There are many Catholics who have not been called to vowed consecrated life but rather as formal associates of religious communities. These lay men and women, often called associates, consociates, oblates, or companions, share a commitment to living a particular religious order’s charism, or spirit. These communities invite associates into their ministry and way of thinking.
Most associates choose religious communities because they have been exposed to the community before, such as in school, or they have a strong will to share in the ministry of a particular community.
In a recent article in The Catholic Spirit, Bruce Labno, a 66-year-old Ignatian associate, said, “Ignatian spirituality helps [people] focus on finding God in all things, at any moment, in so many different ways, all of which is called awareness. I have become aware of God around me, of my humanness, my brokenness and the many gifts given that are to be passed on to others. Ignatian spirituality is my way to actively live Christ in the world as it is today.”
Many orders invite associates from all walks of life to join them in ministry and prayer. Men, women, singles, couples, Catholic and non-Catholic, working and retired, may share in the religious community.
For many, such as Mary Ann Pearson, the communities offer a way to connect with God on a different level. “The important thing is this has deepened my relationship with God,” she said. “I think communities like this provide a far richer, deeper way to enhance our relationship with God than just going to church or meeting with a group regularly.”