What are Secular Institutes?
Secular Institutes are institutes where members are consecrated i.e. they take vows (or Evangelical Counsels), but live in the world, usually without any distinguishing factors from other laypeople. While members of secular institutes profess the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience, this is interpreted differently from those of Religious.
Vows in Secular Institutes
The understanding of the vows varies according to each institutes’ state of life (as explained below – excerpted from this site.):
“Poverty: Poverty means that we do not rely on material possessions for our happiness, but trust in God to provide what we need. We free ourselves from the excess baggage of worrying about accumulating money or possessions.
Chastity: Chastity is built on love, respect and concern for everyone we encounter. We are free from the exclusive love that marriage requires so that we can share our love more fully with many people.
Obedience: Obedience requires that we be available to do whatever God may ask of us. Obedience frees us from personal ambition.”
Members of secular institutes pursue a regular profession, usually do not live together and do not have any distinguishing clothing (habit). While in some secular institutes, community living is practised; in general, members of secular institutes live ‘in the world’ i.e. not in a convent or monastery, to act as “leaven in the world” (CCC 921).
In general, it would not be easy to distinguish between a single layperson and a member of a secular institute in your neighbourhood or workplace.
How are they similar to religious congregations?
- Both have an internal organization with rules and regulations and distributed responsibilities
- In both, full membership involves freedom from incompatible commitments e.g. marriage
- Both profess the evangelical counsels
- Both of them have their definite ways of ministry and apostolate
Excerpted from paragraph 15 of this document.
For more information on secular institutes, visit the following sites. As usual, these are international sites and may not accurately reflect the Indian context. However, they have valuable information about the concept, lifestyle and membership.
- Essential facts about Secular Institutes
- World Conference of Secular Institutes
- US Conference of Secular Institutes
Some secular institutes with a presence in India are:
- Caritas Christi
- Voluntas of Don Bosco (VDB)
- The Oblates Missionaries of Mary Immaculate (OMMI)
If you would like more specific information on Secular Institutes or contacts to specific ones, mail us at email@example.com