Institutes, Societies and Individuals

Lay men or women who profess promises in a secular institute remain in the world as a hidden leaven through a discreet witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ (1983 Code of Canon Law, Canon #710-730).

Secular Institutes. Members of secular institutes have as their mission “to work for the sanctification of the world from fully within the world.” They include institutes of celibate women only, institutes of celibate men only, institutes for priests only and/or institutes with married couple affiliates. Members of secular institutes ordinarily do not live together in community, though they do gather periodically for spiritual renewal and mutual support. Secular institutes are often connected with religious movements in the Church and their members endeavor to live according to the charism of the founder or foundress.

Societies of Apostolic Life (1983 Code of Canon Law, Canons #731-746) members are men or women who live in common without religious vows. They pursue the particular apostolic purpose of the society and lead a life as brothers or sisters in common according to a particular manner of life. The members strive for the perfection of charity through the observance of their constitutions. There are also societies in which the members embrace the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience by some bond defined in their constitutions. Societies of apostolic life can be clerical or lay, male or female.

Lay Associations

Hermits (canon #603) can be men or women who are dedicated to prayer in radical solitude. Hermits embrace a life of seclusion in prayer attesting to seeking one thing only, the primacy of God, through their life of solitude. They follow a rule or plan of life approved by the diocesan bishop and commit to living the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience either by vow or promise made to the bishop.


Consecrated virgins
(canon #604) do not have a rule or plan of life, but rather their daily schedule of work and prayer is balanced within the demands of their life in the world. They profess a vow of virginity which is received by a bishop. A consecrated virgin has never married or lived in public or open violation of chastity and perpetually vows chastity in dedication to the service of the Church and neighbor.