FAQs About Religious Life

What is a Vocation?

A vocation is a call from God who created you to share intimately in His inner life of love. You are called to perfect love in union with God for all eternity! You live out this call by making a total self-gift of yourself in love. As you take up your cross and follow Christ, you lay down your life for Him in love.

What are the Forms of Religious Life?

The Consecrated Life 

In the Church, which is like the sacrament- the sign and instrument – of God’s own life, the consecrated life is seen as a special sign of the mystery of redemption. To follow and imitate Christ more nearly and to manifest more clearly his self- emptying is to be more deeply present to one’s contemporaries, in the heart of Christ. For those who are on this “narrower” path encourage their brethren by their example, and bear striking witness “that the world cannot be transfigured and offered to God without the spirit of the beatitudes” (The Catechism of the Catholic Church – 932).

Religious Institutes

“Religious institutes are societies in which members pronounce public vows(perpetual or temporary), live in community and share financial sustainability. Religious render a public witness to Christ and to the church which entails a separation from the world proper to the character and purpose of each institute.”

Religious institutes can be separated into apostolic and contemplative congregations. Apostolic congregations are devoted to apostolic and missionary activity and to the many different works inspired by Christian charity outside of the cloister. Contemplative congregations live a life of cloister, constant prayer, offering of self, and the daily recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours.” (See Code of Canon Law 607)

Societies of Apostolic Life

One of the distinguishing characteristics of these societies is that they are defined by their apostolic goal. They are bound by simple vows, renewed annually, rather than perpetual vows which are professed for life. Societies of apostolic life live in community with their lifestyle and spirituality in support of their apostolic goal. i.e. Paulist Fathers , Vincentians, Daughters of Charity, etc. (See Code of Canon Law 731)

Consecrated Virgins

The call to a life as a Consecrated Virgin is distinct from other forms of consecrated life in that it is entered by virtue of the Prayer of Consecration rather than by vows or promises. Characterized by a spousal spirituality with Christ, the consecrated virgin lives individually under the direction of the diocesan bishop, dedicates her prayer to the mission of the Church and the people of God, wears a ring of consecration, and earns her own living http://www.consecratedvirgins.org/ (See Code of Canon Law 604)

Private Vows in Lay Movements

Lay associations also known as “ecclesial associations” are relatively new groups in the church. Members profess private vows in the name of the Church to a legitimate superior, live in community and put their salaries into the community of goods. i.e. Focolare, Regnum Christi etc. See Canon 1192 *

Secular Institutes

A secular institute is an organization of consecrated persons professing the Evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience while living in the world, unlike members of a religious institute who live in community. Secular institutes represent a form of consecration in secular life, not religious life. http://www.secularinstitutes.org/ (See Code of Canon Law 710 & 712)

The Eremitic Life – Diocesan Hermits

An ancient form of consecrated life begun in the third century, a hermit lives under norms prescribed in Canon Law under the direction of the diocesan bishop. The diocesan hermit publicly profess poverty, chastity and obedience before the bishop, devote themselves to prayer, penance and solitude and earn their own living. (See Code of Canon Law 603)

“Consecrated men and women are aware that besides recounting the great stories they have written in the past, they are called to write a no-less-beautiful and great story in the future.”

~Cardinal Joao Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life

(For more information visit Code of Canon Law)

Behind the Habit

What do you picture when you think of a religious sister? America Magazine produced some brief videos looking into the diverse lives of a few religious sisters.

Find more videos on their website

How do I know which community is best for me?

This is a matter of the heart, just like dating. You don’t try to date every guy or girl – you date the one you’re attracted to.

Pick out a few communities you feel attracted to and take one step at a time in your discernment of them.

Walk through the doors as they open. Remember it is a mutual discernment: it has to be right for you and it has to be right for them too.

When you have found the right place, you’ll know it, you’ll feel at home. 

What is Religious Life?

Some men and women are called to be dedicated totally to God by embracing the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Some live in the world and are set apart by a special consecration, in secular institutes, as consecrated virgins, or as hermits. Others are called out of the world, to live the religious life by professing the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. 


What do I do if I have college debt?

Most communities require their candidates to be debt-free. There are organizations that were founded to help young people become debt-free so that they can enter religious life, such as Mater Ecclesiae Fund for Vocations and Labouré Society.


What if my parents do not approve?

Oftentimes parents struggle with their child’s decision to pursue a religious vocation. Your parents have their own journey to make with this discernment process.

Most parents, even those who struggle at first, are content to see that their child is happy and at peace. Ultimately though, you are not responsible for your parents’ feelings. 

Will I be able to see my family?

Yes, most communities allow for family visits. The customs for this vary from community to community. 

What about this feeling of unworthiness?

It is not helpful to your growth in the spiritual life to get caught up on the question of worthiness.  No one is worthy, period. God chooses as He wills. He alone is worthy. He is entitled to choose the weak and the lowly according to His own mysterious design. 

What about sins of my past?

It is important to have had a conversion from the past life of sin and to have lived a virtuous life for an extended period of time in the world before attempting to enter religious life. Religious life can be compared to running a marathon. You don’t start out doing 26 miles, you start slow, you train, you work up to it.

What if I enter and then later decide that it isn’t for me? Can I leave?

The choice for the religious must be a free one. Every sister or brother should be encouraged to continue to discern anew at every step. Is this what God wants? Is this what I want? Can I do this?

Often, profession of final vows doesn’t come until seven or more years in the community.  That gives you plenty of time to be certain.

If I give up marriage and children can I truly be happy?

The call to religious life requires the renunciation of marriage and children and this is a true sacrifice; however, you are not sacrificing any of your femininity or masculinity.

You are called to live out and be a witness to the heavenly reality. You remind the world that our true love and spouse is God and share the joy and happiness that this brings.

What are the stages of becoming a sister or a brother?

The pre-novitiate stages vary from community to community. Most have a two-year novitiate which is the canonical beginning of religious life. After the novitiate comes First Profession of Vows which are renewed over several years before making Final Profession of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

What do sisters and brothers do every day?

Daily life consists of three “staples”: prayer, community, and apostolate (ministry). The daily schedule will vary from community to community but consists of Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, meals together, work, study, and recreation.