Agrégées and Canonical Sisters

June 11, 2010 by

(UPDATED: June 11, 2016)

In reaching back to our roots in 17th century France, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia discovered — and revitalized — a type of committed spiritual life for women known as “agrégées.”

The order, which has grown worldwide over the centuries and now has autonomous congregations in more than 50 countries, began in the French city of LePuy in 1650. Based on research into the original constitution and rules for the congregation, written by founder and Jesuit priest Jean-Pierre Medaille, the sisters now recognize that in addition to vowed members of the order, there were also “agrégée sisters,” from a French word meaning “attached to” or “aggregated with.”

An agrégée — pronounced ah-gre-ZHEY — did not make vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. But she lived according to the rules of the Sisters of St. Joseph, and was recognized by the local people and the local churches as a Sister of St. Joseph.

In the past decades, the modern Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia studied our origins and our original spirituality, and have revived that early practice based on what we learned. The Senate of the Concordia congregation approved agrégée membership in 2006.

The first modern agrégée sister — Rosabel Flax of Ness City, Kan. — professed a vow of fidelity to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia in 2008.

Sister Emily Brito of Bosque Farms, N.M., was the 14th to enter the congregation, in June 2016, with other agrégée sisters living and serving in the Kansas cities of Concordia, Augusta, Chapman, Norton and Topeka as well as Kansas City and St. Louis, Mo.; Elizabeth, Fruita and Grand Junction,  Colo.; and Douglasville, Ga.

There are also currently two candidates who live in Junction City Kan., and Norman, Okla.

Agrégée sisters are defined as single Catholic women (who may be never married or widowed, or who have had their marriage annulled) who commit themselves to active and inclusive love of God and the dear neighbor as expressed in the spirit and spirituality of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia. In almost every aspect, they are viewed as members of the congregation, meaning they have a voice and a vote on congregational issues.

There are three significant differences, however.

• “Canonically vowed sisters” profess the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, as defined by canon — or church — law. As part of the vow of poverty, an individual sister relinquishes all personal wealth and income; at the same time, the congregation assumes responsibility for her economic well being for the rest of her life.

• “Agrégée sisters” profess a vow of fidelity to the congregation, but it is noncanonical, meaning that it is not governed by Church law and is instead a private vow between that sister and the Concordia congregation. It also means that the agrégée does not relinquish her finances to the congregation, and the congregation assumes no financial responsibility for her.

• Women interested in either form of membership begin their candidacy with about two years of discernment and study. At the end of that time, those who feel called to canonically vowed religious life will enter a “novitiate,” when they leave their previous life and live as part of the sisters’ community but have not yet taken up their works as a Sister of St. Joseph. For a woman who feels called to agrégée membership, there is also a third year of study and preparation, but they do not leave behind their outside lives. Instead, they meet with mentors and study around their regular work and life schedules. And once they have professed their vows, they continue in that work and life schedule.

The definition of who may become an agrégée sister is continuing to be refined as individuals feel called to the community, explained Sister Marcia Allen, the president of the congregation.

“This opens up our charism to people who might not have traditionally given thought to religious life,” Sister Marcia said. “We haven’t answered all the questions, but we will — as they’re asked.”

 

Comments

3 Responses to “Agrégées and Canonical Sisters”

  1. Kathleen Williams on May 22nd, 2020 5:24 pm

    I am very interested in the Agregee sisters. Can you live out of state and be involved and what is you rule? Do you need the annulment before you start the process? Do you help connect with service work or do we make connection thru our own church’s? I need more detailed information please.
    Sincerely,
    Kathleen Williams

  2. Anne Horst on May 25th, 2016 8:11 am

    I’ve known for sometime that a Sister who was in school with me (New Almelo & Leoville), Delphia Dwyer is a member of your congregation. I would like to renew contact with her if possible. Thank you. Anne (Otter) Horst

  3. kate killebrew on May 6th, 2015 2:28 pm

    Can agregees be married?

    Any age limit?

    Thanks!

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