Brothers and Religious Life

Can you please explain to me the stages in becoming a brother? What is involved?

Dear Chantel,

Each order of brothers will have its own particular way of accepting and training a new brother and it is best to talk directly with the actual order you want to join to know exactly what is required but the common procedure would be this

Most orders would like to know the young man for some time before he joins. They want to know him and want him to get to know them. They would use that time to help him in his discernment - the working out if this really is something that God is asking of him.

Following that there is often a period of postulancy or candidacy where he would live with the Order and see what their life is like first hand but not have any obligations - he does not take any vows, would often keep his own job and possessions and would gradually get used to living in a religious community.

After that is at least a year as a novice. A novice is part of the order and is trained in prayer, spirituality, the history and spirit of his Order and is given the tools and training he needs to live a life in his Order.

This is followed by a period of temporary vows. He would promise poverty, chastity and obedience but these vows expire regularly and need renewal. This is to give him a chance to leave if he so chooses. This period often involves study or practical training and gradually preparing to live the life of a regular brother, putting together everything he has learnt thus far.

Finally, when he and the Order feel he is ready, he would profess vows that last permanently - i.e.for his whole life.

Br Matthew

What is the difference between a brother and a priest?

Dear Ruzzy,
Thanks for your question

A brother is a man who has joined a religious congregation or order and generally lives in community with other brothers. He is not ordained but takes the religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. A priest is someone who is ordained within the Church and may celebrate and administer the Sacraments such as the Eucharist (Mass) and Reconciliation (Confession). A priest may sometimes also be a member of an order and live in community or he may be a diocesan priest who works and lives in a parish.

I hope this is helpful Ruzzy

God Bless,
Fr Brian



What is the difference between sisters and brothers?

Thank you for your question.

Really, the major difference is as simple as saying that one group is made up of women and the other made up of men. Sisters and Brothers in the church live a similar lifestyle (in a Community), take similar vows (Poverty, Chastity, Obedience), pray in similar ways (together and privately), are involved in similar ministries (education, health care, working for the poor and disadvantaged), and have similar occupations(teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers, social workers, cooks, secretaries, counsellors, spiritual directors, university lecturers, theologians, etc, etc). They bring to all these areas, though, a certain style / spirit / charism, coming from their particular Founder / Foundress. And so, each Religious Order, whether male or female, has a certain way of going about things, a certain 'feel' to it, that makes it slightly different to every other Religious Order in the Church - making each Order special and unique and a gift to the whole Church.

I suggest that you visit our websit and click on the sisters and brothers sections. I'm sure you'll find a lot of helpful information about these vocations.

God Bless,
Br Rod

What is the training period to become a brother? What does novitiate mean?

Dear Wendy,

Thank you for your question. The training period to become a brother may differ between Religious Orders, but generally someone enquiring about the Brother's life would spend a period of time in discernment before embarking on a more formal time of formation. Some Orders call this time 'Aspirancy', followed by 'Postulancy'. Both could last 6 months to a year, and are a time when the young man may continue with his full-time work or study commitments, but at the same time, meet on a regular / monthly basis with a Brother to help discern the direction his life is going, and where God's call might be leading him. For many Orders, the Postulancy is 'live-in'. The young man lives with a community of Brothers and other young men discerning their future. At the end of this year the postulant decides whether or not he wishes to move into a more formal time of formation with the Order. This is the Novitiate period, which generally lasts for 2 years. During this time the Novice attends lectures on prayer, spirituality, history, and theology connected with the Order, as well as spending time in community and personal prayer, recreation, and ministry activities appropriate to this level of his training.

At the end of the Novitiate the young man takes first vows, generally for one year. In subsequent years these vows are renewed, and 5 to 9 years after taking first vows he takes perpetual vows - dedicating himself as a brother for life.

After Novitiate the young brother is involved in his post-Novitiate formation period, which, depending on what ministry he is preparing for, could last from one to four years. This generally takes the form of Tertiary study, with degrees in areas such as Education, Social Work, Youth Studies, Psychology, Theology, Paramedics / Nursing, or any area which will serve the ministry of the Order. As well, some brothers develop skills in more practical trade areas which could be used in service of the Order's mission to people in Australia or overseas in Mission countries.


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