Some religious communities serve God through meditation, prayer and solitude. These groups are known as contemplative or "cloistered" orders. Women who belong to this type of a religious community are called nuns and the men are called monks.
Other religious communities are known as "active" or Apostolic orders/congregations. These are active in the world, serving others in a variety of ministries/apostolates. Women who belong to this type of a religious community are called Sisters and the men are called Brothers unless they are ordained priests.
Other forms of consecrated life include those called to be hermits to live in seclusion from the world, in solitude, prayer, and penance, in praise of God and for the salvation of others. Another form is that of consecrated virgins who dedicate their lives to God while continuing to live in the world. They continue with their career and ordinarily live independently.
Each religious order or congregation has its own special charism which forms its identity and mission. The charism envisioned by the founder or foundress is the motivating spirit that is the heart of the religious order or congregation. Due to the variety of charisms, each religious order or congregation has a unique identity, mission, spirituality, and set of guidelines for living.
Sr. Rosina Conrotto
Director, Office of Consecrated Lifeconrottor@sfarch.org