginning of a new religious community of women that aspires to be an Institute of Consecrated Life some day. I can find the Canon Law, but I am trying to find out the differences between Societies and Institutes. Can women in Societies wear habits and veils and be know as Sisters? Do they have to live together in one convent? Do they combine their income or keep it?, Etc. Thanks for your help.

Generally, societies of apostolic life are secular. They are real communities, such as the Secular Franciscan Order. They do have some kind of profession and rule. But they are not consecrated religious. Consecrated religious belong to Institutes of Consecrated Life. As to habits and the title Brother or Sister, that really depends on the statutes of the society. The Secular Franciscans used to wear a habit and use the title brother or sister. In fact, the Secular Franciscans of the Immaculate still do so.

Fraternally,

Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

I am very strongly discerning a vocation to the Missionary Society of St. Paul the Apostle (Paulist Fathers). they are a Society of Apostolic Life. they are less strict than an order but they are priests not lay people. they do take promises not vows. I don’t know if that is for all societies or just the Paulists. they do love in community but it is not the most important thing it is secondary to their mission of evangelism.

Societies can have priests. The OP mentioned the Secular Franciscans. They have deacons, priests, and bishops. Societies are secular, but they are not always lay. Secular means that they do not make vows. Lay means that you are not ordained. In this case, the Society is clerical, because they are ordained, but they are secular, because they do not make vows. There are many groups that live very holy lives this way, Paulists, Vincentians, Maryknoll, FSSP, Opus Dei, etc. Some societies of apostolic life have both lay and clerical members. Some are strictly lay and some are strictly clerical. For example, Maryknoll has lay members, the Maryknoll Brothers are lay men; they’ren not ordained. The Opus Dei have lay people; they’re call numinaries.

Usually, societies have a less austere life than religious orders and religious congregations. However, their apostolic life can be very demanding. They are founded for the sake of the apstolate, whereas most religious orders are not founded for the sake of the apostolate, but for a blend of the monastic and active.

Fraternally,

Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

So far this is very helpful. Thank you. In the Society of Apostolic life would they always live in community? Would they keep their own bank accounts, property, inheritance? Is is canonically O.K. for women to wear habits and veils and be called Sisters?

I forgot to ask if you could name some of these Societies of Apostolic life that are for women. I found the US website for Secular Institutes but I could not find a list for this other way of life. Thank you.

The person who could give you a lot of help in this matter is your diocesan Vicar for Religious. Any new society or institute will eventually be seeking approval (or at the least some kind of acknowledgement) from their Bishop, and the Vicar can help one to smooth the pathway for this. Your Vicar will also be able to provide you with information about the wearing of habits (if and when this would be allowed) and other regulations.

There is a good book by Fr Gambari called “Canonical Establishment of a Religious Institute: Process and Procedures,” which has a lot of useful information, although not all of the info might apply in every situation and I found that it still left some questions unanswered - that is why I also think that early contact with the Vicar or Bishop (as a courtesy) is a good thing. My Vicar was able to consult with a canon lawyer and get back to me on all of my questions. She also told me that there are hundreds of people who say they want to start new religious communities, and most of them are (as she put it) “fruitcakes”. So to avoid being thought of as just another fruitcake, it is good to start a relationship with your Vicar and/or Bishop from the beginning, to introduce yourself and to let them know that you are a stable and sensible person (assuming you are :slight_smile: ). What you are undertaking is very hard (as you have learned from your previous experience), and you need the help and support of your diocese as well as your parish. May God bless your work.

The Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul are a Society of Apostolic life. Actually they are the Institute of Consecrated Life with more members in the Church -or one of the more numerous in numbers -around 27.000 members worldwide.

The Daughters of Charity are very well known worldwide. They were a habit, and are called Sisters, live in community, and they make ANNUAL PRIVATE VOWS for their whole life, which they renew on March 25th I think, the solemnity of the Incarnation and the Annunctiaton of Mary.

Here is their web page in English:http //www.filles-de-la-charite.org/en/about.aspx

This wonderful religious family was born this way in order to skip the impossition of enclosure, which would not allow them to serve the poor in the streets and in their homes.

We can rejoice and see again and again that there have been many “Mother Teresas of Calcutta” through the centuries. These Daughters of Charity are one of such examples, a really wonderful one.

I am not aware of other Societies of Apostolic Life, so I can’t tell what aspects are specific to the Daughters of Charity, and what are of all the Societies of Apostolic Life.

Hope this helps. Peace!

The Sisters of Schoenstatt (sp?) are a society of apostolic life. They make public vows and wear a habit. But they are not consecrated religious.

One does not have to belong to an intitute of consecrated life to make vows or live in community. The institutes of consecrated life enjoy a special place in the life of the Church and special graces that come through the stability of community life and the intensity of the vows. But that is not to say that the only way to have a stable life and a vowed life is in an institute of consecrated life.

Often, societies of apostolic life are founded to free the members from certain obligations that come from being religious. For example, St. Vincent de Paul wanted to free the Daughters from the rules of the enclosure. Sometimes societies are founded to get around the issue of poverty. Orders are not allowed to own property, not even in common. For the apostolic life, you need financial resources. Some communities find that they prefer to own their own property and have their own money rather than depend solely on charity.

In addition, orders do not place ministry at the top of their list of priorities. They were not founded to do ministry. They are founded to live the common life. Ministry to the laity is an option, not a duty in an order. Those orders that have ministries, have very strict limits to ensure that the ministry does not interfere with the Liturgy of the Hours, the community meals and recreation, the freedom of the commuinity to leave the ministry and so forth. A society of apostolic life places the ministry as its first priority. The community life exists for the sake of the ministry.

Have a Blessed Christmas!

Br. JR, OSF :christmastree1:

According to their website, the Schonstatt Sisters of Mary call themselves a SECULAR INSTITUTE, which is still another form of Consecrated life, like Religious Institutes, and Societies of Apostolic LIfe.

Here is the link to this information and the text with Google translation:
schoenstaetter-marienschwestern.org/index1.php?icms_language=1

A Secular Institute

Founded in 1926 the community became Germany’s first secular institute. Today our community extends to all continents, working in 29 countries with members from 35 nations.

Secular institutes are communities of consecrated life living in the midst of society (saecularis=pertaining to the world). Pope Paul VI. called them “research laboratories in which the Church can test the concrete possibilities of her relationship to the world.”

As Schoenstatt Sisters of Mary we have many possibilities corresponding to this definition: We work as a community in common projects, such as schools, hospitals, and social welfare initiatives, but also as individuals in various fields of work in order to act “as leaven . . .to contribute to the sanctification of the world from within.” (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium 31).

I’m not sure about the differences or similarities between Secular Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Anyone who can help clarify this?

A secular institute can be either contemplative or a Society of Apostolic Life. What makes them secular is that they do not make vows. What makes them a Society of Apostolic Life is their call to ministry. Some Societies of Apostolic Life make vows, such as the Daughters of Charity. They are not secualr per se, because they make vows, even though they never make perpetual vows.

There are different canonical status that often overlap. These canonical differences are really more important to the community than to the faithful, since they do not affect the grace that the faithful receive through these communities, nor does it affect the ministry that they perform among the faithful.

These canonical laws have to do with things such as:

[LIST=1]
*]entrance and departure from the community
*]the depth of the vows for those who make vows (these societies make simple vows, not solemn)
*]issues of property (institutes in solemn vows may not own property)
*]issues of jurisdiction (orders and congregations are not subject to local bisops). Societies of Apostolic Life may be Pontifical or Diocesan. If they are diocesan, they answer to the local bishop
*]formation: orders and congregations must have a novitiate.
*]Third orders (except the Secular Franciscans. They are an actual autonomous order of Pontifical Right)
[/LIST]

The canonical laws do not affect the ministry of the society or how they live their lives in common or separately. I hope this helps.

Have a Blessed Christmas,

Br. JR, OSF :christmastree1:

Just as a clarification on "Secular Institutes" and "Societies of Apostolic Life", I would like to mention that membership in either does not change one's state in life. If one is a lay person, then the person continues to be a lay person in a secular institute or society of apostolic life. If one is ordained, one continues to be ordained. Neither clerics nor laity become members of the consecrated state. Some members of secular institutes may make vows, but this does not change their canonical status, and no member of societies of apostolic life make religious vows (they can make private promises). Secular Institutes were founded for people to be dedicated to more intense service of the Lord in the world (within or without community) as leaven in the world and Societies of Apostolic Life are a conglomeration of people who pursue a particular mission or apostolic activity together, and so while there are no religious vows, they abide by the canonical equivalent of "in-house" rules. Both institutions are forms that are like consecrated life, but do not place a person in the consecrated state.

[quote="SerraSemper, post:12, topic:180611"]
Just as a clarification on "Secular Institutes" and "Societies of Apostolic Life", I would like to mention that membership in either does not change one's state in life. If one is a lay person, then the person continues to be a lay person in a secular institute or society of apostolic life. If one is ordained, one continues to be ordained. Neither clerics nor laity become members of the consecrated state. Some members of secular institutes may make vows, but this does not change their canonical status, and no member of societies of apostolic life make religious vows (they can make private promises). Secular Institutes were founded for people to be dedicated to more intense service of the Lord in the world (within or without community) as leaven in the world and Societies of Apostolic Life are a conglomeration of people who pursue a particular mission or apostolic activity together, and so while there are no religious vows, they abide by the canonical equivalent of "in-house" rules. Both institutions are forms that are like consecrated life, but do not place a person in the consecrated state.

[/quote]

Don't forget the Daughters of Charity. They do make vows, but they are a Society of Apostolic Life, not an Institute of Consecrated Life. They never make perpetual vows.

A blessed Christmas to all

Br. JR, OSF :christmastree1:

I recently began learning about secular institutes and came to this link in my web searches. I see that some clarifications are needed. There was a document written by Pope Pius XII in 1947 that defined secular institutes. Here is a link to it:

w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/apost_constitutions/documents/hf_p-xii_apc_19470202_provida-mater-ecclesia.html

There was then a follow-up document a year later by the same pope, called Primo feliciter. It can be found here:
w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xii/en/motu_proprio/documents/hf_p-xii_motu-proprio_19480312_primo-feliciter.html

Members of secular institutes do not normally live in common. They do profess the evangelical counsels, but not in the same manner as religious do. Those who live in relatively close proximity may come together often during the year, and they usually make a retreat together annually. They are hidden leaven in the world and normally keep their consecration and membership in their institute quiet.

For even more info, interested persons can visit: secularinstitutes.org/

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The one who started this thread has received her habit and new name in Toronto, Ohio. She’s the foundress of the Family of Jacopa. My organization supported her, and encouraged her not to listen to the critics.

That being said, it’s probably time to close the thread.

Blessings,
Cloisters

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