(Latin: congregure, to collect together)
Originally, a religious community dwelling in a monastery, as that instituted by Saint Pachomius, c.318.
The regular organization of religious congregations began with the Rule of Saint Benedict in the 6th century.
From the 10th century a group of monasteries bound together by a common rule would, for the sake of closer unity, acknowledge the authority of a particular one, as in France where sixty-five monasteries followed Cluny (Congregation of Cluny).
Later the term "congregation" was applied to an association of priests not bound by vows, e.g., the Oratorians of Saint Philip Neri, 1566; or such as, though bound by simple vows, remained secular, e.g., Saint Vincent de Paul's Priests of the Missions, or Lazarists, 1625.
This gave rise to the generally accepted usage of the word as designating those institutes resembling religious orders but lacking some accidental, characteristic, viz., the solemnity of the vows.
New Catholic Dictionary