Vocation To Secular Religious Orders

Adoro Te Devote and I were sharing on another thread about vocations; we have to confess that we accidently derailed that thread. So we decided to start another thread out of respect for the OP and to allow that thread to continue on its due course. I hope that we didn’t do too much damage.

The topic of this thread is Secular Orders. It’s really an information thread and an opportunity for people to share what this vocation means to them and to allow others to ask questions, especially those who are discerning a vocation to a particular religious family.

Before going further, it’s important to understand what Secular Orders are not. They are not societies of pious people who share a devotion to a particular saint: St. Francis, Benedict, Teresa of Avila or Dominic. They are not a stepping stone to becoming a “real” Franciscan, Dominican, Carmelite or Benedictine. In fact, Canon Law forbids that they be used in such a way. They are not half-baked religious. Their members do not straddle the fence between religious life and the secular life.

Secular Orders are first and foremost, real religious orders as stated very clearly by Pope Leo XIII and Pius XI when they wrote about the Secular Franciscan Order.

Secular Orders came into existence in different ways. Long before the Middle Ages there were secular movements of preachers, hermits, penitents and mendicants. Most of them disappeared for many reasons, but not all.

When Francis of Assisi began his journey he began as a secular man. His life was devoted to following the Gospel doing penance. Later, when single lay men and some diocesan priests joined him, his mission became a religious family. Eventually, he had to write a rule for his brothers. He wrote the Rule of the Friars Minor, which most of us know as the Franciscans, Capuchins or Conventual. But there were married men and women and some diocesan priests who wanted to live the Gospel life and remain in the secular world. Francis wrote a rule for them too. He called them the Brothers and Sisters of Penance. Today most people call us the Secular Franciscans, though the name has never changed.

When Dominic founded his first order, it was a community of nuns. Later he founded a community of Friar Preachers. Most of them were priests, but there were some lay men. Traditionally, they were called the Order of Preachers. From the very beginning, there were diocesan priests, married men and women and others who wanted to share in the mission of Dominic and remain in the secular world. They too wanted to be preachers. Late in the 13th century statutes were drawn up for these men and women to live by. They lived under the direction of the Friars. They were known as the Lay Order of Preachers or Lay Dominicans. The most famous of them was Catherine of Siena, Doctor of the Church.

The same thing happened with the Carmelite family. Many lay people and secular priests wanted to live the live the hermetical life of the Carmelites, but remain in the secular world. They were organised into two groups, the Secular Carmelites and the Order of Secular Carmelite Discalced. The first group is closely associated with the Carmelite friars of the ancient observance, the second group with the Carmelite reform started by St. Teresa of Avila.

Each of these Secular Orders has a canonical standing within the Church. Each of them has a way of life, vows or some kind of profession that is perpetual. The Franciscans have a rule written by St. Francis and cannot be changed except by a Pope. The Lay Dominicans follow the Augustinian Rule, but with the Dominican’s emphasis on preaching, while the Franciscan emphasis is on blind obedience to the Church, prayer and penance. The Carmelite emphasis is on the hermetical life, contemplation and detachment.

All three require a commitment for life. All three are consecrated ways of life. All three require a special vocation. They are not societies that one joins today and leaves tomorrow because one finds something more interesting to do. The commitment is different in each of them. The details such as the life of prayer and fraternity are different; as well as how they live the Gospel is different. All three have deacons, priests, bishops, married and single people; some are celibate and not others.

There is more to share here, but space does not allow it. Let’s keep talking and the rest will come out.


JR :slight_smile:

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Thanks, JR… for posting that depth of info.

I wish more people knew of these Vocations. I was first introduced to them a few years ago as a way to holiness, but I wasn’t ready.

Now I am working with others to re-establish a chapter of Dominican Laity in my local area. (This is great news…we thought we were going to have to do something new…which involves a lot more work)

In any case, I just want to add that although these Secular Orders are Vocations, they can be held in conjunction with one’s primary Vocation to either the Priesthood or Marriage.

It CAN be used as a stepping-stone to religious life, but that is not the intention, and as JR said, such a use is discouraged. For example…I am a single woman, and I may be called to religious life, Dominican or otherwise. I am not barred from discerning a Secular Order, however, this Order does not mimic religious life, is not a “stepping stone”, and while it may help me discern, it willl not guarantee me a place anywhere. I may not even discern to a Dominican community! The most important point here is that involvement in a Secular Order is not an obstacle to the greater Vows to Marriage or Religious Life, but should not be used as a substitute for either. Certainly one may be called to be Single and enter this Order…but one cannot be mistaken to be a spouse of Christ or be participating in an alternative to marriage.

Deacons and Priests can also enter into Secular Orders, for thier Vows are permanent, but Secular Orders, as they pertain more to spirituality than to espousal or specific service, can accept them. I know of a few priests who have entered Secular Orders.

I know many married people who have entered Secular Orders. It is a way to holiness, typically involving Daily Mass (as able, highy encouraged), praying Liturgy of the Hours, yearly or bi-yearly retreats with the group, and monthly meetings for the purpose of formation in holiness.

There’s so much to say, and there are many here who have professed promises to Secular Orders…they will eventually share their stories and the info for their communities…

(that’s a hint, y’all…" :slight_smile:

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This is interesting, I did not know about this type of Order.
JR can you clarify something for me, did you say that St. Catherine and St. Teresa was in a Secular type Order? I thought they were in a consecrated religious order.

Another question is, so people who joined the secular order do they live in a community like any other religious order or is it like a club and they just meet every now and then?


You’re welcome. I’m more familiar with the Secular Franciscans, because I’m a Franciscan. So I will limit myself pretty much to them. I know some about the other communities. But it would be best if others who know more would post about them. That being said . . .

In any case, I just want to add that although these Secular Orders are Vocations, they can be held in conjunction with one’s primary Vocation to either the Priesthood or Marriage.

In the Franciscan family priesthood and marriage are not considered primary vocations. They are considered to be vocations within a vocation. A person joins the Franciscans to be another Francis. If the individual is a priest or married the goal is to be the kind of priest or married person that Francis leads them to be. The goal is to achieve the perfect imitation of Francis in order to achieve the perfect imitation of Christ. When a person in either state enters the Franciscan family it is because God has called them to give more.

For example, within the Friars Minor, priests are considered Religious Brothers. Within the community there is no distinction between the ordained and the non cleric. The primary vocation is to be a Franciscan. The priesthood is looked upon according to the words of canon law, “the clerical state”. The Franciscan is looked upon according the the words of canon law “consecrated life”. Franciscanism is a way of living.

It CAN be used as a stepping-stone to religious life, but that is not the intention, and as JR said, such a use is discouraged.

In the Franciscan Rule it is prohibitted. Canon Law supports the Rule. Canon Law is very clear that members of Secular Orders must abide by the Rule and Constitutions of the Secular Order to which they belong. The vocation to the Secular Franciscan Order is a permanent one. It is NEVER a stepping stone to another way of life. It is a form of religious life lived in the secular world. You can’t have a form of religiosu life that is a stepping stone to another form of religious life. This was established by Popes Pius IX and Leo XIII for the Secular Franciscans.

The most important point here is that involvement in a Secular Order is not an obstacle to the greater Vows to Marriage or Religious Life, but should not be used as a substitute for either.

According the Secular Franciscan rule and constitution, there is no greater than or less than. They are not in the same category of vows. Solemn vows and Simple Vows are very different theologically and canonically. They may co-exist unless one interferes with the other, then the solemn vow takes precedence.

In the Franciscan family, there is no such thing as involvement. One is a Franciscan. One is not involved with the Franciscans. Once the period of temporary profession and formation are over, one is a Franciscan for life and Dominicans have the same law. The formation period lasts from three to five years, just like that of the friars and the cloistered nuns.

Certainly one may be called to be Single and enter this Order…but one cannot be mistaken to be a spouse of Christ or be participating in an alternative to marriage.

In both the Dominican and Franciscan orders, one can certainly be a consecrated virgin, which would make one a spouse of Christ. Catherine of Siena was a Lay Dominican, but she was a celibate Dominican bound by a vow of celibacy. She was as much as spouse of Christ as are the nuns in the cloister. There are similar examples among the Franciscans. Both orders have a provision for members to be consecrated virgins living the evangelical counsels.

Deacons and Priests can also enter into Secular Orders, for thier Vows are permanent,

Diocesan deacons and priests do not make vows. There are no such things are “permanent vows” for deacons or priests. The Sacrament of Holy Orders does not include vows. Obedience to the bishop and celibacy are not part of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

but Secular Orders, as they pertain more to spirituality than to espousal or specific service, can accept them.

Secular Orders do not pertain to spirituality. They are a way of life and they have a mission. Only those priests and deacons who can live this way of life and fulfill the mission of the order can join.

I know many married people who have entered Secular Orders. It is a way to holiness, typically involving Daily Mass (as able, highy encouraged), praying Liturgy of the Hours, yearly or bi-yearly retreats with the group, and monthly meetings for the purpose of formation in holiness.{/quote]

This only holds true for lay orders. Secular Orders have more complex lives. For example, Secular Franciscans pray the liturgy of the hours, attend daily mass, perform different ministries in the Church, must be part of the local parish’s ministry, must also live according to the Rule of St. Francis: poverty, obedience, chastity, silence, penance, take care of the members of their Franciscan community who need care, participate in all community functions, wear the habit of the community, refrain from certain forms of recreation and diversions which are contrary to the spirit of poverty and prudence, be submissive to the local bishop, support the work of the diocesan priests, take care of the poor, develop an intense life of contemplation.

Most importantly, he or she must embrace the Gospel in the same manner as St. Francis and abandon himself to the cross as St. Francis did. We are penitents for the benefit of the Church. Our vocation is very ecclesial. By the way, a Secular Order and a Lay Order are similar, but not the same. This will come out as this thread develops.


JR :slight_smile:

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I’m happy to see this thread, because I have just completed orientation to the Secular Franciscan Order (SFO). In December, I will be welcomed as an inquirer.

I became interested in the SFO in the 1980s after reading the book “Francis: The Journey and the Dream,” by Murray Bodo, OFM. That book really resonated with me. At the time, though, I was just starting out as a junior high youth minister, so I put pursuing the SFO on the back burner.

In between, my life took many turns. I was deeply affected when my best friend came to me in 1992 confiding in me that he was dying of AIDS. I took care of him and saw him through his death. It was an amazing, profound, and heart-breaking experience. As a result, I joined with other families and friends in my parish who also were impacted by a friend or family member with AIDS. Out of our grief, we worked together, with the blessing of our pastor to establish an AIDS support group and also raised money to open a residential home for people with AIDS who would otherwise be homeless. I think we were blessed to be in a Franciscan parish where our pastor and the other friars were so supportive.

Awhile later, I moved away from the parish. It took me awhile to feel at home at my new parish. I sure missed the franciscans! About a year ago, I started going to a bible study at my parish. The leader wore a Tau cross, which I recognized immediately as Franciscan. I asked him about it, and he invited me to check out the fraternity he was part of. He is now my sponsor!

I am so thrilled and humbled to be on this journey. I really can’t explain how much it means to me. It deepens my devotion to the Mass and the sacraments, and to the faith community I’m part of in the fraternity as well as in my parish.

This is my first post to the forums here, although I’ve been an avid reader of the political stuff. A lot of great discussion here. Even though I’m a self-confessed political junkie :wink: I’ll be glad when the election is over. I hope we will all be able to pull together in spite of our differences because our country is going to need each one of us. We are headed for some difficult times. I don’t know how it is in other areas, but I live in Southern California where the housing market has been turned upside down. Our parish runs a food bank, and we’re seeing more and more folks who used to be the ones who volunteered and donated the food now needing help.

Good questions Tee.

First let’s talk about Catherine. Catherine of Siena was a lay Dominican. She was also a consecrated virgin. Besides promising to live the life of the Dominican Order in the secular world, she also promised to live the celibate life.

Both the Franciscans and the Dominicans have this possibility built into their family.

Secular Orders and Lay Orders are not clubs. They are different from each other.

For example: The Secular Franciscans and Lay Dominicans have a three to five year formation period. You go through different stages. In the end you make a commitment to live this way until death. So it’s not a club. You can’t join today and leave tomorrow, once you have made your profession.

The difference between the Franciscans and Dominicans is this. The Dominicans follow the life of the Dominican Friars. They try to live according to the spirit of St. Dominic, preaching the Gospel where they go. They live in their own homes, but they come together regularly. I’m not sure how regularly, because I’m not a Dominican. But if you go up to the top of this sub-forum there is a link to more information on Third Orders. The Dominicans are listed among them. You can find out more.

The Secular Franciscans, as I have described in my previous thread are highly structured. We have a Rule that St. Francis wrote for us. We make a commitment until death to live the Gospel the same way that St. Francis lived it.

We get together very frequently for support and community life. Some of us live in the same house. Those who have children and families live within their families, but join us on a regular basis. By regular I mean REGULAR, not randomly. The Rule says that every Secular Franciscan must report to the community at least once a month or more.

We have a superior whom we call a Minister. This was a term that Francis created to avoid pride. The Rule and Constitutions tell us what we must obey and do every day.

We go to work like every other person, but we also engage in ministry, contemplative prayer and in penance. Besides that we have the daily mass and the Liturgy of the Hours.

Some communities have a habit and some wear a simple symbol. This depends on the council. We have a general council in Rome that governs the Secular Franciscan Order around the world. We are one million brothers and sisters. Some married, some celibate, some are clerics.

We are not part of the Friars or of the Poor Clares. Francis wanted each order to be different and respond to a different need in the Church. The Friars are a community of Brothers who live a life of obedience, penance, poverty, and service to the Church, especially through preaching.

The Poor Clares are a community of women who live a life of obedience, penance, poverty, and an enclosed life of adoration to God. They have not ministry outside of the cloister and do not involve themselves with the Church outside the cloister or the rest of the world.

The Brothers and Sisters of Penance (Secular Franciscans) are married, single, celibate, clerics who live a live of obedience, penance, poverty, service to the Church, silence, and bring the Gospel to the secular places where the rest of the Franciscan family can’t reach, such as the office or other secular places. But we do not engage in trying to change the world by preaching to anyone. We preach by our silence and by the way that we live and the way we serve others while at work, play, or in our apostolates.

Some Secular Franciscans, like some priests and religoius of other groups are very lax about their commitment. If you live it the way Francis wrote it and the way the Church expects it, it is very demanding and is a 24/7 job. Even taking care of your family, children, parents, spouse can be a form of penance, because you must assume the lowest place at all times, just as Francis did.

I will let a Dominican speak about them. I know some things, but not everything about them. I do know that they are called to a very holy life. As are the Carmelites and the Benedictine Oblates.

By the way, St. Teresa was not a Secular Carmelite. She was the reformer of the Carmelites. She was a cloistered nun. It was Catherine of Siena who was a lay Dominican, not a nun, so was Rose of Lima and Martin de Porres.

Thomas More was a Secular Franciscan, so were John XXIII, Pius IX, Pius X, Leo XIII, Christopher Colombus, the parents of St. Therese de Liseux who were just beatified, St. Louis King of France. St. Elizabeth of Hungary, St. Joan of Arc and Mother Teresa.

I hope this helps.


JR :slight_smile:

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Hi Pam,

Of all the Franciscan writers to inspire you, you picked Murray. :rotfl: It goes to show you that it takes all kinds to build up the Church. As I told Murray once, “I love you. But I can’t stand the way you write.” He thought it was funny. I’m glad he has a sense of humour. My favourite Franciscan writer is Bonaventure and Ignacio Larañaga, SJ (of all people). LOL

I’m so glad that you decided to place your first post on this thread. We have another thread running Franciscan Spirituality and Mysticism. I try to maintain it. You may want to look at it. It’s in the Spirituality sub-forum.

Congratulations on your admission to Inquirer. For those who don’t know what that is, the Franciscan family has some very strange names for what other religious families use. An inquirer is a postulant. A candidate is a novice.

When Canon Law was revised in 1983, it changed the traditional names for postulants, novices and temporary professed. The Franciscans went along with the changes. I think we were the only ones who did. Now they sound strange.

An inquirer spends six months to a year learning the history of the Order, the life and spirit of St. Francis and the customs of the Order and his or her local community. Afterward, the Council votes and if admitted, inquirer begins the novitiate, which the new code of Canon Law calls the candidacy. During that time the candidate spends from 12 to 24 months praying over his vocation under the guidance of the Formation Director. She studies the Rule and Constitution of the Order, the profession of vows, the life of prayer, the Gospels, and begins the process of detaching from material things and human persons that interfere with the perfeciton of the soul.

Normally, the person promises to live the Gospel according to the Rule of St. Francis after 12 months of this. But the Order can extend it up to 24 months. On average it’s 18 months. During this time there is a lot of time spent with the community and with the Formation Director. The rest of us lend a hand by answering questions, supporting with our prayers and whatever other spiritual and material needs the candidate has. When the candidate is ready the Formation Director presents her to the council and the council votes on whether she can make profession.

As everyone can see, it is a long process to becoming a Secular Franciscans and a penitential one too. The deeper the individual goes into Franciscan mysticism, the more that is expected of him or her.

As I always say, you can fool your brothers and sisters, but you can’t fool yourself or Christ.

I’m glad that you’re coming in, Pam. Whatever we in the Five Martyrs Region can do for you, please write and let us know.

Fraternally in St. Francis,

JR :slight_smile:

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and what about the Companion Intercessors of the Lamb? Are they secular religious?

When you list the Popes up there, you mean that they join Secular Franciscan, but they’re also from the actual non-secular Order too right?
It doesn’t sound right that you can become a bishop from secular order.

No. These men joined the Secular Franciscan Order early in their lives and remained members of the Order until death. After they joined the Order they became secular priests. If you are a Secular Franciscan, you cannot join a Regular Religious Order unless you get a dispensation from the Secular Franciscans. You remain a member of the Secular Religious Order until death. Therefore, if you become a deacon or a priest, you must become a secular deacon or priest.

These popes were secular priests. But they were legally Franciscans. They were NOT members of the Friars Minor, which is our religious order for men. This is not allowed by Canon Law. You can only belong to one order or the other. It’s a real Order with a lifetime commitment, not a temporary organization or a stepping stone to Regular Religious life.

Francis allowed priests to join his orders as long as they remained faithful to the Rule of the Order and remained Brothers their whole life. He also allowed some Brothers to be ordained, as long as they did not give up the spirit of prayer and penance of their Order, whether it was the Friars Minor or the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, they are always Brothers.

To this day, they must submit to Francis’ authority as it is expressed through his successors. Francis wrote in his three Rules that the Franciscans must obey Brother Francis and his legitimately elected successors. These popes were no different from any other Franciscan Brother or Sister in this regard. They were subject to the Rule of St. Francis.

The only difference is this. When a man is ordained a bishop, his vow of obedience to his superior is suspended until he retires. He remains a member of his Order, whether it is a Regular Religious Order or a Secular Religious Order. The reason for suspending the vow of obedience is to avoid conflicts of interest between two authority figures. His vow to obey the rule is not suspended, only his obedience to the superior.

These popes died as Brothers of Penance. St. Pius X has been included in the Franciscan liturgical calendar as a Franciscan saint. Blessed John XXIII has yet to be included. When the new liturgical calendar for the Franciscan Order is issued he’ll be included. Here is the current Franciscan liturgical calendar.


This is all very new to the average American Catholic, because of our emphasis on priesthood and regular religious life in this country.

It is very well understood in Europe where it all began and where the Secular Orders were responsible for protecting the Church during times of crisis such as the Dark Ages, the French Revolution, the American War for Independence and the Age of Modernism in the late 1800s.

Secular Franciscans ran schools, hospitals, hospices for the poor and dying. They also made an effort to influence government policies that threatened the Church and the faith. They were very active in protecting Jews from the Nazis.

I hope this helps.


JR :slight_smile:

No, they are not. They are secular, but not a Secular Religious Order or a Regular Religioius Order. Their canonical status is that of a Public Association of the Faithful.

Some do make vows. Their mission is to bring the contemplative life to the secular world. They follow the spirit of St. Teresa. They were founded by a cloistered nun who left the religious life to spread the spirit of contemplation in the secular world. They run retreats and other ministries that help people engage in contemplation.

They are a great group. Their next step is to become an Apostolic Society. I don’t believe this has been granted to them, yet. The community has to meet certain canonical requirements. After that they can request to become a religoius congregation or a Secular Order. Usually, a Secular Order is part of a large religious family. From what I’ve read about them on their site, it seems that they will probably become an apostolic society or a religious congregation, because they are not part of religious family.

They deserve our prayers and respect. Their ministry is very much needed in the Church today.

Here is their link



JR :slight_smile:

Wow, it’s great to see so many posts!

I confess I don’t know a ton about this topic as I am only beginning my exploration into it. However, here is some good info for anyone interested in becoming a Lay Dominican:


As you can see from the link, they call themselves “Third Order”, but many of these groups are changing the terminology so as to avoid confusion with other Third Orders that do not share the same definition. The web page does have to do with Lay Dominicans.

JR also mentioned, way early on, the Vocation to Consecrated Virginity. I do know a Consecrated Virgin, and she does belong to an Order, but it’s not along the same lines as a religious order such as the Franciscans or Carmelites or Dominicans. That’s for another post! And Consecrated Virgins can also make promises to Lay communities, or if they have already done so, they can aso become Consecrated Virgins of they and their Bishop so discerns.

I had also mentioned the possiblity of becoming a Lay Dominican and then entering religious life; and to clarify, as of right now, I’m certain that if I do get involved in the group, they would not allow me to make any promises as a Lay Dominican until I would decide on where God is calling me. That would be wise…and they may assist me in discerning that.

However, if, say, someone has made promises and a few years later hears the “Call” to enter a religious community, they could be released from their promises in order to do so. This kind of thing is addressed differenty in different groups (as JR has noted).

I would also like to mention that I know of priests who are Secular Carmelites and are either in formation to become diocesan priests…or were ordained and continue with the Carmelite groups, perhaps as the Spiritual Advisor or something.

Adoro Te Devote and I were sharing on another thread about vocations; we have to confess that we accidently derailed that thread. So we decided to start another thread out of respect for the OP and to allow that thread to continue on its due course. I hope that we didn’t do too much damage.

The topic of this thread is Secular Orders. It’s really an information thread and an opportunity for people to share what this vocation means to them and to allow others to ask questions, especially those who are discerning a vocation to a particular religious family.

Thank you once again JR for the start of another wonderful thread*.


Thank you also for the site link…Not only does it contain information on the franciscan saints and blesseds… but much other that might be of interest to those investigating Franciscan Spirituality. The information is quite helpful and easy to access!
Blessings of Peace and All Good!

Thanks for the info, it peeks my interest to learn about this Secular Order.

Thanks again!

Thanks, JR, for bringing the topic of Secular Orders to the front burner. :slight_smile: For those interested in the Secular Discalced Carmelite Order, here are some links:





And, btw, John Paul II was a Secular Discalced Carmelite. :yup:

You are correct that they are not a Secular Order because they are not part of a religious family.

However, it is NOT necessary for a group to become an Apostolic Society before the group can become a secular order. For example, the Secular Order of Descaled Carmelites is both a Association of the Faithful and a Secular Religious Order (see paragraph 37 of the OCDS constitution.)

Don’t confuse being part of a religious family and being attached to a religious institute. They are not the same.

As I said in another post. The Secular Franciscans are part of the Franciscan Family, but they have no legal bond with any of the other Franciscan Orders. None of the Fanciscan Orders are legally bonded to each other. We are all juridically autonomous.

A community can be a Secular Order without being attached to a religious community. If they are attached, they are a Third Order. If they are autonomous, they are a Secular Religious Order, not the same legal status.

A good example are the Trappists. They are part of the Benedictine family, but they are not attached to the Benedictines. They are an autonomous branch of Benedictines.

Every Benedictine monastery is part of the Benedictine Order, but they are not legally attached to each other. Each is its own congregation. Sometimes several of them together form a congregation.

There is being part of a religious family and being attached to a religious family.


JR :slight_smile:

Hello JReducation,

Do you have any examples of Secular Religious Orders which are not part of a religious family?

All the Secular Religious Orders I know are part of a religious family. However, not all of them are attached to a religious family.

Attached means to be dependent on. For example, the Lay Dominicans answer to the Dominican Friars and their superior is the same as that of the Dominican Friars. It is usually the local Provincial Superior.

I believe the same is the case for the Secular Carmelites.

The Lay Missionaries of Charity and the Secular Franciscans are NOT attached to the other members of their religious families. In other words, they are not under their authority. They are parallel communities within the same family.

They have their own superior general, their own rule, their own constitution, their own government, their own system of government, they respond directly to the Holy See, not to the superiors of the other orders. They are considered to be equal members of the family. They have their own mission in the Church.

For example, among the Franciscans, when there is a gathering of the Major Superiors, the Secular Franciscan General Minister attends as an equal with the General Ministers of the three branches of the Friars Minor and the General Minister of the Third Order Regular. The only ones who are not represented are the Franciscan Sisters and the Poor Clare Nuns, because of legal differences.

I like to compare them to a family of adult siblings. They have the same parents, but each has his own household and family. They are subordinate to the parent(s) who gave them life, but not to each other. They run their own lives and their own homes. Such is the case with all of the Franciscans and all of the Missionaries of Charity.

There are five communities of Missionaries of Charity, all founded by Mother Teresa. All are autonomous. All make profess the three evangelical counsels, even the Lay Missionaries of Charity.


The Madonna House Apostolate is a Public Association of the Faithful with. I know that they are not an order, because they came into existence long after orders had ceased to be founded. They are not attached to any religious family. They are autonomous.


Despite the new promulgation of Canon Law in 1983, the Orders were allowed to retain their status as orders. All new secular communities are either secular institutes or secular societies. The difference between the secular societies and the secular orders is the religious rule. They both have lay and clerical members, but the order has a rule and the society does not. It has statutes.

This was done by the Church to facilitate changes as the community evolves. Communities with a Rule cannot change anything without the approval of the Holy Father or his delegate. Communities with statutes can change their rules by voting in a general chapter. Then they submit their newly edited statutes to the Sacred Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes for final approval.

Whether you belong to a Secular Order that is attached to Regular Order or one that is autonomous, or you belong to a Lay Society, the bottom line remains the same. You are a member of a community that was given to the Church by the Holy Spirit as a very special gift for a very special reason.

All of them lead to sanctity if we live according to what God has called us to live.


JR :slight_smile:

With the Secular Discalced Carmelites, each Province of the Order has one or more (depending on the size of the Province) Provincial Delegate, a friar assigned by the Provincial Superior, to oversee the OCDS Communities within the Province.

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