Active and Contemplative Religious Sisters and Brothers


Education and Training Requirements

High School

If you are interested in becoming a religious sister or brother, consider enrolling in a Catholic high school. However, this is by no means a requirement. Take as many religion courses as possible as well as courses in English and speech in order to promote communication skills. These are crucial to participation in the liturgy and the religious studies that contemplative sisters and brothers pursue.

Many active sisters and brothers are also skilled in secular professions. As a result, you should determine other career interests and take corresponding course work to prepare for education in that field.

Postsecondary Training

Requirements for becoming a sister or brother vary by community. Many religious orders will accept candidates with only a high school diploma, but more and more are advising applicants to attend college first. Many communities want prospective members to have life experience before becoming a sister or brother, as the vocation requires a high level of dedication and maturity. Such life experience may include dating, pursuing another occupation, and extensive reflection on Christianity and life goals. Although candidates must be single, previously married men and women are not disqualified from consideration.

All sisters and brothers are trained for the religious life by the communities in which they take their vows. Training programs commonly last several years. In some orders, there are additional requirements. For active religious, additional education and training is necessary. Teaching communities, for example, may require that a candidate have a university degree, a teaching certificate, or both. The U.S. Department of Labor notes that in the United States, a master's degree is becoming the educational standard among clergy of all denominations. Nursing communities generally require medical training. Some communities will assume all costs for obtaining a university degree or other education.

Contemplative sisters and brothers may spend up to eight or nine years learning about the religious life before committing to it with final vows. They may take formal classes for young religious inside their communities or attend informal discussion groups with experienced religious. Their superiors, especially their novice master or novice mistress, will offer personal guidance and recommend books to help them grow in the life.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

There are no certification or licensing requirements for active and contemplative religious sisters and brothers.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

First and foremost, religious sisters and brothers must have a vocation to the religious life. They must believe that God is calling them to dedicate their lives to service of the church. Their religious communities must also feel certain that aspiring members are called.

All sisters and brothers must take the traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. In taking a vow of poverty, religious sisters and brothers commit to living simply and to sharing all things with their community. Excessive accumulation of material possessions is not acceptable, even for active religious who earn outside income.

The vow of chastity requires that brothers and sisters not have sexual relations or marry. This requirement is not a condemnation of sexuality in general. It simply allows them to devote all their love to God. Prior sexual activity does not disqualify a candidate.

Obedience is understood as a listening vow. Sisters and brothers must listen to and faithfully serve the religious community, the church, and God. Each member is required to obey the superior (highest authority) of the community and follow the established rules of the order or congregation.

In addition to the above requirements, candidates must be in good physical and emotional health, have a sound character, and be free from monetary debt. Religious communities are not looking for people who are trying to escape from everyday problems or are afraid of marriage and intimate relationships. Good emotional health and maturity is absolutely essential to living the religious life.