November 18, 2007

“Secular institute” members make vows of poverty, celibacy and obedience...

... but they are “secular,” rather than “religious” order members.

That’s one way of putting it.

Last Friday, I traveled north from my monastery in San Diego County, through Orange County, to West Covina in Los Angeles County. There I spoke at a day of prayer in the house of a secular institute called “Father Kolbe Missionaries of the Immaculata.”

Catholics rarely meet members of secular institutes, so I thought it would be interesting to post something on my blog about them.

Here are only a few of the Church’s canonical regulations for secular institutes.
Canon 207— §2. ... there exist Christian faithful who are consecrated to God in their own special manner and serve the salvific mission of the Church through the profession of the evangelical counsels by means of vows or other sacred bonds recognized and sanctioned by the Church....

The evangelical counsels are: poverty, celibacy, obedience.
Canon 710— A secular institute of consecrated life in which the Christian faithful living in the world strive for the perfection of charity and work for the sanctification of the world especially from within.

Canon 714— Members are to lead their life according to the norm of the constitutions, in the ordinary conditions of the world, either alone or each in their respective families, or in a group of brothers or sisters.

Each secular institute has its own normative constitutional laws. In some secular institutes, members may hold ordinary “secular” jobs; in others, the members may be employed only in specifically Church-oriented or Church administered works. Members of a secular institute might live with each other in groups, they might each live alone, or they might each live with members of their respective families of origin.

Since they are “secular,” the Church does not direct the members of secular institutes to wear a habit. Whereas the members of some religious orders choose to wear no habit at all— despite the Church directing religious to wear a habit— the intentional lack of a habit in secular institutes is not a sign of choosing to contradict the Church. In fact, secular institutes represent and live out great fidelity to the teachings and leadership of the Church.

The women’s secular institute “Father Kolbe Missionaries of the Immaculata” (FKMI) started in Italy. They are now in several countries around the world. Their mission in West Covina is the only one so far in the United States, and has six women currently stationed there.

All FKMI members aim collectively and personally to live the fullness of their baptismal consecration, strive for holiness, and promote the knowledge and veneration of Mary in order to realize a Marian and missionary presence in the Church and the world.

No matter what other apostolic works the FKMI happen to do, the center of their service to the others in the Church is to call and form them towards personal consecration to Mary the Immaculate as a path for the servants of Jesus. At Cana in the Gospel, Mary was instrumental in the inauguration of the faith of the disciples of Jesus by her telling the servants of her son, “Do whatever he tells you!”

So, in addition to promoting personal consecration to the Immaculate, the West Covina house of the FKMI also:
+ collaborates with the local parish church in preparing teenagers for the sacrament of confirmation;
+ organizes retreats for younger adults, older adults, married couples;
+ puts on camps for teen girls and for teen boys;
+ presents family programs and events;
+ provides study and formation in spirituality;
+ sponsors pilgrimages;

The FKMI secular institute has an Italian-language website, with links to versions of their information in other languages. (However, I found that the English-language page is not presently working.)

I am sure their West Covina mission house would be happy to answer any questions or send you more information if you sent them an e-mail at the following address.Their other contact information:

Father Kolbe Missionaries of the Immaculata
531 E. Merced Ave.
W. Covina, CA 91790
Telephone (626) 917-0040

There's a religious life webpage out there with more vocational information on the FKMI, including a photo of the West Covina members standing in front of the gatehouse of my monastery.
Click HERE for it.


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