Monastic Ministry

What is a Monk/What Is A Nun?

What is a monk? A monk is someone who everyday asks, “What is a monk?” - Dom Andre Louf, Cistercian, 1929-2010

The call to join a religious order may seem like a vocation that is more medieval or Roman Catholic than post-modern and Anglican but religious life is a vocation that is living and active in the Anglican Church all around the world. It is a vocation that is rare compared to that of deacon or priest but which remains an important ministry in the life of the Church. Some Christians who are called to a life that is a wholehearted, total gift of themselves to God and to the world through service, prayer, chastity, obedience, and community.

Some questions you might ask yourself, if you are considering a call to religious life (from the website of the Benedictine Women of Madison, WI):

  • Is your heart longing for God?
  • Do you want to live a life in service to others?
  • Are you drawn to explore community living?
A few things a call to religious life is NOT (adapted from the website of the Community of the Holy Spirit, Brewster, NY):
  • an escape from the harsh realities of the world
  • a peaceful way of life
  • a nostalgia trip to medieval Europe
  • a life of uninterrupted prayer
  • a comfortable, holy way to spend retirement

The Order of St. Julian in Waukesha, Wisconsin explains a call to religious life this way: “to give up everything for God and to receive everything from God. It is a call into the depths of Christ’s death and into the joyful gift of his Resurrection.”

To explore a vocation as a monk or nun, begin by visiting religious communities whose mission and way of life speak to you. A call to religious life is not a call in isolation, but a call to live as part of a particular religious community. As you explore, each of these communities will direct you in its own way in how to explore a vocation to their way of life.

Some religious communities are monasteries “without walls,” where members live in their own homes and support themselves financially while following a rule of life and being under the care of an appropriate ecclesial authority. One of the oldest communities following this model is the Brotherhood of St. Gregory, with several members living here in the Diocese of Chicago.

The National Association of Episcopal Christian Communities offers a listing of similar communities.

Some monasteries “with walls” that you might explore, as an Episcopalian:


St. Gregory’s Abbey, Three Rivers, MI

The Order of St. Julian, Waukesha, WI (monks and nuns)

The Society of St. John the Evangelist, Cambridge, MA

The Order of the Holy Cross, West Park, NY; Santa Barbara, CA; Toronto, Canada


The Order of St. Anne, Chicago, IL

The Order of St. Julian, Waukesha, WI (monks and nuns)

The Benedictine Women of Madison, WI (ecumenical)

The Community of the Holy Spirit, Brewster, NY; New York City, NY

The Society of St. Margaret, Duxbury, MA; New York City, NY; Port au Prince, Haiti

Additional Communities

For a listing of additional communities, visit the Conference of Anglican Religious Orders in the Americas website and the Anglican Communion's online listing of Anglican religious communities.