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Jane Ludlow, left, a member of the St. Clare Secular Franciscan Fraternity and of Assumption-Guadalupe Parish in Omaha, stands outside the Poor Sisters of St. Clare Monastery near Elkhorn Jan. 26 along with fraternity members Christine Mehser of St. Mary Magdalene Parish, Randy Hulstein of St. Leo the Great Parish, fraternity president Ann Reynek and her husband, Larry, of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, all in Omaha.

Notre Dame Sister Dorothy Rolf, standing, and Cathy Leak, at right in striped sweater, lead a Jan. 28 planning meeting of the Associates of the Notre Dame Sisters in Omaha.

Laity shares in spirituality, service of religious orders

Another way to grow in faith

Many people seek to deepen their faith through eucharistic adoration, retreats, Bible study, spiritual direction or other faith-building opportunities.

A smaller number choose another, perhaps less widely known option – spiritual formation and active association with religious orders.

Gathering as members of secular "third" orders, oblates, affiliates or lay associations, lay people across the archdiocese are finding opportunities to grow in faith and service as they live out the spirituality of a religious order in their daily lives.

Prospective members often undergo a period of formation; and in some groups, they make professions or commitments to the religious order. In most cases, members take part in ongoing faith formation and assist the religious order in various ways.

For example, members of the Oblates of St. Benedict are supported in their daily faith journey as they gather in service, faith and camaraderie, said Sister Celine Schock, director of oblates with the Missionary Benedictine Sisters, in Norfolk.

An association of lay partners, male and female, the oblates "follow the way of St. Benedict, seeking God while living in the world," she said.

More than 60 oblates from Omaha, Neligh, Norfolk and other communities meet regularly with the sisters for spiritual formation.

One oblate, Diana Gaspers, a member of Sacred Heart Parish in Norfolk and assistant director of the oblates, said those interactions help form members in Benedictine spirituality and support them in their daily lives.

Oblates also help with various needs and projects, such as assisting with funeral lunches and other events in the religious community, she said.

Other groups operate under a similar model: they include Benedictine Oblates with the Benedictines of Mount Michael Abbey near Elkhorn and the Missionary Benedictines in Schuyler; Ignatian Associates with the Jesuit community in Omaha; Associates of the Notre Dame Sisters in Omaha; Servants of Mary Associates with the Servants of Mary in Omaha; the Mercy Associates with the Mercy Sisters in Omaha; and the Affiliates of the Missionary Society of St. Columban in Bellevue.

Another group, the Secular Franciscan Order, previously known as a "third" order (religious priests are first order, and religious sisters are second order) has three fraternities in the archdiocese – the Pater Noster Fraternity and St. Clare Secular Franciscan Fraternity, both of Omaha, and the Bonaventure Fraternity of Columbus.

Members of several groups tell their stories. Click the links below.

Search leads to centuries-old secular order

Benedictine oblate enjoys monastic way of life

Notre Dame Sisters, associates share bond

Lay Associates, Oblates and secular Orders

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