Secular Institutes and CMIS

World Conference of Secular Institutes

CMIS (Secular Institutes World Conference) was founded in 1972 and received approval from the Holy See in 1974. Its goal is to organize collaboration among Secular Institutes so they can become, in the most effective way possible, a "leaven in the world for the strengthening and growth of the body of Christ," that is, the Church (Perfectae Caritatis, 11). In this way, CMIS can help each Institute better achieve its own end.

In particular, CMIS:

1. Facilitates contacts, the exchange of experiences and fraternal assistance between Institutes. It also maintains relationships with other groups such as the Secular Institutes Regional and National Conferences in a spirit of service.

2. Promotes study and research that will lead to a deeper understanding of the mission Secular Institutes have today, using documents from the Holy See and the Council as a basis, and taking into account the lived experience of the same Institutes.

3. Expresses the needs, interests, and opinions of the Institutes to the Holy See (extract from Art. 1 of the Statutes).

"The CMIS is a meeting place for exchange and study in the service of the Institutes” (extract from Art. 2 of the Statutes). 

Statutes CMIS

Secular Institutes were constituted on February 2nd, 1947 by Pope Pius XII, who promulgated the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia, later integrated by numerous texts that include : the Motu Proprio Primo feliciter (1948), the Decree of Vatican Council II Perfectae caritatis (# 11) in 1965, and the Apostolic Exhortation Vita consecrata (especially # 10) in 1996.

In 1983 the Code of Canon Law recalled the provisions common to all institutes of consecrated life and specified the provisions particular to secular institutes:

“A secular institute is an institute of consecrated life in which Christ’s faithful, living in the world, strive for the perfection of charity and endeavour to contribute to the sanctification of the world, especially from within” (canon # 710).

“Without prejudice to the provisions of the law concerning institutes of consecrated life, consecration as a member of a secular institute does not change the member’s canonical status among the people of God, be it lay or clerical” (canon # 711).

Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life

Prot. N. I.s. 6461/12

DECREE

The charism of the consecrated life inserted in the Trinitarian history of salvation as a form of its enactment and living proclamation commits each consecrated person to develop a spirituality of communion that becomes styles of life generating mission. The World Conference of Secular Institutes is to be seen in this context as a reality called to foster mutual exchange among institutes and ecclesial collaboration according to the specificity of secular consecration.

The experience garnered since the CMIS was canonically erected close to forty years ago confirms the importance of such an organ of communion among secular institutes throughout the world. This time has also served to further clarify the nature of the CMIS, where the multiplicity of charisms offers a specific contribution so the Church may ever more profoundly bring into being its nature as sacrament of God’s intimate union with humanity (cf.Lumen Gentium , n°1).

In order to further clarify its service proper and the diverse ambits of collaboration among institutes, in relationship with the other forms of consecrated life and in fecund dialogue with Pastors, the Assembly of Directors General, after preparatory work involving all the institutes, approved the new Statutes of the Conference and now requests the ratification thereof.

The Congregation for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, after an accurate examination of the documentation submitted and after having been notified that on 30 October 2012 the Holy Father had benevolently granted to CMIS the status of juridical person in the Vatican City State,

APPROVES

the new text of the CMIS Statutes with the amendment to article 4 according to the copy of the text conserved in its Archives, recognizing it as compliant with the norms of Canon Law.

All contrary provisions notwithstanding

Given at the Vatican, on this 4th day of December 2012.

Card. João Braz de Aviz, Prefect
P.Sebastiano Paciolla, O. Cist. Under-Secretary

Section 1

Art. 1. The World Conference of Secular Institutes (CMIS) is an organ of communion whose aim is to foster collaboration among secular institutes so as to enable their members to be, according to the words of Vatican Council II, “more effectively a leaven for the vigor and growth of the Body of Christ“ (Perfectae caritatis, 11) in the world. In this way it will help each Institute to better realize its own aim.

The CMIS has, among other aims, to

  • a) favour contacts, exchanges of experiences and fraternal help among the institutes. It maintains relations with other groupings such as national and territorial conferences in a spirit of service;
  • b) sustain those experiences where the consecrated secular life is budding, and accompany endeavors to create national and territorial conferences;
  • c) engage in dialogue with the Holy See on the developments of consecrated secular life in the world;
  • d) promote studies and research endeavors in order to gain greater insight into the nature and the present-day mission of Secular Institutes, basing itself on the documents of the Magisterium of the Church and taking into account the experiences lived by the Institutes themselves;
  • e) in general, bring the needs, interests and opinions of the Institutes to the attention of the Holy See.

Each Institute retains the right to engage in direct relations with the Holy See.

Art. 2. The CMIS acts in total communion with the Apostolic See.

Consequently:

  • it is a place of encounter, exchange and research at the service of secular institutes in a spirit of healthy pluralism and within the framework of the CMIS Statutes.
  • its structure and operations leave each Institute completely autonomous to determine the forms of its life and apostolate in accord with its original charisma and the norms of the Church.

Art. 3. Members

The Secular Institutes of diocesan or pontifical right, approved by the Church, represented by their respective Directors General, are members by right of the CMIS

This right may be exercised, in fact, only after having accepted the Statutes of the CMIS in accordance with the modalities established by the Executive Council.

Art. 4. Official Headquarters

The World Conference of Secular Institutes CMIS to which the Holy Father, on October 30, 2012, granted benevolently the status of juridical civil person, has its headquarters in the Vatican City State.

What are the Secular Institutes?

"A secular institute is an institute of consecrated life in which Christ’s faithful, living in the world, strive for the perfection of charity and endeavor to contribute to the sanctification of the world, especially from within” (Canon 710).

Secular institutes are a still young reality in the history of the Church. They emerged in the first half of the nineteenth century and were approved by Pope Pius XII in 1947 through the Apostolic Constitution Provida Mater Ecclesia and via the Motu Proprio Primo Feliciter in 1948.

Until then, all those who wanted to devote themselves to God had to leave the world and enter religion, either in a Religious Order or in a Congregation. Since the appearance of Secular Institutes, lay people who feel the call to live the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience, can consecrate themselves to God, without losing their secular state in the Church, by sanctifying themselves in the world and from within the world itself.

Secular institutes combine secularity and consecration: in fact, the members of a secular institute are fully secular and fully consecrated, joining in themselves two realities that until now were incompatible with each other. They are fully consecrated to God as the religious and they are as secular as the rest of the Christians who are not clerics. The fact that they live in the midst of the world, performing the most varied professions in different social environments, does not diminish their consecration. Nothing loses their secular essence not even the reason of being consecrated to God. The member of a secular institute is not a member of a religious order. He or She is a lay person (a doctor, a teacher, a lawyer, a mechanic ... ), a lay person consecrated to God by the following of the evangelical counsels. He or she lives in the world within the ordinary circumstances of family, work and social life, which weave his or her own existence.

Thus, secular institutes unite these two realities which had been previously considered incompatible: secularity (by which its members remain laypeople) and total consecration of the life to God. Hence, it is not easy to understand this is a gift that the Holy Spirit gave to his Church: consecrated secularity.

So, since Pius XII onwards, all the popes have emphasized that secular institutes are the work of the Holy Spirit that constantly renews its Church to meet the needs of today's evangelistic mission in the world. Secular institutes are located in the context of the conciliar way of the Church to rediscover the value of creation and the original call addressed to each person in their mission to care the world and transform it according to the God’s will ( cf. Gen. 2 15 ).

"Now it is necessary to know and make known this vocation that is so relevant and, I should say, so urgent, the vocation of persons who consecrate themselves to God by practicing the evangelical counsels and strive to immerse their whole lives and all their activities in that special consecration, creating in themselves a total availability to the Father's will and working to change the world from within” said Blessed John Paul II (3/5/83).

Nowadays most of the fields of human activity that rule the world and determine behavioral patterns for all humanity are in the hands of the laity. If there are people consecrated to God, who love the Lord as the only love of their lives and, in turn, are fully competent in the practice of their profession- which they perform as a way of ordering all human realities according to God’s will - then it is more likely that the world will be renewed in Christ "from within like leaven" (Lumen Gentium 31). Thanks to this vital synthesis between consecration and secularity, the member of a secular institute combines in his or her life the passion for God and the passion for humanity. He or she gives himself or herself fully to God and to the world so that the world can perceive the salt of the Gospel, the fragrance of Christ.

The doctrine of the Church also expects that priests to associate to secular institutes. Although due to the sacrament of the Holy Orders they become pastors of the People of God, dedicating their lives to the ministry of the Word and the Sacraments, by no means do they lose their intrinsic relationship with the world. And this fact enables them to participate in the charism of secular institutes by offering this experience of consecration in the world through the evangelical counsels of the presbytery in which they are inserted.

Many are the circumstances and needs of the world. So, many are the kinds of secular institutes. There are only female institutes, which are the majority. Others are only made up of laymen, or include priests too. And finally, there are secular institutes that combine the three branches: laymen, laywomen and priests.

As for their lifestyles, many members of secular institutes live with their families or alone. Others form small groups of common life. Some secular institutes have their own apostolic works, while others reject them by rule. In short, there exists within these institutes a healthy and rich pluralism that the Church has always kept and defended.
The charisma of secular institutes expresses clearly some of the basic guidelines outlined by the Second Vatican Council: the universal call to holiness, the presence in the world to sanctify it from within, etc. "If they remain faithful to their vocation, they will be like an experimental laboratory in which the Church tests the concrete modes of its relations with the world" (Paul VI, March 25th, 1976).

Executive Committee

Last August in Rome, the General Assembly elected a new Executive Committee, that chose afterwards its new Presidency. From now on, this new Presidency is composed of three members coming from Brazil, Italy and Poland: Jolanta Spilarewicz (Chairman), Elba Catalina Fleita and Margherita Palazzi. The 6 other members of the Executive Committee come from Canada, France, India, Italy and Spain.

The Presidency of the Cmis meets the cardinal Prefect and the risponsibles of the Congregation.
(21.09.2016)

  • "A secular institute is an institute of consecrated life in which Christ’s faithful, living in the world, strive for the perfection of charity and endeavor to contribute to the sanctification of the world, especially from within” (Canon 710).
  • Secular institutes combine secularity and consecration: in fact, the members of a secular institute are fully secular and fully consecrated, joining in themselves two realities that until now were incompatible with each other.
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