From the Latin, conventus, an assembly or meeting, in current popular usage, designates a residence of religious women. Originally it signified any religious house with members sufficient to maintain monastic observance, and was used principally by the Mendicant Friars in place of the term "abbey" or "monastery," used in the older, monastic orders. Gradually, it was incorporated into the legal vocabulary of the Church and from the 14th century the presence of at least 12 professed religious was required before a house could be designated a conventus. Following the Council of Trent and arising from the practice of the Roman curia, a distinction was made between a major convent, one having 12 or more religious; and a minor one that lacked this number. This status determined the relation of subjection to the visitation, correction, and jurisdiction of the local ordinary. The term "convent" does not appear in either the 1917 or the 1983 Code of Canon Law; nor does there seem to be an equivalent word in the Code of the Canons of the Eastern Churches. Both Latin codes have prescriptions reflecting current usage. In the earlier code a territorial focus gave rise to a distinction among canonical established houses based upon the number and quality of personnel living in that location. A formal house, for example, required at least six professed religious, four of whom had to be priests in a clerical institute; while a nonformal house lacked these qualities (1917 Codex iuris canonici [Rome 1918; repr. Graz 1955] c. 488, §5). The 1983 Codex iuris canonici approaches the issue more generically by focusing on the life of its members according to particular law of an institute. A religious community must live in a lawfully established house under the authority of a superior designated according to the norm of law, that is, established according to the institute's constitutions and with the written consent of the diocesan bishop (1983 Codex iuris canonici cc. 608–609). Two points seem unique in the revised law. The newer legislation permits a flexibility to cover living situations previously described as formal and informal. Pope Paul VI in Evangelica testificatio (June 29, 1971), nn. 40–41 permitted two or three religious to live in common and serve in one or more apostolates. Second, an established house of an institute erected by competent authority according to the constitutions of an institute should have greater stability than a residence or faculty house constituted for an apostolic need.
See Also: monastery.
Bibliography: l. simeone, De condicione iuridica parvarum domorum religiosorum (Padua 1942). s. holland, "'Religious' House According to Canon 608," Jurist 50 (1990) 524–552. r. m. mcdermott, s.s.j. "Religious Houses and Their Erection and Suppression," New Commentary on the Code of Canon Law, ed. j. p. beal et al. (New York/Mahwah 2000) 772–779.
[w. b. ryan/
con·vent / ˈkänˌvent/ • n. a Christian community under monastic vows, esp. one of nuns. ∎ (also convent school) a school, esp. one for girls, attached to and run by such a community. ∎ the building or buildings occupied by such a community.
So conventual XV. — medL. conventuālis.
an association of religious persons secluded from the world; an assembly or meeting; a body of monks, friars, or nuns; a company of twelve (or with a Superior, thirteen); an assemblage or gathering of people.
Examples: convent of apostles, 1526; of courtiers, 1484; of friars, 1554; of merchants, 1534; of monks; of nuns; of veins and arteries, 1578; of warriors, 1383; of witches, 1652.