There is a long history of religious Orders in the Old Roman apostolate, but due to size, the distances between missions and oratories, various attempts at religious life by small groups have often fizzled out. This has often resulted in a few stranded vocations whether professed or tertiary without support, guidance and counsel.
The Congregation of the Divine Charity or “CDC” provides a structure through which religious vocations may be expressed and directed toward existing communities and Orders, new orders may be helped and founded, and to act as a point of information for bishops and the wider church about the religious Orders as well as provide governance and oversight.
The purpose of the Congregation of the Divine Charity (CDC) is to regulate, facilitate and promote the religious life within the orthodox Old Roman Catholic tradition. To this end, the CDC acts as a centre of focus, administration and governance that clergy and faithful may have confidence in the discernment and governance of religious life and those societies of apostolic life which they may desire to join or form for the furtherance of the Faith, their personal sanctification and acts of collective piety, and in which to engage in common charitable works and collective acts of corporal mercy.
The Titular Archbishop of Selsey is currently the Servant Superior of the CDC, acting locum tenens as the major superior for all the religious orders and societies within the congregation.
Congregation of the Divine Charity
As well as being an umbrella body for the oversight and regulation of religious orders and apostolic societies, the congregation also exists to discern and nurture individual vocations as well as new vocational possibilities for religious life.
A person discerning a vocation to religious life will first enter a postulancy with the CDC studying the nature of religious vocation and the different expressions of religious life e.g. cenobitic, erimetic, anchorite, mendicant or apostolic, etc. Depending on the circumstances of a particular religious order, novitiates may also begin initially under the CDC before candidates enter their elected Order.
Men or women discerning new charisms and vocational possibilities for the religious or apostolic life, e.g. a new order or society, are guided and assisted in their discernment within the CDC. The Rule of Life, Constitutions and canonical requirements of such ventures are formulated under the guidance of the Servant Superior.
The Benedictines, officially the Order of Saint Benedict (Latin: Ordo Sancti Benedicti, abbreviated as OSB), are a monastic religious order of the Catholic Church following the Rule of Saint Benedict. They are also sometimes called the Black Monks, in reference to the colour of their religious habits. They were founded by Saint Benedict of Nursia, a 6th-century monk who laid the foundations of Benedictine monasticism through the formulation of his Rule of Saint Benedict.
Despite being called an order, the Benedictines do not operate under a single hierarchy but are instead organised as a collection of autonomous monasteries; they do not have a superior general or motherhouse with universal jurisdiction.
The Order of Preachers, whose members are known as Dominicans (Latin: Ordo Praedicatorum, postnominal abbreviation OP), is a mendicant order of the Catholic Church founded in Toulouse, France, by the Spanish priest Saint Dominic. It was approved by Pope Honorius III via the Papal bull Religiosam vitam on 22 December 1216. Members of the order, who are referred to as Dominicans, generally carry the letters OP after their names, standing for Ordinis Praedicatorum, meaning of the Order of Preachers. Membership in the order includes friars,[b] nuns, active sisters, and affiliated lay or secular Dominicans (formerly known as tertiaries, though recently there has been a growing number of associates who are unrelated to the tertiaries).
Founded to preach the Gospel and to oppose heresy, the teaching activity of the order and its scholastic organisation placed the Preachers in the forefront of the intellectual life of the Middle Ages. The order is famed for its intellectual tradition, having produced many leading theologians and philosophers. In the year 2018 there were 5,747 Dominican friars, including 4,299 priests. The Dominican Order is headed by the Master of the Order, as of 2019, Gerard Timoner III. Mary Magdalene and Catherine of Siena are the co-patronesses of the Order.
The Franciscans are a group of related mendicant Christian religious orders, primarily within the Catholic Church. Founded in 1209 by Saint Francis of Assisi, these orders include the Order of Friars Minor, the Order of Saint Clare, and the Third Order of Saint Francis. They adhere to the teachings and spiritual disciplines of the founder and of his main associates and followers, such as Clare of Assisi, Anthony of Padua, and Elizabeth of Hungary. Several smaller Protestant Franciscan orders exist as well, notably in the Anglican and Lutheran traditions.
Francis began preaching around 1207 and travelled to Rome to seek approval from Pope Innocent III in 1209 to form a new religious order. The original Rule of Saint Francis approved by the Pope did not allow ownership of property, requiring members of the order to beg for food while preaching. The austerity was meant to emulate the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Franciscans travelled and preached in the streets, while staying in church properties. Saint Clare, under Francis’s guidance, founded the Poor Clares (Order of Saint Clare) in 1212, which remains a Second Order of the Franciscans.
The extreme poverty required of members was relaxed in the final revision of the Rule in 1223. The degree of observance required of members remained a major source of conflict within the order, resulting in numerous secessions. The Order of Friars Minor, previously known as the “Observant” branch, is one of the three Franciscan First Orders within the Catholic Church, the others being the “Conventuals” (formed 1517) and “Capuchins” (1520).
Taking the example of the Oratory of Saint Philip Neri in Rome, Oratorians are envisioned secular clergy living together in community. Unlike a religious institute (the members of which take vows and are answerable to a central authority) or a monastery (the monks of which are likewise bound by vows in a community that may itself be autonomous and answerable directly to the Pope), the Oratorians are made up of members who commit themselves to membership in a particular, independent, self-governing local community (an Oratory, usually named for the place in which it is located: e.g., Birmingham Oratory, Oxford Oratory, Brooklyn Oratory) without actually taking vows, an unusual and innovative arrangement created by St. Philip.
The core of St. Philip’s spirituality focused on an unpretentious return to the lifestyle of the first Disciples of Christ. The object of the institute is threefold: prayer, preaching, and the sacraments.
As there is no vow of poverty, Oratorians may keep their possessions, and those who can afford to do so are expected to contribute to the support of the house. It is possible for an ordained secular priest to join the Community if he feels called to a more recollected life in community than is possible in a diocesan presbytery, however the Constitutions do not permit anyone who has been a solemnly professed religious to join the Congregation.
Unlike the members of some religious institutes, Oratorians are not bound by a rule to pray in common, though this is something that Oratorians consider important, and they commit themselves to praying together at least twice each day, and having one communal meal which is usually dinner. Oratorians normally have a set time each day for praying together in silent meditation; this ends classically with the recitation of a litany.
Although some oratories may have a dominant mission (e.g. the London Oratory, which maintains a school), in general the members of the Oratory spend the day involved in various ministries: teaching, parish work, spiritual direction, campus ministry, hospital chaplaincies, administration or maintaining the fabric of the community house. Some oratories are specifically connected with parishes and thus its members serve as clergy of the parish.