Religious sister (Catholic)

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A religious sister in the Catholic Church is a woman who has taken public vows in a religious institute dedicated to apostolic works, as distinguished from a nun who lives a cloistered monastic life dedicated to prayer. Both nuns and sisters use the term "sister" as a form of address.

Catholic Church Largest Christian church, led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration, the Holy See, is in the Vatican City, an enclave within the city of Rome in Italy.

A religious institute is a type of institute of consecrated life in the Catholic Church where its members take religious vows and lead a life in community with fellow members. Religious institutes are one of the two types of institutes of consecrated life; the other is that of the secular institute, where its members are "living in the world".

Nun Member of a religious community of women

A nun is a member of a religious community of women, typically living under vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in the enclosure of a monastery. Communities of nuns exist in numerous religious traditions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Jainism, and Taoism.


The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism (1995) defines as "congregations of sisters institutes of women who profess the simple vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, live a common life, and are engaged in ministering to the needs of society." [1] :1194 As William Saunders writes: "When bound by simple vows, a woman is a sister, not a nun, and thereby called 'sister'. Nuns recite the Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office in common ... (and) live a contemplative, cloistered life in a monastery ... behind the 'papal enclosure'. Nuns are permitted to leave the cloister only under special circumstances and with the proper permission." [2]


Until the 16th century, religious orders in the Western world made vows that were perpetual and solemn. In 1521, Pope Leo X allowed tertiaries of religious orders to take simple vows and live a more active life dedicated to charitable works. [3] This provision was rejected by Pope Pius V in 1566 and 1568. Early efforts by women such as Angela Merici, founder of the Ursulines (1535), and Jane Frances de Chantal, founder with Francis de Sales of the Visitation Sisters (1610), were halted as the cloister was imposed by Church authorities. [1] :1194

Western world Countries that identify themselves with an originally European shared culture

The Western world, also known as the West, refers to various nations depending on the context, most often including at least parts of Europe, Australasia, and the Americas, with the status of Latin America disputed by some. There are many accepted definitions, all closely interrelated. The Western world is also known as the Occident, in contrast to the Orient, or Eastern world. It is often correlated with the Northern half of the North-south divide.

In Catholic canon law, a solemn vow is a vow that the Church has recognized as such.

Pope Leo X Pope from 1513 to 1521

Pope Leo X, born Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici, was Pope from 9 March 1513 to his death in 1521.

Into the 17th century, Church custom did not allow women to leave the cloister if they had taken religious vows. Female members of the mendicant orders (Dominican, Augustinian, Carmelite, and Poor Clares) continued to observe the same enclosed life as members of the monastic orders. The work of religious women was confined to what could be carried on within the walls of a monastery, either teaching boarding students within the cloister or nursing the sick in hospitals attached to the monastery. [4]

Cloister open space surrounded by covered walks or open galleries

A cloister is a covered walk, open gallery, or open arcade running along the walls of buildings and forming a quadrangle or garth. The attachment of a cloister to a cathedral or church, commonly against a warm southern flank, usually indicates that it is part of a monastic foundation, "forming a continuous and solid architectural barrier... that effectively separates the world of the monks from that of the serfs and workmen, whose lives and works went forward outside and around the cloister."

Dominican Order Roman Catholic religious order

The Order of Preachers, also known as the Dominican Order, is a mendicant Catholic religious order founded by the Spanish priest Dominic of Caleruega in France, approved by Pope Innocent III via the Papal bull Religiosam vitam on 22 December 1216. Members of the order, who are referred to as Dominicans, generally carry the letters OP after their names, standing for Ordinis Praedicatorum, meaning of the Order of Preachers. Membership in the order includes friars, nuns, active sisters, and affiliated lay or secular Dominicans.

Order of Saint Augustine Catholic order of mendicant friars

The Order of Saint Augustine, generally called Augustinians or Austin Friars, is a Catholic religious order. It was founded in 1244 by bringing together several eremetical orders in the Tuscany region who were following the Rule of St. Augustine, written by St. Augustine of Hippo in the 5th Century.

Mary Ward was an early proponent of women with religious vows living an active life outside the cloister, based on the apostolic life of the Jesuits. [5] There was to be no enclosure, no common recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, and no religious habit. In 1609 she established a religious community at Saint-Omer and opened schools for girls. Her efforts led to the founding of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary or Sisters of Loreto (IBVM). [6] Her congregation was suppressed in 1630, but continued to exist in some countries in various forms. [4] [7]

Mary Ward (nun) English Venerated Catholic

Mary Ward, I.B.V.M., was a Catholic nun whose activities led to the founding of the Congregation of Jesus and the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, better known as the Sisters of Loreto, which have both established schools around the world. Ward was declared Venerable by Pope Benedict on 19 December 2009.

Society of Jesus male religious congregation of the Catholic Church

The Society of Jesus is a scholarly religious congregation of the Catholic Church headquartered in Rome and founded by Ignatius of Loyola with the approval of Pope Paul III in 1540. The members are called Jesuits. The society is engaged in evangelization and apostolic ministry in 112 nations. Jesuits work in education, intellectual research, and cultural pursuits. Jesuits also give retreats, minister in hospitals and parishes, sponsor direct social ministries, and promote ecumenical dialogue.

Liturgy of the Hours daily prayers of the Catholic Church

The Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office or Work of God or canonical hours, often referred to as the Breviary, is the official set of prayers "marking the hours of each day and sanctifying the day with prayer". It consists primarily of psalms supplemented by hymns, readings and other prayers and antiphons. Together with the Mass, it constitutes the official public prayer life of the Church. The Liturgy of the Hours also forms the basis of prayer within Christian monasticism.

Other women's congregations with simple vows continued to be founded, at times with the approval of local bishops. [3] Vincent de Paul insisted that the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, which he founded, would have no convent but the hospital, no chapel but the parish church, and no cloister but the streets. [1] :1194 They renew their vows annually. [8] The 19th century saw the proliferation of women's congregations engaged in education, religious instruction, and medical and social works, along with missionary work in Africa and Asia. [1] :1101 After nearly three centuries, in 1900 Pope Leo XIII by his constitution Conditae a Christo gave his approval to these congregations with simple vows. [9] [10]

Vincent de Paul 17th-century French priest, founder and saint

Vincent de Paul was a French Catholic priest who dedicated himself to serving the poor. He is venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. He was canonized in 1737. He was renowned for his compassion, humility and generosity. Founder of Congregation of the Mission and Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul.

Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul

The Company of the Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, called in English the Daughters of Charity or Sisters of Charity of Saint Vincent De Paul, is a Society of Apostolic Life for women within the Catholic Church. Its members make annual vows throughout their life, which leaves them always free to leave, without need of ecclesiastical permission. They were founded in 1633 and state that they are devoted to serving the poor through the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.

Pope Leo XIII 256th Pope of the Catholic Church

Pope Leo XIII was head of the Catholic Church from 20 February 1878 to his death. He was the oldest pope, and had the third-longest confirmed pontificate, behind that of Pius IX and John Paul II.

20th century

The 1917 Code of Canon Law reserved the term "nun" (Latin: monialis) for women religious who took solemn vows or who, while being allowed in some places to take simple vows, belonged to institutes whose vows were normally solemn. [11] They lived under cloister, "papal enclosure", and recited the Liturgy of the Hours in common. [2] The Code used the word "sister" (Latin: soror) for members of institutes for women that it classified as "congregations"; and for "nuns" and "sisters" jointly it used the Latin word religiosae (women religious). [12]

The bishops at Vatican II, in their document Perfectae Caritatis on the religious life, asked all religious to examine their charism as defined by their rule and founder, in light of the needs of the modern world. [1] :1194 Some religious who had led a more contemplative life responded to modern needs of the apostolate outside the monastic walls. Throughout the post-Vatican II document Ecclesiae Sanctae (1967), Pope Paul VI used the word "nun" to refer to women with solemn vows. [13] The 1983 Code of Canon Law uses the expression "monastery of nuns". [14] [10] The new code did not force traditional orders that were taking on works outside the monastery into uniformity. In response to Vatican II there has been "vigorous discussion among monastics as regards what kinds of work and life-styles are genuinely compatible with monastic life". [1] :882

See also

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Consecrated virgin

In the Catholic Church, a consecrated virgin has been consecrated by the church to a life of perpetual virginity as an exclusive spouse of Christ. Consecrated virgins are consecrated by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite. The consecrated virgins are to spend their time in works of penance and mercy, in apostolic activity and in prayer, according to their state of life and spiritual gifts.

A religious is, in the terminology of many Western Christian denominations, such as the Catholic Church, Lutheran Churches, and Anglican Communion, what in common language one would call a "monk" or "nun", as opposed to an ordained "priest". A religious may also be a priest if he has undergone ordination, but in general he is not.

Consecrated life is a state of life in the Catholic Church lived by believers who wish to follow Jesus Christ in a more exacting way. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, it "is characterized by the public profession of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience, in a stable state of life recognized by the Church". The Code of Canon Law defines it as "a stable form of living by which the faithful, following Christ more closely under the action of the Holy Spirit, are totally dedicated to God who is loved most of all, so that, having been dedicated by a new and special title to his honour, to the building up of the Church, and to the salvation of the world, they strive for the perfection of charity in the service of the kingdom of God and, having been made an outstanding sign in the Church, foretell the heavenly glory."

The Dominican Sisters of the Heart of Jesus are located in Lockport, Louisiana.

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Enclosed religious orders Christian religious orders separated from the external world

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Monks of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel

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Women in the Catholic Church

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This is a glossary of terms used within the Catholic Church.

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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 McBrien, Richard P.; Attridge, Harold W., eds. (1995). The HarperCollins Encyclopedia of Catholicism. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN   0060653388.
  2. 1 2 Saunders, William (2003). "The Meaning of the Terms Nun, Sister, Monk, Priest, and Brother". Catholic Education Resource Center. Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  3. 1 2 Vermeersch, A. (2012-01-15). "Religious Life" . Retrieved 2018-05-27.
  4. 1 2 Giles, Elizabeth. "Mary Ward". The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912.
  5. "Mary Ward – Loreto". Retrieved 2018-05-27.
  6. "The first sister of feminism". The Independent. 2009-06-11. Retrieved 2018-05-27.
  7. "Institute of Mary". New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  8. "Sisters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul". New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  9. A.S.S., vol. XXXIII (1900-01), pp. 341-347.
  10. 1 2 Gallagher, Clarence. "The Church and Institutes of Consecrated Life" (PDF). The Way. Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  11. "CIC 1917: text - IntraText CT". Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  12. The World Book encyclopedia. 14. Chicago: World Book. 2005. p. 608. ISBN   0716601052.
  13. Carson, Thomas, ed. (2002). The New Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume 10 (2nd ed.). Detroit: Gale. p. 483. ISBN   9780787640040.
  14. E.g., 609 §2, 614, 616 §4, 630 §3, 667 §3,4