Some women and men live their vocation as priests, sisters, or brothers within a religious community. As people who make solemn vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, consecrated religious may actively engage in service to the world or they may live in a contemplative community set apart from the world. Poverty, chastity, and obedience are called “evangelical counsels” because they help the Gospel be proclaimed more effectively and with greater love. Religious men and women are dedicated to serving God and the people by being first rooted in communal prayer. Young people enter into religious communities in order to identify completely with the gifts of that particular community and become like a spiritual family. Religious sisters often see themselves as living like “spouses” of Jesus because they love so intensely.
Each particular community, while sharing many similar characteristics, also has a unique charism that identifies them and gives their lives a special focus. Some are large international orders; others are more local communities. Many follow special spiritual traditions of saints such as St. Francis and St. Clare, or St. Dominic and St. Catherine.
Some religious are contemplative orders. Members focus on prayer, meditation, worship, and service within their community. These nuns and monks live apart from the rest of the world, yet pray and follow penitential practices for the world and the Church, as they engage in self-supporting work. Examples include the Trappists and Carmelites.
Active or Apostolic Orders
Many more religious men and women are part of active or apostolic orders. These communities are out in the world actively serving God’s people in a wide variety of ways. These sisters, brothers, and religious order priests may be teachers, health care workers, parish ministers, missionaries, or people working with the poor. Their ministry is done in connection with their religious community, and in the context of prayer.
Priests may be either a religious order priest or a diocesan priest. A religious order priest may be involved in a great variety of ministries over time, yet always is connected to his religious order through community life and prayer. Most diocesan priests spend most or all of their priesthood serving the people of God within the parishes of the diocese.
For more information about Religious Life please visit the Diocese of Grand Rapids website.