Anglican religious orders still attract
novices both in the US and overseas.
Ancient Origins--Modern Relevance
The religious orders within the church can trace their ultimate origins to the Egypt in the early the fourth century, where St. Pachomius and a group of devoted followers organized themselves into a religious community. From this early source sprang the great monastic orders of the West--the Benedictines in the sixth century, the Cistercians in the eleventh century, and the Carmelites in the thirteenth.
One can also place the roots of the mendicant orders within this tradition. Though the emphasis of the friars is on transforming the world rather than retreating from it, they too are organized into communities and their lives and work governed by a rule of faith. The great medieval orders of the Franciscans, Dominicans, and Augustinians all owe something to the Pachomian rule.
Though the greatest flourishing of the religious orders occurred the in the high middle ages, their existence continues even today, and while the sixteenth century reformation may have changed the face of English Christianity, it did not destroy the impulse and desire to live a religious life. Anglicans have continually sought to grow closer to God through lives of quiet devotion and prayer.
In the 17th century, Nicholas Ferrar formed a religious community at Little Gidding, Huntingdonshire, which was organized along High Church principles and the Book of Common Prayer. Though Ferrar never established a regula, or rule, the community at Little Gidding is proof that Anglican reform and the religious life are not incompatible.
In the 19th century, Father Richard Meux Benson formed a religious community at Cowley, Oxfordshire, known as the Society of St. John. The Cowley Fathers, as they came to be known, did live under a rule, and though they engaged in active ministry within the community, they were encouraged to pursue lives of daily contemplation and prayer. From these examples sprang the Religious Communities of the ACC
Religious Orders in the ACC
There are currently two religious orders in the Anglican Catholic Church: The Fraciscan Order of the Divine Compassion (FODC) and the Order of St. Benedict (OSB). Both are open to clergy and laymen alike, as to become a monk, nun or friar involves no sacramental change in (i.e. one does not have to take orders as a deacon or a priest). Both orders function under the guardianship of the Right Reverend William McClean.
Brother John Charles Vockler:
Founder of the FODC.
The Anglican Order of St. Benedict was instituted on August 28, 1981 at the call and by the order of The Right Reverend Addison Hosea, Bishop of Lexington of the Episcopal Church. On December 13, 1986 the monks of the Bethlehem Priory were received into the Anglican Catholic Church and regularized by The Right Reverend William O. Lewis, then Bishop of the Midwest. They are centered today around the Bethlehem Priory, located in Lexington, KY.
The Franciscan Order of the Divine Compassion (FODC) is a religious order of the Anglican Catholic Church founded in 1991 by Brother John-Charles Vockler, a First Order Franciscan friar and Anglican Catholic bishop. The FODC took its name from that of the first American society of Anglican Franciscans. Brother John-Charles later served for several years as Metropolitan Archbishop of the Anglican Catholic Church until his retirement in 2005.
The FODC’s Third Order, also known as the Brothers and Sisters of Penance, is composed of men and women, single and married, clerical and lay, who live in the world, working in their various life callings. They follow a structured Franciscan Rule, pray the Daily Offices of the Church, assist at Mass, perform works of spiritual and corporal mercy, and follow a regimen of meditation and spiritual discipline.
Like their counterparts from an earlier age, members of the ACC's religious orders seek to draw closer to God and work for the renewal of his Holy Church. For more information about their life and work, or to find out about joining one of these religious orders, click the appropriate link at the right.