ASK FATHER: Solid, orthodox religious orders and instititutes

From a reader…


I am currently in the process of discerning a vocation to the priesthood and I am investigating different groups/orders. I am relatively familiar with the strictly “traditional” groups (ICKSP and FSSP especially) but it can be more difficult to test the waters of other groups, institutes, or religious orders in the U.S. which are not strictly traditional but might still be very solid and orthodox. Are there any in particular that you might recommend for consideration?

You would do well to discuss this with your confessor/priest spiritual director.  Remember, too, that a vocation to the priesthood and a vocation to religious life are not the same.  They can overlap, but they are not the same.

Different groups have different apostolates and charisms.  That should help you to identify which groups you may be more suited to.  They are usually founded upon a particular spiritual “school”, the spirituality of a saint and/or their founder.  That is also a tool for discernment.

It seems to me also good to consider what is close at hand and what you might already know.  Perhaps the answer is in your back yard.

That said, I understand that the Norbertines in California are pretty healthy, as are the Dominicans of the US Eastern province.  The Benedictines in Oklahoma are great.  The Transapline Redemptorists, very serious dudes, have now a place in Montana. Oratories are springing up, too.

You will have to be willing to go to visit places.

No doubt some of the readers here will be eager to pitch in their 2¢.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    The Norbertines in California – very much so. Here’s their website:

  2. IA Transplant says:

    As a member of the faithful, I can say that the Norbertines of California are unabashedly Catholic. I have no idea how it is “on the inside,” but as someone in the pews, I can say that they have formed my family and me into folks who know and can defend the Faith. They have done that with familial warmth. That, in my view, is a major differentiator.

  3. roma247 says:

    There are of course the Canons Regular of St. John Cantius in Chicago.

  4. Geoffrey says:

    The Canons Regular of St John Cantius is rather unique, in that they celebrate both the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Roman Rite, with great reverence:

  5. Dave P. says:

    I would recommend the Fathers of Mercy in Kentucky: http://www.fathersof

  6. daveams says:

    The Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer (aka Transalpine Redemptorists) are a religious order that uses exclusively the traditional Roman Rite (1962 and before). They now have a house in the USA, in the diocese of Billings – Great Falls in Montana to be specific. (Their mother house is Papa Stronsay, Orkney, Scotland)

    There is also a traditional Franciscan Friary in Bellevue Kentucky. I believe they also use the Traditional Liturgy (Mass and Breviary) exclusively.

  7. timothy get says:

    The Norbatine Website has a Catholic dude pouring water on a Harley.

    God is there.

  8. Excellent suggestions, Fr. Z!

    Although most of these already have plenty of internet enthusiasts. There are other fine communities.

    —Fr. Augustine, O.P. (Western Dominican Province)

    V. Rev. Fr. Augustine Thompson, O.P., S.T.M.
    Praeses (President)
    Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies
    University of Toronto
    59 Queen’s Park Crescent East
    Toronto, ON M5S 2C4

  9. JennyU says:

    The Servants of Christ Jesus in Denver, Colorado. Unreservedly Catholic, their spirituality is very Marian and informed by the authentic spirituality of St Ignatius and JPII. They wear cassocks and practice generous penance and authentic poverty and they are young and JOYFUL.

  10. Sean says:

    There is also The Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem located in Charlestown, WV.

  11. mo7 says:

    Is there anyone who thinks that a tradition-minded young man can find a vocation as a diocesan priest?

    [What about God’s will?]

  12. Rob Pryb says:

    There are also the Discalced Hermits of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Pennsylvania

  13. aptak says:

    Not to repeat what a few others have already said, but you should check out the Canons of St John Cantius in Chicago. They are also unabashedly traditional but celebrate both forms. They are currently being tested by Cardinal Cupich, who is no friend to tradition, but I firmly believe they will outlast him. What I like about them is that they serve multiple active parishes, they are active in outreach and offer a solid catechism, great support for families, solid priests, and they are a great group of men.

  14. swvirginia says:

    The monks of Crystal Creek Abbey are doing wonderful things, building buildings to last for 1000 years.

  15. Imrahil says:

    There are many tradition-minded young men who have found their vocation as diocesan priests …

    of the Archdiocese of Vaduz, Liechtenstein, allright. But still.

  16. hwriggles4 says:

    I don’t know how old this prospective seminarian is, but he may want to check out the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in New York.

    I do recommend the Fathers of Mercy as another poster did. I do believe the CPM has come and see weekends occasionally. I do donate money to them (they often do a parish mission in my area) and I do receive their newsletter. I have heard good things about the Eastern Dominicans – I believe their religious house is in Washington, DC.

    I think Franciscan University of Steubenville still has a pre-theologate (Ave Maria University doesn’t have that anymore-I looked into that when it was around c.2006-c.2008) where one can pay his own way for the first two years of pre-theology before being sponsored by a diocese (or religious house) for major seminary.

    Finally your diocese (or a neighboring diocese) may have a Come and See weekend. I helped with the one in my area for a few years and my opinion it was pretty solid (watch the vetting). They did have a short interview process for those who were interested in attending. Normally I would advise the younger ladies to check out the Nashville Dominicans and the Sisters of Mary Mother of the Eucharist.

  17. hwriggles4 says:

    For What It’s Worth:

    During my own discernment process years ago I was able to get permission to attend a discernment retreat (lasted Thursday through Sunday) that was sponsored by the Archdiocese for the Military Services. Outside of an old Boy Scout retreat from yesteryear that was the first all-male retreat I attended. It was well done and I do recommend going. I remember it well.

    These are offered usually twice a year. Try

  18. Charivari Rob says:

    hwriggles4, I definitely second a couple of your choices.
    My hometown parish pastor in NJ regularly brings out the FFRs from NY to the ‘burbs for parish missions and Reconciliation. We’ve benefitted from having Dominicans there as part of the priestly staff over the decades, too.

    Closer to where I am now in Boston, we’ve see many blessing from having the Franciscans of the Primitive Observance nearby.
    The Oblates of the Virgin Mary are wonderful, too – having their formation/house, the Saint Clement Eucharistic Shrine, and the Saint Francis Chapel in the center of one of the business/shopping districts.
    I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Name Province, too. Saint Anthony Shrine here in Boston is a linchpin for downtown workers in the city – various forms of outreach/ministry, many Masses for both Sundays & weekdays/holydays, and most especially many opportunities for Reconciliation!

  19. restoration says:

    As the father of five boys, I cannot imagine ANY father supporting his son in a diocesan vocation at this time in the church’s history, particularly in the U.S. Who would turn their son over to a homosexual criminal organization? That is sadly what the USCCB is today and let’s be honest: the USCCB sets the policy for the diocesan priesthood. An inconvenient truth, but it is a fact. A religious order, however, is a much better bet these days for a variety of reasons, (more protections under canon law, more freedom from wicked bishops, etc.) so I would place the SSPX at the top of the list.

    Before I sent my son anywhere, I would want to discuss with the seminary rector his understanding of obedience. The present notion of absolute obedience to one’s superior is a corruption of Catholic teaching. Covid showed us many otherwise holy priests who locked their doors and denied the sacraments because “the bishop told me to”. This is the same notion that for decades had priests hiding brother clergy who were molesters and other criminal deviants often at the request of their bishop. These priests learned these notions from improper formation and it has to stop. I want assurances from bishops and rectors that men in formation will be expected to be obedient only to orders that are moral and ethical. A reading of the late Bishop Morlino’s letter should be required reading for all seminary rectors, bishops and seminarians. His expectations of seminary life are what one would expect to see from a holy bishop. Sadly, he was one of the only bishops in America who sounded like a man: a red-blooded, righteously angry father (dad) who objects to his priestly sons’ mistreatment at the hands of these criminals.

    The corruption of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is so nearly complete that the meetings themselves are nothing more than gatherings of largely gangster bishops wasting our tithes on their far-left pet projects. I know there are a handful of notable exceptions (Strickland), but the homosexuality of the bishops (and especially our current U.S. Cardinals – gross) is largely unchanged since McCarrick’s time. I will be happy to recommend diocesan priesthood when the first bishop resigns from the USCCB in protest at the effeminate brotherhood of sodomy that it has become. Until that day, steer clear of the diocesan priesthood.

  20. TonyO says:

    There is no question that a solid young man inclined toward the traditional can make a go of a vocation with a diocese. It’s just that with the current model for how bishops of sees are chosen, he can have no confidence in what the NEXT bishop will be like. However, that said: if this is what God is calling him to, then great, have at it, and let the chips fall where they may (bishop-wise). God is in charge. The guy just better be tough and prepared for bad times as well as good.

  21. Bonnie Louise says:

    I want to add another possibility if interested in a cloistered community. Very good things to say about them, they have prayed for me/family intentions for years. Located in Petersham, MA.

  22. bartlep says:

    I know the Norbertines in California well and they are solid. They have recently moved into a brand new Abbey. They have men on a wait list to enter the seminary because they have so many wanting to enter.

    Another excellent order is Miles Christi
    They do the Ignatius Spiritual Exercises and travel across the US and even to Canada. They are based in Michigan, have a house in San Diego and are about to open a third in Denver.

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  24. matt from az says:

    Jesuits, hands down.

    I kid. I kid.

    Earlier commenters recommend the Norbertines in Orange County, California. Yes x10 to the infinite power, yes.

    If you have not been to the new abbey, you absolutely must go. I send my son to summer camp there and I am deeply impressed by the quality of seminarian. Their vocations are booming, which is a natural effect of orthodoxy in liturgy and formation.

    I suspect that they will someday return to the TLM because their new chapel has been built for it. They just need to wait until it’s safe to do so.

  25. pledbet424 says:

    Our nephew is currently studying for the priesthood at the Norbertines in California. He is very joyful and seems to be thriving there. His job right now is to take care of the animals they keep.
    As far as them using the TLM, I don’t expect they will do this. They have their own ancient liturgy, as do many orders. I’ve never seen this mass said before, but I expect it is similar to the TLM. When Pius V issued the quo primum bull, their mass was protected as it, as well as other liturgies over 200 years old, we’re immune to being suppressed.

  26. djc says:

    For those of an eremitic bent The Camaldolese Hermits of Monte Corona in Bloomingdale, Ohio are excellent. It’s a solid Order and is on the upswing with quality vocations. I went on a retreat there and it was sublime. They celebrate the Mass of Paul VI in the vernacular. The offices are chanted in rectotone.

    There are only two hermitages now open.

  27. Imrahil says:

    Dear restoration,

    The thing is, though, that one of your sons might enter a seminary or religious order without your approval.

    I only mention this as a possibility and intend nothing further… but it is a possibility.

  28. Eoin OBolguidhir says:

    It’s good to see so, so many options. Personally I believe that the nitty-gritty realpolitik of the opposition of many to tradition is that it attracts too many vocations (and ultimately, therefore, collections) away from the worldly, mainstream Church and shows that worldly, mainstream Church to be salt that has lost its flavor.

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