Vocation defns and terms

Vocation definitions and terms

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The type of work or mission of the order through which their particular charism is lived out.


Brothers live in religious communities. They take vows and promise to use their talents to serve God wherever the community decides they are needed. Brothers are not ordained.


Each religious community has a charism - a unique way of returning God's love to Him and His people which manifests a particular attribute of God's being. 

Consecrated life

The word “consecrated” means set apart solely for God.

The word “life” refers to the person’s state of life, their status in the church, which ultimately defines what responsibilities and rights apply to them.

Therefore a person who is considered to be living the “consecrated life” is someone who, living in a stable state of life recognized by the Church, has dedicated their whole life to God in imitation of Christ through the public profession of the Evangelical Counsels of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience.

“The first duty of the consecrated life is to make visible the marvels wrought by God in the frail humanity of those who are called. They bear witness to these marvels not so much in words as by the eloquent language of a transfigured life, capable of amazing the world.”  - Vita Consecrata #20

Holy Orders

The Sacrament by which the mission entrusted by Christ to His Apostles continues to be exercised in the Church through the laying on of hands. By receiving Holy Orders men become members of the ordained clergy - deacons, priests and bishops. All three confer a permanent, sacramental character to the man ordained.


People within the Church including religious brothers and sisters as well as all other single and married person who are not ordained as bishop, priests or deacons are known as the laity or the lay faithful.


A man or woman in the second formal stage of becoming a consecrated religious is called a novice. This stage of the novitiate usually takes one to two years.


Nuns are sisters and brides of Christ who are called by Him to pray and serve the needs of the Church in a more hidden way. They live in cloistered communities and do not leave their convents for any outside apostolates.


A man is ordained to priesthood through the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Together each man and the Church discern (discover) whether or not he is called to become a priest. Diocesan priests a called to serve the people of a particular diocese. Men called to be priests in religious orders belong to communities and in addition to receiving the Sacrament of Holy Orders they also take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience (the three evangelical counsels)

Religious Community

The founder of a religious community brings together a group of men or women who share the same charism and are dedicated to the same mission in the Church. These are religious communities of priests and brothers and communities of sisters. The apostolates of the communities vary according to their mission. Those dedicated primarily to prayer are contemplative communities; those who combine prayer with apostolic ministries are called active communities.

Religious Life

Priests, brothers or sisters in communities that embrace the spirituality, charism and teachings of the community’s founder call their way of life religious life. Members of these communities follow Jesus through taking vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Secular Institutes

Single lay men and women, and also some priests, belong to secular institutes. They make a commitment to live the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience. Members do not necessarily live together as a community. Their goal is to be a transforming presence in society.


Sisters belong to religious communities and are brides of Christ who are chosen by Him to love Him and serve His Church like His Mother Mary as virgins and spiritual mothers. They serve the Church in whatever ways their superiors decide is best given their talents and inclinations.


Vocation means a call. It is God’s invitation –His call- to each person to love and serve Him and His Church in a particular state or way of life.


Formal commitments made to God to follow Jesus in His poverty, chastity and obedience as members of religious communities. The vow of poverty means that members hold all things in common. The community takes care of each other’s needs through the providence of God and their our charity. The vow of chastity means that the member gives up the goods of marriage and marital relations for the sake of God’s kingdom. The vow of obedience allows the member of the community to imitate and share in Jesus’ obedience to His Father in order to accomplish His will. (Diocesan priests promise to live in celibate chastity, obedience to their bishop and a simple life.)