Who We Are
The mission of the IRL is to proclaim and explain to the world the true nature and essential value of Consecrated/Religious Life as a radical following of Jesus Christ and its vital importance for the welfare of the Church and the salvation of souls.
We include and engage bishops, clergy, religious, consecrated, and lay faithful in a collaborative apostolate, guided by the magisterial teachings and rich heritage of the Church.
Our Guiding Principles
- Fidelity & Obedience: We are guided and animated by the magisterial and pastoral teachings of the Church on religious and consecrated life.
- Unity & Solidarity: We are a lived expression of the principle of solidarity, bringing together Catholic faithful of all vocations and states of life for a common purpose.
- Witness & Example: We believe that the profession of the evangelical counsels and religious in distinctive habits can inspire, sanctify and give powerful witness to the world.
- Tradition & Progress: As religious communities remain faithful to their charism, so we too build upon our rich heritage while responding to the signs of the times.
- Prayer & Service: It is by prayer and service that consecrated men and women imitate Christ and lead others to Him.
Servant of God Rev. John A. Hardon, S.J., established the IRL in 1974 and inspired its work in response to the Holy See’s plea to help save religious life in the United States. He was aided by outstanding co-founders and by early collaborators, including Saint (Mother) Teresa of Calcutta, Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, and many others. Today, the IRL has expanded to meet the needs of established orders and a growing number of emerging religious communities and other institutes of consecrated life. We seek to show all, especially young people and families, the beauty, value, and hope that religious bring to the world. We pray and work for the day when religious will be back in all of our schools, parishes, hospitals, nursing homes, monasteries, and cloistered convents.
Approval of Rome
In 1974, Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J., with the approval of the Sacred Congregation for Religious in Rome, enlisted the support of bishops, religious superiors, laymen, and women to found the IRL to affirm the vocation to consecrated life in accordance with the authentic teaching of the Church and of the Holy Father; promote authentic religious/consecrated life as set forth by Vatican II and their implementation by the Holy See; and to encourage vocations to the religious, consecrated, and priestly life.
Foremost among the bishops who supported the IRL was Most Rev. James J. Hogan, then Bishop of Altoona-Johnstown, PA, who served as the IRL's first president. His Eminence, John Joseph Cardinal Carberry, then Archbishop of St. Louis, served as the second president.
Help From Superiors and Laity
Religious superiors active in the founding were Mother Angela Cettini, D.S.M.P., of the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence in the United States; Mother M. Claudia Honsberger, I.H.M., of the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary in Immaculata, Pennsylvania; retired Abbot Edmund McCaffrey, O.S.B.; and Fr. Louis Cortney, O.S.M., of the Order of the Servants of Mary.
Outstanding laymen who helped in the founding of the IRL were Mr. William J. Isaacson, a mainstay until his death in 1995. Mr. William Fairman, Mr. Francis Milligan, and Mrs. William Spencer were other early lay supporters.
Today, more than 190 religious communities and several Catholic lay organizations and colleges have become Affiliate members of the IRL.
Initial Meetings of Religious
An initial meeting for members was held in Kansas City, Missouri, at Rockhurst College in 1975. In 1976, a meeting was held at Good Counsel High School in Chicago, conducted by the Felician Sisters, which featured Mother Teresa and Most Reverend Fulton J. Sheen, who also spoke at the 1978 meeting in Saint Louis, Missouri.
National Meetings of the IRL have been held annually since 1981 around the country and are now held at University of St. Mary of the Lake / Mundelein Seminary in Mundelein, Illlinois.
Expansion of Services
Regional meetings of the IRL have been held throughout the country and are now held in Los Angeles, Boston, and the Kansas City area.
In 1987, a summer program of theology and spirituality for religious superiors was started, and in 1988, another summer program, for novice masters and formation directors, was begun. Today, the summer schools have been expanded to become the Vita Consecrata Institute, held for priests, men and women religious, and consecrated persons each summer at a convenient location.
The IRL Logo
The Flaming Heart is a symbol of the loving Heart of Christ Who came to "cast fire upon the earth," and the Heart of Mary, enshrined in the Heart of her Son. The flames give expression to the consuming love that consecrated men and women have for the Lord Jesus Christ and all His people. The rays beautifully reflect the light of Christ traveling to the four corners of the earth through the prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of religious men and women throughout the ages unto eternity.
The Dove is a symbol of the Holy Spirit, to Whom each consecrated man or woman is espoused and from Whom all receive supernatural assistance.
The IRL Motto
The IRL motto, Pro Christo et Ecclesia per Mariam, means "For Christ and the Church through Mary."