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How Does a Catholic Nun Spend the Workday?

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Catholic nuns spend their work days in different ways depending on the type of order they belong to. They can be cloistered or contemplative nuns, who spend their days focused on spiritual matters. Or they can be active nuns who have a job within the community that's focused on helping others.

Types of Orders

The Catholic church has hundreds of orders, each with specific daily schedules and duties. Nuns may feel called to one order over the other, which is similar to specializing in one career field over another. Orders can be widely divided into either contemplative/cloistered or active. Active nuns work every day, often outside of the convent. Contemplative nuns stay focused on worship and prayer, while cloistered ones live in the convent with the same contemplative focus. An order can have both types of nuns.

Shared Activities

Whether contemplative or active, nuns tend to start and end their days similarly. The day starts with prayer and reading, followed by vigils. These are services with a mixture of psalms, prayer and meditation. They may recite a morning prayer and observe Mass. They typically take a break to work, then return together at lunch, a rosary and midday prayer. This is followed by more work and time for hobbies, such as writing. At the end of the work day, nuns enjoy dinner and attend Vespers, also known as the evening prayer. Some convents have a time of silence at the end of the day to allow prayer and meditation. Most nuns spend at least two hours a day in contemplative prayer.

Contemplative and Cloistered Nuns

Contemplative nuns live lives focused on worship and prayer. Cloistered nuns and certain groups of contemplative nuns do the same, but they never leave the convent and, in some cases, never speak. For these nuns, friends will run errands and get supplies for them. They detach completely from family and rarely visit with them. The work that contemplative nuns do during the day varies. they are limited to acts of service that can be performed within the convent walls, such as baking Communion bread for the community. They might also do service acts, such as checking the convent's mail, cooking, cleaning and sewing.

Active Nuns

Active nuns spend their work time outside of the convent, focusing on jobs that further the word of God and serve others. For example, they might work at a Catholic press where they write theological content, implement educational programs, or participate in marketing and customer service. Or they might work at a ministry, helping members of the community who need counseling. Active nuns also participate in work within the convent, such as cooking, cleaning and sewing.


With features published by media such as Business Week and Fox News, Stephanie Dube Dwilson is an accomplished writer with a law degree and a master's in science and technology journalism. She has written for law firms, public relations and marketing agencies, science and technology websites, and business magazines.

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