There are four orders in the Church’s structure: episcopate (bishop), presbyterate (priests), diaconate (deacons), and laity (all the non-ordained members). Holy Orders is a sacrament which sets up the hierarchical ordering of the Church. Through the ministry of those who are ordained to Holy Orders, the Church acts sacramentally on behalf of its members by proclaiming the gospel in preaching and teaching, in the celebration of the sacraments, and in shepherding service. A Bishop is the head of a local church and by his unity with the Bishop of Rome holds his church in communion with the universal Catholic Church.
The Three Holy Orders:
1) The bishop is the chief teacher, priest, and shepherd of his diocese.
2) A presbyter (priest) is sent by the bishop to serve a portion (parish) of the People of God by teaching/preaching, celebrating the sacraments, and shepherding. The bishop with his priests forms one Presbyterate (ministerial priesthood) within a diocese.
3) A Deacon (whether married or single) is ordained to assist the Bishop in organizing works of charity, witness, and service in which all the laity participate.
Among the members of the Church there are both laity and ordained who belong to special groups bound together by vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience to a common life, mission, and ministries for the sake of the Church and the salvation of the world. Some of these religious communities of women and of men are well known: the Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, Sisters of Mercy, Carmelites, and Trappists. These men and women serve as constant reminders in the Church of God’s call to all the members to live the Gospel completely and share the divine life fully.
For more information, please contact
Office for Vocations
Catholic Pastoral Center
1615 West Washington St.,
Springfield, IL 62702