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In the Roman Catholic Church, a secular institute is an organization of individuals who are consecrated persons – professing the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience – while living in the world, unlike members of a religious institute who live in community. It is one of the forms of consecrated life recognized in Church law (cf. the Code of Canon Law, can. 710–730).
A secular institute is an institute of consecrated life in which the Christian faithful living in the world strive for the perfection of charity and work for the sanctification of the world especially from within.
Secular institutes first received papal recognition from Pope Pius XII in Provida Mater Ecclesia (1947). Currently, up to 60,000 members belong to more than 20 secular institutes. As lay ecclesial movements, secular institutes are included in the Directory of International Associations of the Faithful, published by the Pontifical Council for the Laity. However, secular institutes may also have otherwise diocesan priests as members, and some are founded specifically for diocesan priests who wish to take vows and lead a consecrated life while still being incardinated in their diocese and working in the diocesan framework. Some Secular Institutes even train and incardinate their own priests, such as the Schoenstatt Fathers.