A postulant (from Latin: postulare, to ask) was originally one who makes a request or demand; hence, a candidate. The use of the term is now generally restricted to those asking for admission into a monastery or a religious institute, both before actual admission and for the period of time preceding their admission into the novitiate. Currently, however, common usage terms the person who has not yet been accepted by the institution as an "inquirer" or "observer".
The term is most commonly used in the Catholic Church, the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and in the Anglican Communion, which includes the Episcopal Church. The Eastern Orthodox Churches tend to avoid Latin terminology.
The length of time that a prospective candidate remains a postulant may vary depending on the institution, or the postulant's individual situation. Among active religious institutions, it typically lasted 4–6 months. At present, many monasteries have a candidate spend 1–2 years in this stage. During this time, the postulant generally participates as fully as possible in the life of the community, joining the novices and professed members for work and prayer.
Since the candidate is not a formal member of the institution at this stage, it is easier for a man or woman not fully certain about religious life to re-examine his or her intentions and commitment before entering the novitiate. Likewise, should the person be determined to be unsuited to the life, a postulant can be dismissed by an institution without the need for any formal procedure.
The term is also sometimes used to describe the ecclesiastical status of a person who has discerned a call to the priesthood or to the diaconate and has received parish and diocesan endorsement. The candidate retains postulant status throughout seminary, until ordination to the transitional diaconate takes place. The postulant who will not pursue ordination into the priesthood is ordained into the vocational diaconate.
Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence (SPI), also called Order of Perpetual Indulgence (OPI), is an international network of orders, which are mostly non-profit charity organizations that raise money for AIDS, LGBT-related causes, and mainstream community service organizations, while promoting safer sex and educating others about the harmful effects of drug use and other risky behaviors.
As with other orders, potential members start at aspirants, progress as postulants, and then (once they have proven their commitment and dedication) are invited to take their vows of service and become fully professed.
In college fraternities, the term postulant is also used to describe those who have yet to be initiated into the fraternity, while they are going through the process of becoming a brother or a sister.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Porter, Noah, ed. (1913), Webster's Dictionary, Springfield, Massachusetts: C. & G. Merriam Co.