Question: In the prayer list you have asked for prayers for a number of religious with letters after their names. What do the letters stand for?
Answer: The letters stand for membership in a religious order. In the past months you have seen OCSO and “OFM Cap.” and “OSJ.” The first initials, “OCSO,” stand for “Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance,” more commonly known as the Trappists, an order dedicated to the exact observance of the Rule of Saint Benedict. The second “OFM Cap.” stand for “Order of Friars Minor, Capuchin,” the branch of the Franciscan Friars that observes the Rule of Saint Francis about as carefully as is possible. The last, “OSJ,” is the military “Order of Saint John,” which originated before the Crusades to shelter and protect pilgrims to the Holy Land; sometimes known as the “Knights of Malta,” where the Order made its famous stand against the Turks in 1565.
Some other common designations for members of religious orders include:
OSB, the Order of Saint Benedict, the “Benedictines.”
SJ, the Society of Jesus, the “Jesuits.”
OP, the Order of Preachers, the “Dominicans.”
FSC, the Brothers of the Christian Schools.
CSSR, Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer
OCD, Order of Discalced Carmelites
OSA, Order of Saint Augustine
The designations are usually in Latin, so the word order may seem reversed in some cases. There is also a little ambiguity in that some orders utilize more than one abbreviation. OCR and OCSO, for example, both refer to the Trappists.
If a religious has an academic degree, the abbreviation for that degree might follow his name. “John Smith, SJ, STD” would indicate that Father Smith (or possibly Brother Smith) was a Jesuit with a doctorate in sacred theology. Modesty usually restricts the listing of academic degrees to scholarly works. The Catholic Encyclopedia has a fairly comprehensive list of abbreviations, s.v. “Abbreviations, Ecclesiastical.”
Please pray for vocations, so that the number of ordinations and religious professions exceeds the listing of deceased priests and religious!