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Catholic Dictionary




Members of a religious institute of women who are not bound by choir duty or engaged in the distinctive apostolate of the rest of the community. Their role in a community of nuns is to serve the physical and temporal needs of those who are strictly cloistered. The term "extern Sisters" is sometimes used, but the expression is misleading. They are full members of the community and share in all its spiritual benefits. The Holy See has provided that monasteries of contemplative nuns may have "Sisters employed in the external service of the convent, in accordance with the statutes of each Institute" (Sacred Congregation for Religious and for Secular Institutes, Venite Seorsum, August 15, 1969). Since the Second Vatican Council, however, the Church's general policy is not to favor a division of classes in convents. Therefore, "unless conditions really suggest something else, care should be taken that there be only one class of Sisters in communities of women" (Perfectae Caritatis, 15).