Holy Orders

holy orderBy our Baptism and Confirmation, we all belong to what is called the common priesthood. Each of us is called to holiness of life, to proclaim the gospel, and to love and serve those around us.

Some people find themselves called to ‘ministry’ and to the ‘ministerial priesthood’.

Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission of the apostles in continued in the Church throughout time. It includes three degrees of ordination: diaconate (deacons), presbyterate (priests) and episcopate (bishops).

imageBishops are ordained with ‘the fullness of the sacrament of Holy Orders’ and are understood to be the successors of the apostles. Just as the apostles were sent out by Christ to the towns and villages to represent him during his earthly ministry, so the bishops are sent out to dioceses around the world as representatives (vicars) of Christ.

Priests are ordained to be co-workers with their bishop and to assist him in the apostolic mission of his diocese. Priests at times act in the person of Christ the Head, making him present through their sacramental celebrations. For example, at the consecration of the bread during Mass, the priest says: ‘This is my body . . .’; in the prayer of absolution during the sacrament of Penance, he says: ‘I absolve you . . .’ In these moments, it is Christ himself speaking. Through his sacramental ministry and pastoral care, the priest makes present Christ the Good Shepherd caring for his flock.

rauschuberordainedDeacons are ordained not to ministerial priesthood as such but ‘unto the ministry’. They are to be a sign of Christ the Servant within the Church. They dedicate themselves to works of charity, taking special care for those who are sick or in need. They assist the bishop and priests at Mass above all by their proclamation of the Gospel and distribution of holy communion. They can also conduct certain ceremonies, for example funeral services, weddings, and baptisms. They share in the ministry of preaching.


If you feel called to the diaconate or priesthood ideally you should talk to your parish priest.