Have you ever wondered if you might be called to religious life or priesthood?


 Have you ever wondered if you might be called to religious life or priesthood?

We can help you discern your vocation, even if it’s not to our community. The information below will help you get a sense of what religious life, the priesthood, and our community are like. If you have any questions, please contact me, Fr. Sean Stilson, BBD, at sean.stilson@gmail.com.

Every religious, including the members of the Brothers of the Beloved Disciple, is consecrated to God by taking the three traditional vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Religious life is a way of imitating Jesus more closely. All Christians follow Jesus, but those who are consecrated by vows give up marriage, wealth, and even homeland in order to follow Jesus as closely as they can. This sacrifice is only worth it because we receive back so much more than we give up.

“There is no one who has given up house or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who will not receive [back] an overabundant return in this present age and eternal life in the age to come.”     ~Luke 18:29-30

While all Christians are called to holiness, deep union with God, and fruitful ministry, religious brothers and sisters receive these gifts in far greater measure. The saints throughout the ages are witnesses to this. The primary goal of a religious is union with God. The secondary goal of a religious is to help others achieve that union with God. This ordering of goals is consistent with Jesus’ teaching that the first commandment is to love God and the second commandment is to love your neighbor. Life together in community offers the support, encouragement, and challenge that each religious needs to follow God’s will faithfully.

There are two types of priesthood in the Catholic Church: diocesan and religious. Both diocesan and religious priests remain celibate. They do not marry. They have chosen to commit their lives to God, rather than to a wife and children.

Diocesan priests commit themselves to a geographic region (a diocese) for the entirety of their lives. They usually serve the people of God by pastoring local parishes.

A religious priest, on the other hand, commits his life to a particular community rather than to a diocese. He adopts the spirituality and mission of that community and can serve in many types of ministry, not just parish ministry.

A diocesan priest does not take the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. In this sense, he has certain freedoms and flexibility that a religious priest does not. For example, diocesan priests handle their own finances, whereas religious priests hand over their income to their community and receive from the community whatever they need.

A religious priest is a religious first and a priest second. His life of prayer and community is valued more highly than ministry, though of course ministry is also important. Because of this, religious priests generally (not always) spend less time in ministry and more time in prayer than diocesan priests.

We call ourselves the Brothers of the Beloved Disciple because we take our inspiration from the beloved disciple, traditionally understood to be St. John the Apostle. We wish to have a close, affectionate relationship with Jesus, recognizing first how much we are loved by him and then loving him in return. We also wish to receive the two gifts that the beloved disciple received at the foot of the cross: the Holy Spirit and Mary. Before his death, Jesus told the beloved disciple, “behold your mother” (John 19:27). We wish to take Mary into our homes and hearts as the beloved disciple did. Upon dying, Jesus “handed over the spirit” (John 19:30) which has a double meaning. He handed over his spirit by breathing his last breath but also handed over the Holy Spirit to his followers who were at the foot of his cross.

What is distinctive about our community as compared to other religious orders is the way we emphasize the Holy Spirit. All communities have some devotion to the Holy Spirit if they are truly Catholic, but we make the Holy Spirit our central focus. We approach the Holy Spirit as a person with whom we wish to have a relationship. We recognize that our natural abilities are not sufficient for advancing the kingdom of God and that we need the gifts of the Spirit. We seek to receive, exercise, and grow in the charisms of the Holy Spirit, including those gifts that most Catholics ignore, namely tongues, prophecy, and healing. We do not want to place limits on what the Holy Spirit can do through us and we don’t want other Christians to do so either. This is why we promote the Catholic Charismatic Renewal as a means of helping the Church to live up to its potential.

Being a member of the community involves particular times of prayer and fellowship together as well as time for self-directed activities such as ministry, study, socializing with friends and family, and relaxing. The scheduled activities are listed below:


  • Divine Office/Liturgy of the Hours together three times a day: morning, evening, and night
  • Mass in the morning
  • Dinner together
  • One hour of personal prayer (on your own schedule)


  • Eucharistic Adoration for an hour
  • Community recreation for an hour
  • Community meeting
  • At least an hour reading Scripture or other spiritual writings (on your own schedule)
  • Take a day off from all community activities to relax and have fun (very helpful)


  • Half-day retreat together
  • Extended recreation outside the community


  • Thanksgiving retreat together
  • Christmas retreat together
  • May retreat together

Most religious orders live a life that combines contemplation and action. Some orders are more contemplative, others more active. Our community probably falls on the more active side. We are not as secluded from the world as many monks are. The time we spend in prayer gives us the strength and guidance we need to be very active in advancing the kingdom of God in the world.

Everyone’s journey is unique, but some actions that can be helpful in discerning your vocation and a possible vocation to our community are the following:

  • Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit
  • Read the lives of the saints to see if you want to live like them
  • Discern with a spiritual director
  • Contact our vocation director, Fr. Sean Stilson, BBD, at sean.stilson@gmail.com to learn more
  • Attend evening prayer, dinner, or recreation with the community to get to know us better
  • Peruse our website and documents to become familiar with our spirituality and mission
  • Spend a few days living with the community to see what our life is like


If you discern that the Lord is calling you to join our community, at least for a time of discernment, then the process would look like the following. Keep in mind that you would always be free to leave as long as you had not made perpetual vows.

  • Apply to join (contact Fr. Sean at sean.stilson@gmail.com)
  • Move into the community house (if your application is accepted)
  • Become an aspirant (about six months of receiving minimal formation and participating in community activities as much as your possible work schedule permits)
  • Become a novice (a year of more intense prayer and formation in how to be a religious)
  • Become a brother by taking first vows (temporary vows of poverty, chastity, obedience, and Marian consecration)
  • Renew your temporary vows each year for up to seven years
  • Take perpetual (permanent) vows after at least four years of temporal vows
  • Be ordained a priest as well if that is your calling
  • Be a holy religious brother for life

“Jesus gathered into community persons of very diverse backgrounds and talents. The early Church was an outstanding witness of the power of the gospel to unite diverse cultures and races as well as highly diversified individuals.  This task has never been without tensions, and they become more evident in a closely-knit community. But for that very reason the ability of such persons to live and work together bears a more powerful witness to the unifying power of Christ’s love.  We welcome this challenge.”     ~Rule of Life 4.7

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