|“Being open to God’s will through prayer and discernment, I felt God was calling me to a vocation in Caritas Christi, a Secular Institute. I knew I wanted to be consecrated to God. I knew that I needed to remain in my current job and to be there for my aging Parents. Not knowing anything about Secular Institutes within the Church, I thought I would make my vows to God and live my life with the vows of celibacy, poverty, and obedience. It was an advertisement for Caritas Christi that opened up my knowledge of this vocation. Rather than be on my own, I was entering into a vocation of Pontifical Right. Church approval and guidelines are extremely important to me. I was also being guided by a sponsor and other members who are my “sisters” in this vocation. It is the promptings of the Holy Spirit that will guide you to the vocation that God has called for you. My good friend has said of this vocation, “God has left her among us.” To be their friends, guide them; a witness of Christ among them. God has called me to a vocation of great joy and love of God and community. How happy I am to do His will.”
-Dian Crane, member of Caritas Christi
Secular institutes were officially established in 1947 with the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia of Pope Pius XII.
Different institutes have different memberships, with some for lay women, lay men, priests, deacons, married couples, or any mix of the above. However, joining a secular institute does not change the other prescripts of canon law for a member. Diocesan priests are still subject to their bishop, being a member of a secular institute does not grant any additional rights within the Church, and those already bound by religious vows as part of a religious order cannot additionally make vows to a secular institute.
The purpose of secular institutes is for those who are not a part of a religious community to live out their service to the Church “in the world and not of the world, but for the world.” (from USCSI website)
“The effectiveness of Institute life in the Christian renewal of families, of secular professions, of society in general, through people’s daily contact, from the inside of the secular scene, with lives perfectly and totally dedicated to God’s sanctifying work in them is obvious. These Institutes also open the way to many forms of apostolate and service in times, places and circumstances from which priests and Religious are excluded by the nature of their calling, or which for other reasons are not accessible to them.” – Provida Mater Ecclesia
“Without always professing the three evangelical counsels publicly, hermits “devote their life to the praise of God and salvation of the world through a stricter separation from the world, the silence of solitude and assiduous prayer and penance.”(Can. 603)” – Catechism of the Catholic Church #920
““As with other forms of consecrated life,” the order of virgins establishes the woman living in the world (or the nun) in prayer, penance, service of her brethren, and apostolic activity, according to the state of life and spiritual gifts given to her. Consecrated virgins can form themselves into associations to observe their commitment more faithfully.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church #924
“Alongside the different forms of consecrated life are “societies of apostolic life whose members without religious vows pursue the particular apostolic purpose of their society, and lead a life as brothers or sisters in common according to a particular manner of life, strive for the perfection of charity through the observance of the constitutions. Among these there are societies in which the members embrace the evangelical counsels” according to their constitutions.” – Catechism of the Catholic Church #930 (from Canon 731)