The Sacrament of Holy Orders is the continuation of Christ's priesthood, which He bestowed upon His Apostles; thus, the Catechism of
the Catholic Church refers to the Sacrament of Holy Orders as "the sacrament of apostolic ministry." The priesthood was established by
God among the Israelites during their exodus from Egypt. God chose the tribe of Levi as priests for the nation. Their primary duties were
the offering of sacrifice and prayer for the people.
In the Catholic Church, the diaconate is the first of three ranks in ordained ministry. Deacons preparing for the priesthood
are transitional deacons. Those not planning to be ordained priests are called permanent deacons. Married men may be
ordained permanent deacons, and single men may be ordained with a commitment to celibacy.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations supports the
activities of the bishops' Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations in the restoration of the Diaconate and
the development of diaconal ministry. It also assists and coordinates the development of diaconal formation programs on
the diocesan and national levels. The Secretariat assists the General Secretary of the USCCB in responding to all
matters concerning the ministry of deacons in the Church in the United States. It provides services and liaison support to
national organizations and directors of diocesan diaconate offices.
|Christ, in offering Himself up for the sins of all mankind, fulfilled the duties of the Old Testament priesthood once and for
all. But just as the Eucharist makes that sacrifice present to us today, so the New Testament priesthood is a sharing in the
eternal priesthood of Christ. While all believers are in some sense priests, some are set aside to serve the Church as
Christ Himself did.
"Ordination" comes from the Latin word ordinatio, which means to incorporate someone into an order. In the Sacrament of
Holy Orders, a man is incorporated into the priesthood of Christ at one of three levels: the episcopate (Bishop), the
priesthood, or the diaconate.
The sacrament of Holy Orders is conferred by means of the imposition of hands on the head of the ordaned by the Bishop
who pronounces the solemn prayer of consecration. With this prayer he asks God for the special outpouring of the Holy
Spirit and for the gifts of the Spirit proper to the ministry to which he is being ordained. Ordained priests act not on their
own authority, but in the Person of Christ and in the name of the Church.