[quote="LilyPearls, post:5, topic:312760"]
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.
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.