Nuns in the Early Church

Dear Catholic Exchange:

Could anyone answer my question as to where and when nuns first started [serving the Church]?

Thank you.

Dear Friend in Christ,

If by "nuns" you mean women who forgo earthly marriage for the sake of Christ and His kingdom, then it seems that nuns have been serving since the beginning of the Church.

From St. Paul's first letter to Timothy:

"She who is a real widow, and is left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day"

"Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband; and she must be well attested for her good deeds, as one who has brought up children, shown hospitality, washed the feet of the saints, relieved the afflicted, and devoted herself to doing good in every way" (I Tim. 5:5, 9).

Chapter seven of St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians indicates at least an expectation that some virgins will remain virgins for the sake of the Kingdom.

"I think that in view of the present distress it is well for a person to remain as he is…. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit (v. 26, 34).

Houses and convents appeared in the third century.

If you have a more particular notion of "nun," please let me know.

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