Canon Law

Notes, Commentary, Discussion, Papers & Bibliography

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1983 Code

Book I : General Norms

Book II: People of God

Book II - Part III

Book III: Teaching Office

Book IV: Sanctifying Office

Book V: Temporal Goods

Book VI: Sanctions

Book VII: Processes


Code of Canons of Eastern Churches



Contact: Amy Hereford, csj, JD, JCD

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Holy Faith Sisters

  • March 2021
  • by Amy Hereford, CSJ, JD, JCD

Journey to Completion

  • Orderly transition of ministries
  • Ensure the suitable care of its last members,
  • Passing on of the spiritual patrimony of the institute
  • Settling its legacy, and disposition of any remaining temporal goods.


* Traditional Sponsorship

  • Missio - ensuring the Mission and Catholic Identity
  • Communio - ensuring Communion with the Church
  • Mechanism - Two-Tiered Board with reserve powers 4Ps: People, Purposes, Property, Paper
    • Control purposes, key leaders, ecclesiastical goods, amendment and dissolution
    • Oversee operations and finances
    • Accountability for programs
  • Transfering Sponsorship
  • Ministerial Public Juridic Person
  • Acknowledged as Catholic (schools)
  • No formal sponsorship
  • Relationship: continue volunteers, support, prayers
  • Governance: Member powers given to board, amend articles and bylaws.
  • Finance: Discuss viability and financial support possibilities
    • Legacy vehicle, grant, trust, etc. discussed below
    • Legacy strategy
      • One time grant
      • Endowment
      • Bridge to sustainability


  • Many communities have a funding deficit
  • Two issues
    • Funding
    • Care Plan
      • living arrangments
      • pastoral care, family care
      • opportunities for collaboration through LCWR
  • Funding
    • Held in Operations, Fund or Trust
    • Trust $$ held by Trustee for Beneficiary
      • Trustee
        • Sisters, often leadership, can have non-member trustees
      • Beneficiary
        • Sick, aged and infirm sisters or brothers
    • To Trust or Not to Trust
      • 80s-90s: shield assets from liability or diversion
      • 10s-20s: estate planning: settle assets
        • for care
        • for legacy
          • traditional ministries
          • new and emerging needs
          • other units or other religious
    • Trust $$ held by Trustee for Beneficiary
      • Trustee
        • sisters, often leadership,
        • now consider a successor trustee
      • Beneficiary
        • sisters
        • legacy purpose


  • Canonical Leadership historically serves as Board of Directors, oversees the administration, and is often extensively involved in administration.
  • Effective oversight by canonical leadership is critical
    • Administration can be entrusted to laypeople,
    • Begin to support canonical leadership with staff and committees
    • These persons will continue to support when canonical leadership transitions
    • Laypeople can serve on the board of directors
  • Establish a right-sized administrative support system.
    • Opportunities for collaboration with other institutes/units
    • This would support elected leadership and later forms of canonical leadership
    • Identify a succession plan and put it into place in your civil documents.
    • Ensure that as you entrust increasing authority to others, you are protected.

Community Assistance Ministry

  • Collaborative Community Assistance Ministries
  • Regional collaboration for support with Eldercare and Administration
  • Potential collaboration in supporting commissaries
  • Importance and urgency of establishing as need is growing


  • Canonical Leadership
  • Canon 623 To be validly appointed or elected to the office of superior, members must have been perpetually or definitively professed for an appropriate period of time, to be determined by their own law or, for major Superiors, by the constitutions.
  • The canonical minimum is one leader and two councilors, who may act collaboratively.
  • When no sister or brother is capable or available for this ministry
  • Turn outside for a canonical leader
    • A sister appointed by the congregation from abroad
    • A US sister from another congregation with delegated authority
    • Petition congregational leadership
    • Qualifications:
      • Competent - canonical, pastoral, administrative, financial, legal oversight
      • Disinterested - no financial or canonical interest, not a diocesan employee
      • Canon 318 §1: In special circumstances and where grave reasons require it, the ecclesiastical authority mentioned in can. 312 §1 can designate a trustee (commissarium) who is to direct the association for a time in its name.
    • Merge with another institute or region - Institutes rarely prefer this choice, retain identity, charism to the end.
    • Requires about 18 months to implement once a path is chosen.
  • Alternate path for units: suppress governance
    • Establish an alternate plan for governance
      • No 'province governance'
      • Former provinces - by another name for clarity
      • Governed by elected or appointed brothers/sisters
        • Value of elected or appointed councilors
      • Who together form an expanded congregational council


  • Petition (3-5 pages) – narrative is supported by data in appendices.
    • Request
    • Reasoning
    • Brief History Leading to Petition
    • Consultation and Votes of Community
    • Financial Security
    • Conclusion
    • Signed by Canonical leader
  • Appendices – tables and lists communicate the information more concisely
    • History of Community from foundation to present (1-2 pages)
    • Sisters, ages, living arrangements, and ministry (1 page)
    • Timeline of Meetings / Decision with Community and Commissary (1-2 pages)
    • Council Minutes of Community Resolution for the petition (1 page)
    • USCCB NRRO Retirement Needs Analysis Report
  • Letters of Support
    • Bishop (1-2 pages)
      • Appreciation for the community
      • The community informed me of their plan to…
      • I support the plan.
      • Prayers and let me know how I can help.


  • Canon 634 - Religious Institutes have the “capacity to acquire, possess, administer and alienate temporal goods.”
  • Canon 123 - On the extinction of a public juridical person,
    • the arrangements for its patrimonial goods and rights, and for its liabilities,
    • are determined by law and statutes.
    • If these do not deal with the matter,
    • the arrangements devolve upon the next higher juridical person,
    • always with due regard for the wishes of the founders or benefactors and for acquired rights.
  • Canon 584 - The suppression of an institute pertains only to the Apostolic See; a decision regarding the temporal goods of the institute is also reserved to the Apostolic See.
    • Holy See generally respects the stated dispositions of an institute
    • For the historical ministries of the institute
    • In keeping with the life and mission of the institute
    • The fund for elderly religious,
    • An institute that supports it in the declining years.
  • Trust
    • Legacy clause in a retirement trust
    • Legacy trust


  1. What assets does the group have, financial, real estate, trusts, etc? And approximate value.
  2. What is the current purpose or use of those assets?
  3. What would be the legacy use of those assets? And what might the timeline look like?
  4. What is the best way to ensure that the assets are used for the current purpose, then dedicated to the legacy purpose?
  • Each community will have it's own specific responses
Asset Value Use/Purpose Legacy
Sisters Inc Land $$$ Sisters
Sisters Inc Land $$$ Ministry
Sisters Inc Investments $$$
Trust $$$ Sisters
Retirement Facility $$$ Sisters
Ministry $$$ Ministry

Theology of Completion

  • JB Metz / Karl Rahner
  • Ars moriendi - Unlike the wider Church, religious institutes are not intended to live forever.
  • The “gates of Hell will not prevail against [the church].”
  • Religious institutes are gifts of the Spirit that blows where it will
  • They have a life-span
  • Death is an ending of the life-cycle, not failure or defeat
  • We have a paschal theology.
  • Only if we “cling desperately” to what is passing away, will the end be a defeat. (Metz)
  • Our most important role as Christians is to say “yes” to God, and the final, most complete yes we are called to say is the yes to death. (Rahner)
  • Our call is to come, to follow, to lay down our lives, and to surrender even in death to the call of God who is ever-present in our journey.

Take Aways

  • Plan ahead
  • Be realistic
  • Collaborate
  • You're not alone
  • Be generous and trust


Hereford, Amy. Beyond the Crossroads: Religious Life in the 21st Century. New York: Orbis Books, 2019.

———. “Canon 580: Aggregation and Covenants.” Roman Replies and CLSA Advisory Opinions, 2012, 83–86.

———. “Canon 584: Merging of Institutes.” Roman Replies and CLSA Advisory Opinions, 2011, 90–93.

———. “Canon 625: Minimum Numbers for Governance in a Religious Institute.” Roman Replies and CLSA Advisory Opinions, 2016.

———. “Canon 634: Legacy Distributions for Religious Institutes.” Roman Replies and CLSA Advisory Opinions, 2018.

———. “Charitable Trusts Twenty Five Years Later.” Legal Bulletin 73 (2002): 17–37.

———. “Congregational Legacy Trust.” RLC Newsletter 17, no. 4 (2017): 1–4.

———. “Ministerial Public Juridic Person.” RLC Newsletter 17, no. 3 (2017): 1–4.

———. Navigating Change: The Role of Law in the Life-Cycle of a Religious Institute. St. Louis, MO: Religious Life Project, 2015.

———. “Practical Guidelines for Aging Religious Institutes.” In RCRI Bulletin, 4–20. Silver Spring, MD: RCRI, 2015.

———. “Religious Institutes Coming to Completion and Their Legacy.” Presentation at RCRI, October 3, 2019, Dallas Texas

———. “Transitioning Leadership.” RLC Newsletter 17, no. 2 (2017): 1–4.

———. “Transitioning Sponsorship.” RCRI Bulletin 17 (2017): 5–18.

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hfs2103.txt · Last modified: 2021/01/18 16:02 by amycsj