Women’s Religious Life

What Is Religious Life?

Religious life deeply rooted in the example and teaching of Christ the Lord is a gift of God to the Church. It is a lifestyle to which one freely responds to the call of the Holy Spirit to follow Christ with an undivided heart by leaving everything behind in order to be with Christ and to put oneself as he did at the service of God and his/her brothers and sisters. (Vita Consecrata#1)

What are some characteristics of Religious Life?

  • Religious profess the Evangelical Counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience by vows, thus dedicating their entire life to God’s service.
  • Religious belong to a particular institute and share a common tradition and rule, common works, pooled resources and a special communion with God and the members of the same institute.
  • Religious are persons steeped in prayer and spirituality.
  • Religious experience life long formation in their quest to become more and more a disciple of Christ.

How do religious congregations differ from one another?

Religious communities arose in response to the religious and societal needs of their times. Those who founded congregations sought ways of spreading the message of Jesus within society. Each congregation has its own particular charism (gift of the Holy Spirit) that distinguishes it from the others. All congregations share a common mission to proclaim the Gospel message so that it can be understood and lived in today’s world. Religious congregations are dynamic and evolving, always seeking new ways of announcing the Kingdom of God.


How do I know which order to join?

Several Religious congregations of men and women serve in the Diocese of Youngstown. Click on Links in the Diocese and visit the website of any of these congregations. You would be wise to contact a member of the congregation, which interests you.

Contact details are also available for those on line. If you are interested in a congregation that is not listed, several of the related links such as www.visionguide.info will list numerous congregations and contact information.

How do I become a member of a Religious Community?

The following is a basic overview of the formation process:


Contacting the Community

There are many religious communities for men and women, and each has a different mission and charism (gift of the Holy Spirit). Finding the community to which God has called you, that is the one that fits your gifts and talents may take time, research and prayer. Feel free to contact our office if you would like a directory of the various religious communities or check out the links to the various communities serving in the Youngstown Diocese. You may also contact any religious community directly. The vocation director will gladly send you more information.

Often times it is recommended to make a brief visit of a few days to those few communities to which you have an attraction. If you think you found the community that fits well, and if they are in agreement, you may be able to arrange for a leave of absence from work in order to spend time with the community for an extended visit of one to three months. This affords you an excellent opportunity to experience religious life for a longer period of time, which will assist you in discovering where God is leading you.



This is a more formal time in your discernment that allows you the opportunity to live within a religious community. While participating in religious life through continued ministry, school and prayer, the postulant or candidate will receive guidance from the members to help in his/her transition to religious life. This period generally takes one to two years.



This one-to-two year period is a time to learn more about yourself as well as an opportunity for more intense prayer and study of the vows, the spirit and rule of life of the community, and your relationship with God. As a novice, you are officially welcomed into the community.


Temporary Vows

This is the time when you formally respond to God’s gift of love through the profession of the evangelical counsels. You make a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience for a period of one to three years. Now you enter more deeply into religious life as a vowed religious, while continuing your discernment of embracing final vows. This period of temporary vows can last up to nine years.


Final Vows

With the help of God you ask the community leadership to admit you to final or perpetual profession and thus become a full member of the community.

A woman desiring to follow Christ more closely as a Religious Sister must be a baptized, confirmed and practicing Roman Catholic with a desire to give her life to God and the Church and who also:

  1. Desires a life of prayer and service.
  2. Has acquired a deepening habit of prayer and a balanced devotional life.
  3. Lives a sound moral life.
  4. Is within the eligible age range required by the religious congregation.
  5. Is free from sacred bonds such as marriage vows, etc.
  6. Is free from the dependency of children and parents.
  7. Enjoys good mental health including emotional balance and maturity.
  8. Has the psychological readiness and capacity to pursue a sustaining, life-long commitment
  9. Enjoys good physical health.
  10. Is free from financial obligations or has a plan for payment that is agreeable with the accepting congregation..
  11. Has the educational background required by the religious congregation.
  12. Is developing a spirit of detachment that will help her be in the world but not of the world.

Sisters do the work of Jesus in many different ways. The following are some examples of ministries or apostolates in which sisters in the Youngstown Diocese serve:

  • Prayer for the Church
  • Faith Formation
  • Education
  • Serve the poor and oppressed
  • Care for the sick
  • Care for the elderly
  • Advocate for peace and justice

Women Religious (Sisters)

These are women called by God to:

  • Commit themselves to Christ and to the Christian Community
  • Take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience
  • Live in a community patterned on the life and teaching of the founder of the community
  • Share possessions in common

Their ministry depends on:

  • The particular community to which they belong
  • The needs of the Church and its people

Examples of ministry are:

  • Social service
  • Education
  • Hospital/medical field
  • Faith formation

Lifestyle Definitions

Active Religious Lifestyle (Sisters)

Lived by women who:

  • Consecrate themselves to God through profession of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience
  • Embrace their community’s charism (see definition)
  • Live a life in common
  • Seek to love God and neighbor through prayer in community, and personal prayer and meditation
  • Serve God’s people through different forms of active ministry

Cloistered Lifestyle (Nuns)

Lived by women who:

  • Consecrate themselves to God through solemn profession of the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience
  • Embrace their community’s charism (see definition)
  • Seek to imitate Christ in his prayer on the mountain
  • Listen to the Word of God in silence and solitude
  • Offer continuous prayer for the world
  • Embrace a life lived within an enclosed space not accessible to the outside world

Monastic Lifestyle (Nuns) 

Lived by women who:

  • Leave behind life in the world in order to seek God in a stable form of life
  • Consecrate themselves to God through solemn profession of vows such as poverty, chastity, obedience, stability, conversion of life, etc.
  • Dedicate themselves to community life and a common rule
  • Strive to create a harmonious balance between the interior life and work
  • Live in persevering dedication to meditation on God’s Word, prayer and the celebration of the Liturgy

Monasteries continue to be eloquent signs of communion as well as schools of faith and true places of study, dialogue, and culture for the building up of the life of the Church.


A religious community’s charism is a special gift of the Holy Spirit given to the members to effectively carry out a specific service within the Church.


Contemplation is a form of prayer in which one simply ponders God accompanied by very few, if any, words or mental images.


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