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). 

Executive Committee

In August 2016 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)

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.

Section 2

Organization and operations of the CMIS

Art. 5. The General Assembly and the Executive Council assure the operations of the CMIS.

A. The General Assembly

Art. 6. The General Assembly is the main governing body within the CMIS.

Art 7. The General Assembly consists of the Directors General. In the case a Director General is unable to attend, he/she may be replaced by a delegate chosen from among the members of his/her Institute. Prior to the opening of the Assembly said delegate is to present a written proxy to the secretary of the Executive Council.

The General Assembly bears exclusive responsibility for the World Conference of Secular Institutes. The quorum necessary for the validity of its acts is more than half of the secular institutes with the right to take part therein.

The Directors General of Institutes have active voice (the right to vote) and passive voice (the right to be elected). Their delegates may only exercise the right to vote.

The members of the outgoing Executive Council who are no longer Directors General participate in the General Assembly without the right to vote.

Art. 8. The presidents of the national and/or territorial conferences are invited to attend the General Assemblies. They have the right to speak, but neither passive nor active voice, except if they are also the Director General of their respective Institute.

Art. 9. Tasks

The tasks of the General Assembly are as follows:

  1. make decisions by a relative majority except those mentioned at article 24;
  2. elect its presidency council or moderator/chairperson, who presides over discussion and the proceedings of the Assembly and communicate the Acts to the Holy See;
  3. discuss and vote on the agenda proposed by the Executive Council;
  4. receive the report of activities of the Executive Council;
  5. set the criteria regulating financial participation;
  6. discuss and vote the proposals that express the needs, the interests and the opinions of Secular Institutes to be submitted to the Holy See;
  7. determine the directives for the work of the Executive Council until the next General Assembly;
  8. approve the electoral by-laws;
  9. elect the Executive Council in conformity with the electoral by-laws;
  10. vote, if necessary, on the modification of the Statutes;
  11. elect the three member electoral committee, which will organize the holding of elections according to the electoral by-laws.

Art. 10. Ordinary General Assembly

The General Assembly meets in ordinary session every four (4) years. The date and the place of the meeting shall be proposed by the previous General Assembly. The Executive Council shall inform the Institutes on the choice of the theme. The Institutes shall receive the notice of convocation at least one year before the General Assembly is to take place.

Art. 11. Extraordinary General Assembly

An Extraordinary General Assembly may be held in case of need. It shall be convened by the Executive Council at the request of at least two thirds (2/3) of its members, or at least half (1/2) of the Directors General. The notice of convocation must be sent at least three (3) months before the session and must state the subject and the reasons why such a session is necessary.

If it deems this to be necessary, and with the approval of the Holy See, an Extraordinary General Assembly may elect a new Executive Council.

B,- The Executive Council

Art.12. Nature

The Executive Council implements the directives of the General Assembly. It is elected for four (4) years.

If at any time important events regarding the participation of CMIS. in the life of the Church should arise, and with respect to which the General Assembly has not expressed its views, the Executive Council shall consult all the Institutes before taking any initiative, unless it is a question of urgent and ad hoc matters, in which case it shall inform all the Institutes as soon as possible about any decisions taken,

 Art. 13. Composition of the Executive Council

The Executive Council shall consist of nine (9) Directors General. Its composition must express the pluralism of the Institutes; in order to guaranty this pluralism, the General Assembly shall approve the electoral by-laws.

All the members of the Executive Council are equally co-responsible. Consequently, each member shall be informed about all the activities of the other members, including those of the secretariat, and the Executive Council shall decide the assignment of tasks according to needs and possibilities.

Art. 14. Election of the Executive Council

The Executive Council shall be elected in the following manner:

All Directors General, whether present or not at the Assembly and after having given their consent, are eligible, except for those who have already been elected to two consecutive terms of office as a member of the Executive Council. The election will take place in conformity with the electoral by-laws.

Art. 15. Functions of the Executive Council

The Executive Council meets at least once a year.

The functions of the Executive Council are as follows:

  1. elect its presidency council by an absolute majority in the first two ballots. A relative majority suffices in the case of a third ballot. In the case of an equal number of votes received, the youngest member is elected;
  2. vote the decisions by a relative majority except if otherwise indicated in the statutes;
  3. take the initiatives necessary to implement the decisions of the Assembly;
  4. approve each year’s financial statement and budget;prep
  5. are the next General Assembly and its agenda after consultation with the members of the CMIS.;
  6. convene the Assembly and provide for its practical organization;
  7. present to the Assembly for approval the report of its activities and the financial report covering the previous four years;
  8. convene, if necessary, an Extraordinary Assembly that may elect a new Executive Council to complete the term of office underway;
  9. appoint the secretary and the treasurer by a relative majority, for the time determined by itself;
  10. regularly inform the competent Congregation and the Institutes about its activities.

 The Executive Council is responsible for the functioning of the working groups it creates on its own and for any specific encounters organized to deepen the nature and mission of Secular Institutes.

Art. 16. Replacement of a Member of the Executive Council

A Director General of a Secular Institute who is a member of the Executive Council and whose term of office as Director General expires before the next General Assembly, shall remain a member of the Executive Council unless his/her Institute specifically withdraws its authorization.

If such authorization is withdrawn, or if a member of the Executive Council finds it impossible to carry out his/her function, the Council shall replace this member taking into account the total list of elected candidates during the Assembly, and the pluralism of Secular Institutes. 

Art. 17. The Presidency

The Executive Council shall elect three (3) of its members to form its presidency.

The person that obtains more votes has the title of President of the Council. In case of parity, the youngest is elected. The President has no decisional power. He/she acts as the coordinator of the Council and the representative of the CMIS.

If a member of the presidency is no longer able to exercise his/her mandate, or resigns from office, the other members of the presidency inform the Executive Council, which at its next meeting will hold new elections for the presidency.

Art. 18. Functions of the Presidency

The functions of the Presidency are to assure the continuity of the operations of the Executive Council and implement its decisions. Among other things, it is to:

  • prepare and animate the meetings of the Executive Council;
  • have information circulate among the members of the Executive Council;
  • maintain contacts with the competent Congregations;
  • give the necessary instructions for the operations of the secretariat;
  • submit the annual statement of accounts and the annual budget to the Executive Council.

The Presidency regularly informs the Executive Council about its activities.

Art. 19. The Secretary

The Secretary is appointed by the Executive Council, by an absolute majority. He/she is chosen from among the members of the Institutes.  In carrying out his/her functions, he/she is accountable to the Executive Council, whose meetings he/she attends without the right to vote.

The duration and the form of the Secretary’s term of office are determined by the council. At the end of the mandate, the outgoing Secretary shall prolong his/her functions until the next Secretary has been appointed.

The main tasks of the Secretary are:

  • to guarantee an efficient and well run secretariat;
  • to prepare and sign, with the Presidency, the minutes of the meetings of the Executive Council and the Presidency;
  • to prepare the documents for the meetings of the Executive Council and the General Assembly;
  • to ensure communication between the Executive Council and the Directors General;
  • to conserve the CMIS. archives;
  • to attend to matters of ordinary correspondence;
  • to maintain the updated official list of the Secular Institutes and the Directors General;
  • to attend to publications and their diffusion.

 The Secretary may represent the CMIS in official meetings, with a proxy from the President.

Art. 20. The Treasurer

The Treasurer is appointed by each Executive Council.  He/she exercises his/her functions in dependency of the Executive Council and in close collaboration with the Secretary.

The main functions of the Treasurer are to:

  • attend to the bookkeeping and financial administration of the CMIS.;
  • collaborate with the Secretary in order to ensure payment of the annual membership fee;
  • prepare and present the annual financial statement and itemized budget;
  • sign documents relative to the financial administration;
  • attend to the payment of ordinary invoices with the agreement of the Secretary and up to the amount set by the Executive Council at each meeting. The prior written authorization of the presidency is needed in order to settle bills exceeding that amount.

Art. 21. Commissions and working groups

The Executive Council may create working groups or ad hoc commissions to implement the orientations of the General Assembly.

These groups consisting of members of Secular Institutes and/or external experts shall work under the responsibility of the Executive Council, which is to inform the CMIS. member Institutes about the results of their work.

Art. 22. Financement

The activities of the CMIS. shall be financed by the membership fees of the Institutes and other contributions.

The membership fee of the Secular Institutes is established each year by the Executive Council and is set according to the number of respective members.

Art. 23. Interpretation

Should interpretation of the Statutes be required, the presidency will consult the competent Congregation.

Art. 24. Modifications

Any modification of these Statutes requires a two/thirds (2/3) majority of the votes of the Directors General present at the General Assembly and approbation by the Holy See.

Art. 25. Dissolution

In the case of the dissolution of the CMIS., the material goods and financial assets belonging to it will be conveyed to a similar organization, with the agreement of the Holy See.

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).

  • "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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