Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


What are the types of consecrated life?

By SUZANNE HAUGH, Special to the Bulletin | Published January 9, 2015

Eremetic life

Hermits profess the three evangelical counsels publicly but separate themselves from the world in solitude, penance and intense prayer as means for the salvation of the world and in praise of God. “It is a particular call to find in the desert, in the thick of spiritual battle, the glory of the Crucified One.” (Catechism, 921)

Consecrated virgins and widows

Women who wish to follow Christ more closely are consecrated to God by the diocesan bishop and are dedicated to the service of the Church. Consecrated virgins and widows can form themselves into groups in service of the world. “From apostolic times Christian virgins and widows, called by the Lord to cling only to Christ with greater freedom of heart, body and spirit, have decided with the Church’s approval to live in the respective states of virginity or perpetual chastity ‘for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.’” (Catechism, 922)

Religious life

Religious life is distinguished from other forms by its liturgical character, public profession of the evangelical counsels, communal life and witness of one’s union of Christ with the Church. All religious become collaborators with the diocesan bishop in his pastoral duty. “Religious life in its various forms is called to signify the very charity of God in the language of our time.” (Catechism, 926)

Examples of religious life include:

  • Cloistered communities: Recognized by the Catholic Church, this way of life invites men and women to a hidden life within a monastery where they find their true selves, pursue a deepening “exchange of hearts” with Christ Jesus and experience a foretaste of heaven. (From
  • Monks: A religious brother or priest who lives in a contemplative community where all work together to seek God and His will.
  • Religious order priests: Men called and anointed by God to proclaim the Gospel provide the sacraments of the church to its people.
  • Religious brotherhood: Consecrated men who take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, who live lives of communal prayer and witness both individually and collectively to Christ’s loving presence by service and charity. (from
  • Sisters (also nuns or women religious): Women who take the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience and live in the world together in community.

Secular institutes

Consecrated women and men who commit themselves to the evangelical counsels according to the constitutions of their respective institutes. “A secular institute is an institute of consecrated life in which the Christian faithful living in the world strive for the perfection of charity and work for the sanctification of the world especially from within.” (Catechism, 928)

 Societies of apostolic life

While not taking religious vows, these women and men pursue particular apostolic purposes and live according to constitutions of their respective society. Among these, there are members who do embrace the evangelical counsels.