Brighton, England, UK: On Sunday 23rd July, 2017, His Grace Metropolitan Jerome OSJV of Selsey issued a decree erecting a new congregation for the governance of religious Orders and societies of apostolic life. Acceding to various petitions received by canonical orthodox Old Roman Catholic bishops, His Grace has responded by providing a centre of focus, administration and governance that “the clergy and faithful may have confidence in the discernment and governance of religious life and those societies of apostolic life which they may desire to join or form for the furtherance of the Faith, their personal sanctification and acts of collective piety, and in which to engage in common charitable works and collective acts of corporal mercy.” Recognising that there are many who feel called to devote their lives demonstrably to Christ through religious consecration or who wish to sanctify their lives more deeply through pious associations, and recognising that often such people are mostly through physical distances unable to form conventional religious communities, and even those that are require guidance and counsel, it is hoped the Congregation of the Divine Charity may provide a centrally administered focus for religious vocations, the development of religious Orders and provide governance for such institutions and groups.
There is a long history of religious Orders in Old Roman Catholicism but due to size. the distances between churches, parishes and dioceses, various attempts at religious life by small groups have often fizzled out, resulting in a few stranded vocations whether professed or tertiary without support, guidance and counsel. The idea of the Congregation of the Divine Charity or “CDC” is to provide an umbrella structure through which religious vocations may be expressed and directed toward existing communities and Orders, new orders may be helped and founded, and to act as a point of information for bishops and the wider church about the religious Orders as well as provide governance and oversight.
The CDC provides a structure for incardination, assessment and discernment of religious vocations. The Congregation will have a common Postulancy programme for individuals exploring the religious life to begin tentatively living it with guidance and get to know those Orders and communities that are members of the Congregation, to explore the particular charisms and spirituality already available and perhaps seek to try their vocations further through an elected novitiate. The CDC also provides a way of trying vocations without putting at risk smaller Orders for whom it may be difficult to practically assess a vocation or take the risk of admitting an unknown person to a small community; postulants and religious will get to know each other through the postulancy process before a postulant and an Order mutually elect to begin a novitiate. Already the Congregation has been joined by the Oratorians of St John Vianney (founded 2007) and a new Dominican Order and a Benedictine Congregation of Hermits, both in early stages of formation. It is hoped the CDC will inspire a revival of religious discernment and vocation within the Old Roman Catholic tradition in the 21st century.