About Religious Orders
One of the first things that anyone discerning a vocation to religious life will become aware of is the great variety of forms of religious life. The main distinction is between monks and nuns who live in an enclosed convent or monastery and religious who work outside the cloister, for example in education, health-care or evangelization.
There are hundreds of different religious orders or congregations, each of which contributes a particular gift to the life of the Church. Some are rooted in the great spiritual traditions, such as Carmelites or Benedictines; others are based upon a particular ministry, such as Dominican preaching or the Missionaries of Charity’s care for the poorest of the poor.
The Second Vatican Council described how the Church presents different aspects of Christ through the variety of religious congregations: “Christ in contemplation on the mountain, in His proclamation of the kingdom of God to the multitudes, in His healing of the sick and maimed, in His work of converting sinners to a better life, in His solicitude for youth and His goodness to all people”.
Click to a link to download a religious life timeline explaining the emergence of different religious charisms throughout the Church’s history