Third Orders (secular)


The Historical Third Orders Secular (and all are still in existence):

Secular Franciscan Order (Third Order of St. Francis)

Lay Dominicans (Dominican Third Order)

Third Order Secular of the Carmelite Order

Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites (Discalced Carmelite Third Order)

Third Order Secular of Most Holy Trinity (Tertiaries of the Order of the Most Holy Trinity and of the Captives)

Mercedarian Third Order (Tertiaries of the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mercy)

Servite Secular Order (Third Order of the Order of the Servants of Mary)

Secular Augustinians (Third Order of the Augustinian Order)

Secular Augustinian Recollects (Third Order of the Augustinian Recollect)

Minims Third Order

Premonstratensian Third Order


I have a friend who is a Third Order Franciscan. I lean toward the Dominicans but there is not a local chapter for me to enter.



I believe they allow “isolated” members (see their Rule - it has accommodations for formation of Isolated members) . So where one is not near a community - arrangements can be made. So contact them if you believe your called to be a Lay Dominican (Dominican Tertiary).


In the Benedictine community, it is called the Benedictine Oblates. As to how closely they are aligned with the orders stated, I think you would need to contact the Benedictines for further clarification.



Oblates are not tertiaries.

Though similar… they are not one of the third orders.

They are not part of an Order but are oblates of a particular Monastery.


I have. I was told there was nothing to be done. This was about 8 years ago. If you know of anyone who might be able to help, I’d love to try again.


The Dominicans refer to themselves as a Family, and did away with “first order” etc designations. This happened in the 1970s, although when I was a newbie in the 1980s, the chaplain still referred to it as the Third Order; called us Tertiaries; and the group leader was the Prior or Prioress. Now, we are officially known as the Dominican Laity or Lay Dominicans, and the leader is called the Moderator.

I have an online group, Holy Angels Internet TOP (Third Order of Preachers), on Yahoo. We began the Inquiry year last December 30. I am using the formation program of the Southern Province – at least for this year – because I am physically located in said Province.

If you’d like more information, please feel free to PM me.


Each province has a friar that is assigned to take care of the laity. They are also supposed to take care of isolates. The main reason I have our lay Dominican Yahoo group was to support a home-bound “sister” in a state south of me. Since my organization is also in the business of founding new charisms, and some of those are based in Dominican spirituality, I am using the group to help train those in formation with us.

When I still lived in East TN, and before I met my husband, I asked a friar about a college friend who wanted to become a lay Dominican, but was very isolated. He said she needed to live the life as best as she could. Since our order is based on the Rule of St. Augustine, there is a great emphasis on community, hence one reason why isolates are unique.

As an aside, the Norbertine Canonesses in California take community so seriously that they have roommates, instead of being alone in their rooms in the dorter (dormitory).

So, if you’re interested, start studying the Rule of St. Augustine, and read the lives of the Dominican saints.


Contact the Provence.


Yes in the recent decades some of the Third Orders started using various names such as “Secular Servites”, “Lay Dominicans”…(sometimes even more than one).

They are still though “tertiaries” even in the Dominicans. One of their websites notes:

“When we speak about Lay Fraternities and Third Orders in the Catholic Church, we generally mean lay members of religious orders. The Dominicans, Franciscans,… Norbertines, Carmelites,… are all examples of orders in the Church who have lay branches, although each order may have a different way of referring to its lay members. (For example, in the Dominican Order, we are called lay Fraternity members, or tertiaries.)”


I started off in a chapter conducted by a priory at a Dominican church. We were able to pray in the chapel, which had stalls, and we called the leader the Prioress. We also took religious names. This chapter was in the Eastern Province.

I moved into the Southern Province. This was thirty years ago, and I was told in no uncertain terms to never use the word “tertiary” for the Dominican laity. I was also discouraged from describing us as having the First, Second, and Third Orders, and that the Third Order was branched into Regular and Secular. We were not “mini-religious” so we were to use Moderator for the leader of the group, and taking religious names was also discouraged.

Due to health, I went onto inactive status; got married and had my two kids; discerned with the OCDS; became a Lay Passionist; then discerned back into the TOP in recent years. Admittedly, everything has changed in that time. I ask that the benefit of the doubt be extended. Thank you.


Benefit of doubt?

Not sure what you mean there. I do not doubt you.

I was just giving the information that tertiary is a apt term for a member of a third order/secular order (including the Dominican).

As you note things have changed (I imagine in the 1970’s - they were shying away from the term…but thankfully it is still valid). From the “Southern” Provence website (the other was the Eastern)- seems part of a formation presentation:

“Truth is at the Very Heart of Real Dominicanism. A Dominican not interested in the truth would be even more an anomaly than a maestro not interested in music or a mother not interested in children. He simply would not make sense. All his training, all his traditions, all his life would be contradicted. Now a Dominican Tertiary is as much a Dominican as a Dominican religious and truth means as much to the one as it does to the other, or at least it should. The Tertiary may not have professional interest in truth as, lets say, the theologian, yet he has as great a need for the truth, in some cases even greater becouse he can more easily be taken in by error than his religious brother.”

I am *Not *doubting your recollection of something that was said at a particular time or place or in a particular group in from 30 years ago. :slight_smile:


Thank you for the clarification. The experience was akin to culture shock.

Your latest quote comes from the formation program we are using in our internet group. The other poster on this thread is welcome to inquire about us.

Each province is supposed to cover their isolates, and I was hoping our group could suffice for such a purpose. I have sent my group’s information to the Southern Province but have not heard back. My “sister” has ties to the Nashville Dominicans, so the Sisters are likely getting feedback from her.


These then are the historical “third orders” and are still in existence today. I will note though that yes - they also have various other names (such as Lay Carmelites) too.

The* tertiary* vocation is an rather old vocation in the Church and the world…and ones that continues to be enriched down through the centuries.


The fact that these Orders actually have laity was groundbreaking in and of itself at the time of their foundations. The great orders that existed before these usually wanted nothing to do with women or laity.

The Secular Franciscans are an actual free-standing Order in and of itself. Francis also said that anyone could be the superior general (not sure what they’re called). As of late, their lead “servant” was an SFO.


And even at times lay persons lived with the religious.

With the splendid Second Vatican Council’s documents on the Church and the Lay Vocation (as well as other later documents) there has been a kind of* ressourcement *of the lay vocation and a deepening of the understanding of it.

The tertiary vocation being a “particular vocation” within the lay vocation (or secular Priest/Deacon vocations for those who are Priests or Deacons) to follow Christ in secular society …following too the universal call to holiness.


I always enjoy your posts and seek them out. In this case, your post brings back many memories.

I vividly remember having the chance to experience that of which you speak in a visit in the United States back in the 1970s; it was related to what were historically called third orders secular but also involved the new ecclesial movements and other aspects related to the laity then emerging. I remember the differences between all four Dominican provinces then being quite stark, just as you delineate it…but in more than simply what concerned the Dominican Laity.

With the renewal of the role of the laity in the Church there were marked re-visioning for these various groups, and those of like sort, whose categories changed even more with the new Code of Canon Law, which is still having impact on them after more than 30 years of existing.

One thing of import is, however, that different groups have made different provisions as they have continued to evolve in the aftermath of the Council and the renewal it engendered. And this may be important for those discerning becoming a member of such a group as well as for these groups concerning their on-going existence. Some are simply better situated, by how they have evolved, to be compatible with the needs/limitations of certain categories of people. That is my observation.

You have seen the whole spectrum from when the model for a Lay Dominican was religious life to when that model was completely rejected to when it was partially re-claimed in some attenuated sense. It has been quite a journey. I remember particularly from that era the plight of one who wanted to be a lay Dominican but could not because of an inability to attend meetings – and this absolutely precluded admission.

I have to admit, I am warmly supportive of the change in titles…moderator and so forth is better than titles such as prior/prioress, novice master/mistress, and others derived from Religious Life. The change to the use of the same post nominal, on the other hand, I have ambivalence about, especially as it touches on the laity…even though I understand the justification for it. I should not be surprised if that gets re-visited, eventually.

Your remembrances certainly evoked many memories from long ago.


An important document regarding the lay vocation (most tertiaries are lay persons):




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