third order?


I have heard that one can join a third order without being an ordained member of the Church. Is this correct? Any info would be appreciated.


The short answer is, it depends. There are various third/secular Orders and each has it’s own rules. MOST third orders are for lay/non-ordained people. Most orders have some type of lay order associated with it. What they call that Order varies Order to Order.

An example that I am familar with is the Franciscans.

There is an Order within the Franciscans called Third Order Regular (TOR) which is primarily for priests and nuns.

There is another Order within the Franciscans called Secular Franciscan Order (SFO) which is primarily for lay people, but diocesan priests can also join.


SFO was one that I was definitely interested in. I might be interested in becoming an ordained priest, but I am not sure yet. I am 17. Is it possible to be a member at this age?


I believe you need to be 18 before becoming a member, but I need to look through the regs to be sure on this. The national web page for SFO is at this link:

My suggestion though would be to first determine if you are interested in becoming a diocesan priest or a priest associated with a religious community. That would determine whether SFO, or TOR was a better fit for you.

If you feel called to be a diocesan priest then SFO would probably be the best fit. If you feel called to be in a religious community, then if you feel called to Franciscan spirituality then you may be called to either a First Order (i.e. OFM) or TOR.

You should contact a priest to help determine what your calling is.


If I were to become a priest, I would almost definitely want to become a diocesan priest.

I am planning to attend a college next year that that founded by Franciscans. Maybe I can achieve more guidance there.


TOR is a consecrated order of Friars and Priests. It is only for them. Its members on vowed memers of TOR only. It just comprable to OFM or OFM Conv, more than SFO.


I was primarily addressing the fact that unlike most religious Third Orders, TOR isn’t a “secular” order. You would have to be a vowed religious to be a member of TOR. Thanks for the clarification.


I am happy to hear you feel a calling to be a diocesan priest. In that case SFO would probably be the best bet for you. SFO is one of the few third orders that allows diocesan priests to be members. SFO has many priests, deacons, bishops, cardinals, and even previous Popes as members. Many third orders are only for lay people.

Good luck as you discern your calling.

P.S. As for your question about whether you are to young or not. If you truely feel a calling to SFO you can start the process now, but based on my reading of the rules you can’t be a professed member of SFO until you are 18. Part of the process is discerning whether you are called to SFO or not. SFO isn’t a club like KoC or scouts it’s a lifetime committment.


a Third Order Regular (TOR) takes vows, that is, formally joins a religious community, but may be a priest, brother or sister, so is not necessarily ordained.

Secular associates are lay persons (but also may be ordained or religious drawn to the spirituality of the order) who do not take vows but participate in some formal way in the spirituality and life of the religious community. they do not take binding vows, but do undergo some type of spiritual formation, meet regularly according to a defined program, and make some type of commitment.

Those associated with Franciscans are SFO, Secular Franciscan Order
Benedictines are Oblates
Dominicans are Tertiaries

do a search, there are several threads on spirituality forum which have lots of good links for you.


One can be a diocesan priest and a member of a Third Order.
Many popes have been Third Order Franciscans for example and John Paul II was a Third Order Carmelite. The SFO is not the only available Third Order for the Franciscans, there are those who live the old rule too.

Ave Maria!


st Louis Montfort was a third order Dominican. Later, he did find three reliougs orders, i think.


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