QUAERITUR: Orders of women religious who accept later vocations

From a reader:

Father, do your wonderful readers have suggestions about women’s religious orders that cater to late vocations (late 30’s)? Someone in our family is discerning.

I don’t, but I hope some of the readers here will.

The question of later religious vocations is a bit thorny.  As we age we get set in our ways and less able to adapt to a “rule” of a community.  I am not saying that it is impossible, but it is harder.  There are communities who don’t want to take on people who might be hard to form.

I have often hoped that some holy man or woman would rise up to found new groups precisely for men and women who are a little older.

Similarly, we could use to great effect a consecration of widows, along the lines of the ancient order of virgins which was revived after the council.  And there is the case of the single person who remains single but wants to dedicate his or her life to the service of the Lord, but not as a religious or cleric.

Times are changing.

Another idea could be to assemble a group of like-minded people and then invade one of the long-established but dying groups. Keep your heads down for a few years, get fully professed, and then take whole thing over as the aging-hippies die off or become the minority.  Imagine this applied to some of the galls lolling around under the LCWR’s vile umbrella.  Some of these once beautiful institutes and orders have a lot of property and a great heritage, both squandered and suffocated by earth-mother-goddess worshiping, labyrinth-walking, hierarchy-bashing harridans who have proudly moved “beyond Jesus”.

Invade, I say!  Into the breach!



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Bea says:

    Benedictine nuns at Clear Creek in Oklahoma
    Convent Queen of Angels, I understand do take older vocations

    They are contemplative and connected with the monks from Clear Creek

    Here is their website:


  2. VexillaRegis says:

    I quite like the invasion idea!

  3. dnicoll says:

    Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
    Or close the wall up with our Catholic faith.
    In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
    As modest stillness and humility:
    But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
    Then imitate the action of the tiger;
    Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
    Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
    Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
    Let pry through the portage of the head
    Like the brass cannon; let the brow o’erwhelm it

  4. StWinefride says:

    The Visitation Order founded by St Jane de Chantal and St Francis of Sales was originally intended for those women who were older, sick or widowed. These ladies would become “daughters of prayer” and be able to go and visit the sick and the poor. I don’t know if today this Order still has the same charism, but it’s the one that comes to mind first.

  5. Margaret says:

    I know the men’s branch of the IVE (Institute of the Incarnate Word) accept older vocations, because we have one serving in our nearby parish– a widower priest with a number of adult children. Given the close connections the order has between the men and the women, I’d be surprised if the women would turn away someone as “old” as late 30’s… The women’s branch can be found at http://www.ssvmusa.org. I can’t tell you how highly of think of these sisters– joyful, energetic, orthodox, prayerful.

  6. Terentia says:

    Daughters of Mary, Mother of Israel’s Hope is a new contemplative-active order founded by Rosalind Moss. I believe they have no upper age limits.

  7. Oleg-Michael says:

    I think I’ve been told that the Society of the Sacred Heart (RSCJ) only admits women who already have a higher education degree and are thus open to late vacations. They’re very much Novus Ordo, at least where I met them, but maybe it’s not late to join and re-form them :-).

  8. Essayez says:

    Dear Fr. Z, Perhaps for males, long-in-the-tooth, with a calling to serve Our Lord, this could be the answer.


  9. Supertradmum says:

    I have quite a bit of experience in this, having pursued in three convents a late vocation, although only staying for months in one.

    The problem for me was not the rules but the physical demands. Getting up at 4:30 and going until with fastings and much less daily food is hard on a woman.

    There is a difference between contemplative and active orders. The contemplative orders are much more strenuous and demand a lot of energy. Also, orders which are contemplative suit extroverts better, believe it or not, as one is in community, or with people except for lectio divina and on hour of private prayer.

    The active orders tend to be more liberal. As to taking either enclosed or active one’s over, it would be very hard, as so many have inclusive language breviaries and no real habits.

    There are many dying orders which take older women which are liberal, if one wants to do that, such as the nuns at Clyde in Missouri, or the Benedictines in Rock Island, Illinois, or the Carmelites in Eldridge, Iowa. They accept older women but are far from traditional.

    Most trad orders only take younger girls as the day is so hard and the formation necessary. I would highly consider the person not waiting but applying to look and see, to stay now, before she gets any older.

    I managed very well with obedience, the horrid food, the cold and the work, which were nothing, but I could not sustain the long day.

  10. Supertradmum says:

    oops, should say until 9:30 pm..was interrupted.

  11. mormormax says:

    The Eudist Servants of the Eleventh Hour take women between 45 and 65. They can be single, widowed or divorced. Their website is http://www.eudistservants.org. It was started by Mother Antonio. Her story is worth reading. They work with the poor and in prisons in Mexico.

  12. Perhaps one could pursue a Benedictine Oblate way of life. I have heard of some oblates actually living in common, while still engaged in outside work. Shared housing, common prayer, and common apostolate==who could ask for anything more!

  13. FeedieB says:

    Benedictines of Starr County, at Rio Grande City, Texas. They are in deep south Texas along the US/Mexico border. They are three older sisters, who are doing wonderful things in south Texas. Their mission is pro-life. They also host many Catholic retreats (including Rachel’s Vineyard post-abortion retreats) on their large spread of property. Plus, they wear habits!

    These sisters are dear friends. Lovely, godly women with a wonderful work. I believe that God has big plans for their monastary.
    Contact Sister Nancy Boushey at sanbenito@granderiver.net
    Web site is: http://starrcb.com/wp/

  14. DavidR says:

    I believe the Visitation nuns in DC take later vocations.

  15. PA mom says:

    As I understand it, the Visitation Sisters formed by St Jane Frances de Chantal were originally organized to accept older women (she was a widow). It even accepted temporary professions with the understanding that women who had been mothers could be needed to help their adult children with their families.

  16. Faith says:

    I have a couple of suggestions. The first is the Dominican Sisters of Bethany. They started in France as a contemplative order. But during WWII they lost contact with their houses in other countries (Germany, Latvia, Italy, Belgium). Hence, some of these houses had to become more apostolic sisters, than contemplative. The order or some of the branches of the order take women on a case by case basis. So you could join the strictly contemplative ones in France or Switzerland, or the Apostolic ones in the other countries.
    The Order called back their sisters from the USA; however some stayed. They are in Casco, Maine. Since there are so few of them, the diocese won’t recognize them as a religious order until they have more postulants. Hence, they live as a Lay Community, and are known as the Resurrection Community.
    And that’s another avenue–lay communities.
    I also have a friend whose husband died. She has grown children and she is in her 60’s. She was accepted into the Sisters of the Visitation. The Visitation Sisters were founded by Jane de Chantall, who was married with children; that’s why they accept married women with children.
    Good luck in your discernment.
    God bless you.

  17. acardnal says:

    Contact the Institute of Religious Life; they should be helpful and visit their website. http://www.religiouslife.com/

  18. H.Hobbit says:

    I read that Saint Jane Frances de Chantal began a religious order for woman who were rejected by other orders due to bad health or age.
    “…….Jane founded the Visitation order for women who were rejected by other orders because of poor health or age. She even accepted a woman who was 83 years old. When people criticized her, she said, “What do you want me to do? I like sick people myself; I’m on their side.” She believed that people should have a chance to live their calling regardless of their health.” (From Catholic online-http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=60 )

    While I understand the problems (financial, practical, etc.) of supporting an order of older women with health issues, I have always found that God uses ‘weakness’ rather well. And for several decades the Church has been supporting a vibrant, healthy group of women that — in the end– did not do the Church a lot of favors.

  19. Supertradmum says:

    Before a visit, either look at the websites or ask for a reading list. By doing this, I have eliminated the far-left orders who insist on studying Sr. Joan Chissiter. This is merely one sign of a disobedient order.

  20. charismatictrad says:

    I agree with Fr. Z – it’d be nice to invade the orders and bring back there glory…if it’s not already lost :-(

    Also, along the lines of older-person religious orders: I’ve always felt that there should be an order (and maybe there is) for people who are not smart enough for seminary, but are very faithful. I know a number of people that would make GREAT brothers, but there’s no way they could get the education qualifications for, say, the CFRs. Maybe the Poor Brothers of Cupertino, or something like that ;-)

    Any thoughts? I’d found the order, but I’m married, haha.

  21. Dr. Edward Peters says:

    Upper age limits are not functions of divine or canon law, so a community can accept candidates, or not, as they see fit in that regard; they set the ages, and they can change or waive them. A very practical problem for late vocations is elder-care, or abbreviated to plan for elder care, of members. That’s not always mentioned as a factor, but it’s there. If a candidate presents with full or even partial funding toward elder-care, it can make a difference.

  22. anilwang says:

    The invade idea seems farfetched at first since it’s much easier to appear orthodox when you’re not than to appear to be unorthodox when you are. You’ll be caught the first moment you refuse to throw a pinch of incense to Gaia or deny that abortion needs to be put on the back burner so that we can have a more “tolerant (of liberals only) and loving ‘free’ society where all are cared from from cradle (if they get there) to (early) grave”. To have a scale firth column orthodox conspiracy that is undetected, is near impossible.

    But it might be possible. There are several LCWR “convents” that only have a handful of members. If a group of 10 orthodox friends join those almost dead convents, they may be desperate enough to lower their guard, and the invaders would instantly take it over when they receive their vows.

  23. frahobbit says:

    RE older vocations: there are secular institutes, which are many times more flexible with ageUnited States Conference of Secular Institutes
    Catholic Secular Institutes whose members are consecrated for love of the Church and for sanctification of the world.
    Members of secular institutes are “in the world and not of the world, but for the world.” They live in whatever providential circumstances God gives them, but they wholly consecrate their lives to God through the evangelical counsels of poverty, obedience, and chastity. They are the newest vocation in the Catholic Church, and many say they are the vocation of the new millennium.

  24. NescioDomine says:

    Today is the feast of Blessed Jacopa de Settisooli, a widow who followed St Francis of Assisi. There is a Franciscan community being formed right now in Stuebenville, Ohio (It is in the ante-preparatory stage at the moment) This will be for women over 40, widowed and single. Go to blog at familiajacopa.wordpress.com or familiajacopa@yahoo.com. Kathleen is a good friend of mine and would love to hear from anyone who feels the desire to serve Our Lord as Religious or Third Order Secular.

  25. Rich says:

    Eudist Servants of the Eleventh Hour http://eudistservants.org/site/

  26. Joseph-Mary says:

    My friend who is 48 is entering the Augustinian sisters of St. Rita in Racine. Another friend, age 36, is entering Mother Miriam’s (Rosalind Moss) order next month.

  27. Supertradmum says:

    Joseph-Mary , thank you for that information.

  28. MichaelJ says:

    Lathe 30’s is “older”? Man, I feel really old now.

  29. BigRed says:

    A friend of many decades was a postulant/novitiate to the Ursulines but before final vows chose a career as a public school teacher. Upon retirement from that career, and in her fifties, she reentered the Ursulines to complete her novitiate and take her final vows.

  30. ray from mn says:

    If a woman has a college degree or a skill that would be of use to the order, that would make it more likely that they would accept an older vocation. I know of an order in Minnesota that accepted a woman with degrees in Sociology who is now a prominent professor in their Sociology Department..

  31. erin2314 says:

    After my dad passed away, my mom felt a strong calling to the religious life and she struggled with finding a order that accepted older candidates. Most of the orders that would consider her were exactly what Fr. Z describes above “earth-mother-goddess worshiping, labyrinth-walking, hierarchy-bashing harridans who have proudly moved ‘beyond Jesus'”. However, God eventually brought her to the community that is perfect for her! It’s a brand new order that only has a couple of aspirants at the moment and my mom is learning how to live in community slowly as opposed to jumping into a large well-estalished order.

    They are called the Daughters of Divine Hope and their main focus is outreach to the priests and deacons of the diocese of Tyler, TX.

  32. cblanch says:

    I believe the Visitation Sisters in Toledo, OH take older vocations. http://www.toledovisitation.com/

  33. Joe in Canada says:

    In terms of “And there is the case of the single person who remains single but wants to dedicate his or her life to the service of the Lord, but not as a religious or cleric,” for women there is a movement called Auxiliaries of the Apostolate (not the same as the defunct group Sisters Auxiliaries of the Apostolate). Their central web presence is in French (they are based at Lourdes) but a search will find some English-speaking dioceses with them.

  34. ljc says:

    The Sisters of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity accept later vocations.

  35. inIpso says:

    The Carmelites in Port Tobacco, MD

  36. Most of the orders people have mentioned are in the US. Does anyone know of any communities of women that accept late vocations in the UK?

  37. JuliaSaysPax says:

    Oleg-Michael: A good portion of the Society of Sacred Heart sisters are still very orthodox. From what I’ve seen, it depends on the area.

    As for suggestions, the Sisters of the Pious Schools probably take older women, because (I’m only about 80% sure of this) they want everyone to have a college degree first. As the name makes obvious, it’s a teaching order, and their presence in most of the US is rather small (pretty much just California now, at 1 or 2 schools), but they’re really active in the rest of the world and pretty orthodox. They also (mostly) wear habits!

  38. rcg says:

    Considering ’30 is the new 15′ I think the time ripe for an order founded on late bloomers. They could be called ‘Prodigus’.

  39. Supertradmum says:

    CatholicCoffee, you can speak with Mother General at Tyburn. That is the only one I know who accepts very late vocations. The Benedictines at Colwich Abbey may consider an older person. I applied there much older than 40 and the only reason I was refused was that I had cancer in the past and they need nuns in superb health. The other ones are fairly strict about the 35 year old cut off, which is more traditional. At 36, many years ago, I was told I was too old for Ryde, but that was under a different Lady Abbess. Most of the orders have the age ranges on the websites.

    The Carmelites at Quidenham told me they usually do not accept a woman past 45. The Notting Hill Carmelites, where I have gone for private retreats (as well as the Benedictines above) have no age limit listed on their website, so you could phone them.

  40. StWinefride says:

    CatholicCoffee, the Order of the Visitation in the UK accept late vocations –

    In welcoming women to our way of life, human as well as spiritual formation is considered, as well as the level of maturity. Our Holy Founders set no age limit for admission & lack of physical health need not be an obstacle, provided they show good psychological balance”.


  41. KAS says:

    I like the idea of a take over too. A group of women who were say, Oblates of St. Benedict, could spend time together and practice being in community together during that formation and then request as a group to be accepted into a dying Benedictine group and perhaps save it for the future needs of the Church.

  42. MissOH says:

    Here are some more of the orders that accept late vocations.

    The Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate

    The Poor Clare Colletines in Rockford, IL

    The Dominican Nuns in Lufkin, TX

  43. Cecily says:

    About becoming a religious sister in a liberal convent and hoping to reform it, there is something important to consider. You will not have been properly formed. How will you know what to do? There will be no continuity with the holy founders, nobody to pass on to you their living charism. All you will have is rupture and a lot of wasted years being trained by heretics. There has to be a better way.

  44. Batfink says:

    CatholicCoffee: The Stone Dominicans accept older vocations, it’s a long established part of their charism since they were sent many older converts from Cardinal Newman. I believe the Bushey Dominicans do too. Enclosed Dominican nuns (not sure about Drogheda, but certainly France which are the geographically closest to England) are not keen but have made exceptions and certainly accept older women as lay sisters (living cloistered and sharing in all aspects of the life but unable to participate in chapters).

    RSCJs definitely accept older vocations, but as previously mentioned, may not be what people on this site feel called to.

    Religious of the Assumption sisters take older women, and like Dominicans have some recent entrants with annuled marriages & adult children, but I don’t know anything about them as a community.

    Stanbrook Benedictines. I’ve met a couple of later vocations there and I think they’re quite open to treating each case as it comes.

  45. Supertradmum says:

    Be careful, for example with lay groups which claim to be Oblates, as many no longer follow the real spirit of Benedict. For example, the Benedictines in some areas have started this Monasteries of the Heart for laity which is downright far-left of Tradition. Non-inclusive language….etc. Joan Chissiter is the key pin in it.

    Here is a partial description: (nothing about Christ)

    Do you prefer thoughtful questions not definitive, dogmatic answers to spiritual issues
    Do you bow before the dignity of each human being regardless of their gender, sexual orientation or religious tradition

    Also, there are some Carmelite associate groups which are very liberal in the MidWest.

  46. Thank you very much for the replies!

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