Vincentian Family and a Growing Trend – Lay Associates

by | Oct 1, 2016 | Church, News

lay-associates-featured-facebookAlthough many religious congregations have decreased in membership since the Second Vatican Council, a growing number of laypeople are offering a vital presence through associate membership. The Vincentian Family, with its deep roots in the organizations of laity founded by Vincent and Louise or inspired by them in later centuries, is no exception to this trend toward lay associates.

Keep in mind that one of the contributions of Vincent and Louise was their empowerment of the laity. Father Delgado writes:

The biographers of Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac highlight their important contribution to the promotion of the laity, especially women. They also point out the various ways in which Vincent and Louise promoted the laity to take responsibility for their proper apostolate in the Church. The many impressive Vincentian accomplishments cannot be understood apart from the participation of so many lay persons, so many laymen and laywomen, in the mission.

Many religious orders have lay associates but not all orders use the same terminology. Other names for lay associates include: oblates, secular third order, tertiaries and affiliates

Today, according to the website of the Sisters of Charity Federation, there are 1950 Associates and Affiliates working collaboratively with 2700 Sisters in 50 sponsored ministries in 25 countries.

Patti Maguire Armstrong of OSV Newsweekly offers the following insights…

What was largely unheard of 20 years ago has spread to 378 religious institutions of professed priests, sisters and brothers. A new survey conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate for the North American Conference of Associates and Religious (NACAR) reported that the number of associate laypeople has more than doubled in 15 years. Over 55,000 are serving among the congregations of professed sisters, brothers and priests in the United States and Canada, up from to 25,500 in 2000. And in 2000, there was an 11,000 increase from 1995.

In the scheme of religious history, the associate movement is young and still evolving. In the early days, congregations invited people into an associate relationship less formally after they showed an interest and a calling to share the mission. The movement grew, along with awareness of the mutually beneficial relationship. NACAR celebrated 20 years this year as a promoter and a catalyst for the associate movement in North America..

The biggest attraction identified for associates is a desire for a deeper spiritual life and the sense of community. Jeanne Connolly, vice president of the NACAR board and director of covenant companionship with the Wheaton Franciscan sisters in Wheaton, Illinois, has been an associate for 21 years. Her congregation has included associates for 33 years and currently has 39 of them.

For an informal overview visit Jeanne Connolly at the North American Conference of Associates and Religious (NACAR) website.

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