Secular Institutes were officially approved as an original form of consecrated life within the church in 1947. Their members have the special mission “to work for the sanctification of the world from fully within the world.” Secular Institutes help to form lay people whose vowed consecration to God gives them the inner strength and vitality to witness to Christ in secular surroundings.
Members of Secular Institutes exercise a powerful timely lay apostolate in the midst of the world – the world of politics, economics, medicine, art, education, technology, family life and labor. Members of each Secular Institute get together periodically for spiritual renewal and mutual support but ordinarily do not live together in community.
The Archdiocese of Washington has a number of Secular Institutes whose single lay members and priests profess the evangelical counsels and spread Gospel values according to a specific charism and spirituality. Like religious institutes each has a period of formation for new members. Most members live alone while striving for holiness in the “marketplace” and provide for their own living expenses, health insurance, and retirement.