Why would a person choose to be a celibate lay apostle instead of a religious brother/sister

I’m in the process of discerning my vocation and I know I will remain celibate. But there are still many options within that. Hermit? Consecrated virgin? Lay apostle? Religious sister?

There’s a lay community that runs (and lives in) a ministry to the homeless in my city. I’ve been volunteering with them and I just love what they do. But I look at the people who are part of the community and wonder to myself “you’re celibate, you serve the church and the poor, you pray a lot…why is this a lay community instead of a religious community?” In my mind there are groups of sisters who do the same thing. I just don’t understand. Why would a person choose to be a celibate lay person devoted to ministry instead of a sister??

It’s not really about choosing. It’s about what a person’s calling is. Some people are not called to be consecrated religious; some are. The vocations are different and the charisms are different. As you discern, you will become more aware of this in some way that neither you nor anyone on here can predict now.

Hint: Look past what they do, and see who they become.

Yeah I understand that it’s less about choosing and more about where God is leading. He chooses, not me. I just don’t understand why there would be two callings that are nearly identical. celibate lay devoted to ministry/celibate religious devoted to ministry. Throughout the day, these women do basically the same thing and the lay community I volunteer with make promises to remain with the apostolate for life, so it’s not a solemn vow but they still plan on doing it for the rest of their days. Why would there be two vocations that are pretty much identical? Why aren’t these lay people religious?

You said the vocations and charisms are different. What’s different about them? On a day to day basis they do the same thing. One makes promises of poverty, obedience and chastity, the other makes solemn vows of poverty, obedience and chastity.

They’re really not “nearly identical.” You’re still looking at what they DO and not who they ARE and what they BECOME.

I see that I am looking at what they do.

And I also see that they are two different vocations, one religious and one not. But I’m not sure why. I’m a convert and the whole idea of religious life is pretty foreign to me, it’s not something I ever thought about except once when I watched Sister Act a long time ago, and that movie is clearly a poor example of what religious life is all about. So trying to wrap my head around the subtle differences in identity of these two vocations is difficult.

And lastly, I have no clue what you’re getting at by saying 'what they BECOME". Completely lost on that one.

I understand that I’m not seeing this how you want me to see it and I’m not doing what you want me to do, but I’m trying and not getting it. Repeating yourself will not help, it needs to be explained.

I know a few former nuns who left their community and now live together doing their own Christian ministry work. They are still loosely affiliated with their former order, but enjoy greater autonomy than their former sisters. For instance, they are completely supportive of so-called liturgically inclusive language. They probably couldn’t express those opinions so openly in a formally recognized community without inviting disagreements within the community and maybe even bringing unwanted heat to the community itself from conservative Catholic elements.

Also, ministry work only takes up part of a day. Living in a formal community for the balance of the day isn’t easy.

Because the overseeing group they belong to doesn’t want to be that kind of organization. There are a lot of controls on religious Orders and other organizations. They want more independence and less Church oversight.

Go see the vocation director of your Diocese right away and get some guidance. Or, look around online or locally for women’s religious orders and try a few vocation retreats or meeting with them and see if they draw you.

this is almost funny, in that today the Catholics want to be of a Liberalized sense of pick and chose for themselves what they will lead others to… that is why they want to be in vocations, NOT?
which is what Martin Luthar, and King henry and them all called for themselves. A pick and choose for oneself what is to be, and that directly recognizes, NOT Gods will will we lead others to, but that which we self determine what we will lead God will to be…

false freedom, and true freedom, true freedom is Gods will, not ours…

Do you want to be a leader, example of Gods will, or your will, that is what you are argueing about… a choice.

God gave you a free will, but to subcome to Gods will is different.

Take your time and go visit some convents and do some reading on religious orders, congregations, societies of life and so on. Don’t neglect understanding the history of the various institutions and reading the stories of the founders. In those you’ll often find a lot of essential information about the institution. The whole point of being in a religious order isn’t doing a particular kind of work or wearing a particular kind of clothes. There’s much more to it than that.

The best place to start is with the orders proper: Benedictine, Franciscan, Dominican, Servite, Premonstratensian, Carmelite. See what the differences of life and inspiration are. See if you can identify the charisms. Get to know the founders and get a “flavor” for the order. There are very good biographies of all of these founders (or founder groups), particularly Francis & Clare, Benedict, Dominic and St. Teresa of Avila. These are the ideas that were the springboards for all the others. If none of those fit, then you’ll be ready and equipped with a background to look at the various congregations that exist.

You’ve said that you’re a convert; so am I. It takes a while to get the gist of this because it’s not what it looks like when you first see it.

You’re probably talking about one of the groups that have gone non-canonical. Non-canonical groups give up Church approval in order to get rid of Church oversight, you’re right on that. Be careful of groups like this.

The woman who started the ministry I’ve been volunteering is not a former nun, she was actually married most of her life and was raised Russian Orthodox I believe, but the organization is Roman Catholic. Some Orthodox elements are in the organization (icons everywhere, etc.). The organization runs quite a few soup kitchens and the like in Canada and elsewhere and has an extremely good reputation among the Catholics I know, especially conservative Catholics. The organization is called The Madonna House, their mother house is in Combermere, Ontario, Canada. madonnahouse.org/index.html

A “Public Association of the Christian Faithful” is often the first step toward becoming a religious Order if years show a growth and stability in the community.

Oh yes, I know what the Madonna House is. Started by Catherine Doherty. I read about it a long time ago. They are modern penitents. They are also a Public Association of the Faithful of Diocesan Right. The diocese is Pembroke in Ontario, Canada.

One of the things you should know is that the definition of consecrated life has undergone some blurring on both sides of the line, so that congregations whose members formerly lived together now often live separately and lay members of these Associations of the Faithful sometimes live together. Or not. It’s one of the interesting things that’s happened in religious life in the last 50 years or so.

The real key to understanding what they are and where they’re going is a) their charism which is their way of life, and b) their organizational ambitions (whether they ever plan on trying to attain congregational status and whether they are ever going to apply to be Pontifical Right), c) whether they make promises or take vows and what the canonical status of those promises/vows are, and whether they evolve over time into anything more formal/canonically absolute.

Note also that some Associations of the Faithful intend to remain of Diocesan right. There are pros and cons to this choice. This need not really affect their seriousness of purpose. Some of these organizations, like this one, are very good organizations and some of them are every bit as good as joining what you might think of as a “regular” religious congregation. Many “regular” religious congregations for women have very, very serious problems right now and many of them are closing down.

Another thing you might want to check out is the idea of belonging to a Secular Institute:

Women now can also become consecrated individuals of Diocesan Right: archstl.org/consecratedlife/page/consecrated-women

Underneath all that charitable activity, there will be an understanding of the person’s life as lived in the Association. It will be like a “flavor” and a way of life that develops in the person’s soul and in their relationships with other people. It’s often conditioned by the history of the institution, the character and holiness of the founder and the customs, practices and lore of the institution. All this is the charism I’m talking about. Different religious orders have different charisms. Belonging to a religious order, congregation, society or association is like finding your long lost family.

One of the signs you belong in a particular place will be that the charism fits you like a glove and that “fit” doesn’t deteriorate over a period of several years and it also doesn’t go away with adversity or difficulty. Another of the signs is that it really helps you in your faith walk with God.

Thanks for all the help you and others have given me! You said that I’ll know if a community is right for me if the charism fits like a glove. There are three communities I have an eye on, the Madonna House, and the other two are vastly different… two carmelite monasteries! I don’t know how to make a good decision between the three except getting involved, which is why I’ve been volunteering at a field house of the Madonna House. It’s strange to me that the places I am at looking are so different from eachother, but I just don’t see God leading anywhere else!

Anyways, that’s the topic of another thread. Thanks for your help. I’ll learn more about charisms and all that.

You’re welcome.

There are commonalities between the two, believe it or not, when you don’t consider ONLY what kind of work they do on a daily basis. Given that pattern, you might also want to consider the Poor Clares.

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