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Holy Orders

Priest Preaching Jesus Christ is our great High Priest who died and rose to save us. He wanted the offering of himself to the Father to continue through the ages in the Sacrifice of the Mass.  At the Last Supper Jesus told the apostles “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me”. (Luke 22:19). He also gave them the power to serve as vehicles of God’s forgiveness in his name: “Whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16: 25-28).  Jesus thus empowered others to share in his priesthood and His work as Teacher, Healer and King.  If there is to be a true sacrifice through the ages, there must be a priesthood ordained and authorized by God.

Jesus continues His sacrifice and His work through the Church and its priesthood.   All Christians are dedicated to serve God through their baptismal call.  However,some Christians are called in a special way to dedicate themselves fully to spreading the Good News of the Gospel and  ministering to God’s people through the vocation of priesthood.

After several years of study and spiritual preparation in a seminary, candidates for priesthood are ordained by a bishop in the sacrament of Holy Orders.  This term is plural because there are several steps, or Orders, leading to priesthood, each celebrated with a special rite.  Since the Second Vatican Council, the number of celebrated Orders has been reduced in most places to two Minor Orders (Reader & Acolyte) and one Major Order (Deacon).

There are two types of deacons: transitional and permanent.  Transitional deacons are those men who receive the Order of the Deaconate as part of their preparation to be priests.  Permanent deacons are lay men, married or single, who receive this Order and remain deacons throughout their church ministry. 

The fullest expression in the Order of Priesthood in the Catholic church is that of bishop.  A bishop is a priest called to this ministry by the Church.  Each bishop receives a ring to signify his Church responsibility.  At formal functions he carries a staff (shaped like a shepherd’s staff) to signify that he is shepherd of the local church community.   He usually is assigned to both a local and an historical area, or diocese.  Some bishops are selected by the Pope to be archbishops or Cardinals. Usually such a designation goes to a man assigned to lead an area densely populated by Catholics (archdiocese) or to handle a major Church responsibility.

If you are considering a call to the priesthood, deaconate or other dedicated church ministry, click on the following links:


If you would like more information about the Sacrament of Holy Orders, click on the following links: