Society of apostolic life

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St. Philip Neri can be considered the father of Societies of Apostolic Life

A society of apostolic life is a group of men or women within the Catholic Church who have come together for a specific purpose. Unlike members of an institute of consecrated life (religious institute or secular institute), members of apostolic societies do not make religious vows. This type of organization is defined in the Code of Canon Law under canons 731-746. Under the 1917 Code of Canon Law, which preceded the current one, this manner of life was referred to as a society of common life.


Vincent de Paul

While members of apostolic societies have some community life, the mission of the community is given emphasis.[1] According to Robert P. Maloney CM, community life should be strong enough to be supportive to those who have pledged to pursue the same apostolic purpose, and flexible enough to allow members to respond to the urgent needs of those they serve. In community, apostolic societies must maintain a balance between prayer and active works.[2]

The work of various apostolic societies differs significantly from one another. They may focus on preaching, teaching, health-care, seminary education, foreign missions, retreat work, advocacy for justice, and many other objectives. Almost all apostolic societies had their origins in a need to be addressed that their founders recognized. Most apostolic societies focus on one or more aspects of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy.[2] Vincent de Paul's, Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity belong to a group of societies founded in the 16th and 17th century to respond to increasing poverty in France.[3] De Paul chose not to establish the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul as a religious order, as at that time, women religious were "enclosed" (cloistered), and that state was "not compatible with the duties of their vocation".[2]

With the exception of the Oratorians, members can be reassigned among the various communities of the society as needed, and this lack of stability distinguishes this kind of society from some religious orders, such as the Benedictines, Poor Clares or Cistercians.

A community needs the written approval of a bishop to operate within his diocese. Clerics of a society of apostolic life are usually incardinated into the society and not the diocese, unless specified otherwise in its constitution (e.g. the Sulpicians who are members of both the Society and diocese). Each community has a right to its own oratory.

Members of a Society of Apostolic Life are allowed to own personal property, but must normally live in community with one another.

Canon Law (canon 731) speaks of such societies as being "comparable to institutes of consecrated life". They are regulated by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life.

Societies of Apostolic Life[edit]

Uncertain attribution

Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right[edit]

For Men
For Women

Society of Apostolic Life of diocesan Right[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Societies of Apostolic Life", Vincentian Encyclopedia
  2. ^ a b c Maloney CM, Robert P., "Spirituality of Societies of Apostolic Life", Meeting of Members of Societies of Apostolic Life - Ariccia, Italy - November 23-25, 1997
  3. ^ Holland IHM, Sharon L. , "Societies of Apostolic Life. New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, (John P. Beal, James A. Coriden and Thomas J Green, eds.) p. 892. Paulist Press, Mahwah, New Jersey]

Sources and External links[edit]