The Holy Family Secular Institute

What is a consecrated secular ?

We are all consecrated by the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. A secular adds another dimension to her life. She wishes to reaffirm and deepen her baptismal commitment and live it out more intensely. She wishes to give herself to God and to others in such a way that He becomes the motivating force of her personality.

How does she express this consecration ?

She preserves her secularity and expresses self-giving in the Evangelical Counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience. It is a call to remain in the world as a secular.

Is it a permanent way of life ?

Yes, it is a permanent way of life that seeks God as the absolute value but seeks Him in the human realities and makes every effort to bring these human realities into the order desired by God. It is a stabilized way of life.

Why is it called a discreet vocation ?

It is called a discreet vocation because discretion is an integral part of the consecrated secular vocation. Like Jesus the members of a Secular Institute are the leaven immersed in the world around them. Every sphere of life, every profession compatible with the Christian life is entered into. The members of Secular Institutes do exactly this incognito. The consecration is known by the Church but unknown to the world. The Consecration obliges us to be discreet about our commitment and that of our companions.

How and when did the Holy Family Secular Institute start ?

On 25th March 1824 a French priest Pierre Bienvenu Noailles established a special branch of women who felt called to consecrate their lives to God by the three vows of obedience, chastity and poverty, but owing to family or other commitments were unable to live in community. He thus founded a sort of Secular Institute when such a group was not known. They were referred to as Ladies of the Holy Family.

Was this an autonomous group ?

No, there was no distinct government of this group.

When did the Church give status to Secular Institutes ?

It wasn’t till 1947 when Pius XII published the Apostolic Constitution, “Provida Mater Ecclesia” that Secular Institutes were given status in the Church. Later Canon Law did not allow the combination of laity, consecrated seculars and religious Sisters in one group. In 1980 the secular group was henceforth to be known as The Holy Family Secular Institute. This decision was taken while retaining a close link with and being an integral part of the Association of the Holy Family of Bordeaux.

How is the Association of the Holy Family constituted ?

All the members of the Holy Family have the same Apostolic aim and live the same spirituality. The Constitution of the three groups of consecrated life – Contemplative, Apostolic and Secular, as well as the statutes of the Lay and Priest Associates, contain articles in common, which affirm officially the nature and aim of the Association of the Holy Family of Bordeaux.

Where are the Holy Family of Bordeaux’ consecrated members situated ?

We are a small group of women with members in Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Britain, Canada, Democratic Republic of Congo, France, India, Ireland, Italy, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, South Africa, Spain and Sri Lanka. We come from very different cultural backgrounds but we are united in the style of life we have been called to live.

How do Holy Family consecrated seculars live ?

Our lives are very ordinary like that of Jesus, Mary and Joseph at Nazareth. We live out our lives in the social milieu where God places us but without belonging to any specific community or undertaking any corporate work. We live completely alone or with our family. Either way we are always in communion with our Holy Family Religious Sisters, Priests and Lay Associates. It is a discreet vocation and we only tell those whom we can trust, so that we may have more freedom of presence in our actions. We support ourselves and, like everyone else, have to provide for our old age etc. We meet as a group in each country a few times a year and every six years delegates are chosen to attend a General Assembly to elect the General Leader and Councillors.

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