The sacrament of Holy Orders confers grace for one to be a deacon, priest, or bishop. These three types of clerics each pertain to the priesthood of Christ in differing ways. The deacon is ordained unto the service of Christ, the priest is ocardained unto the ministerial priesthood of Christ, and the Bishop is ordained to be the Vicar of Christ in his diocese. There is much more to be said about each of these vocations.
Ordination to the Permanent Diaconate
Men desiring to be permanent deacons must be at least 35 years of age. They may be married or single, but they must be married before they are ordained, and cannot marry after ordination. So it is very common, that a husband and father discerns a call from God to be a deacon. He enters a formation program with his diocese and once ordained begins ministry, especially in service to the Bishop and local parishes. He may witness (officiate at) marriages, baptize, preside at memorial services and bury the dead. He especially serves at the Mass and other liturgies, by assisting the priest, proclaiming the Gospel and preaching. A permanent deacon often is involved in preparing individuals for reception of the other sacraments, teaches, and engages in other ministries in the parish and diocese. The permanent diaconate is a beautiful ministry that brings Christ alive through extraordinary service.
Ordination to the Temporary Diaconate
The temporary diaconate is such, because candidates to be ordained priests must first be ordained and serve as a deacon. The heart of service that marks the diaconate continues into the priesthood. The temporary diaconate is a very important time of formation and ministry to the seminarian. They begin to celebrate some of the sacraments and ministries as the permanent deacon. The temporary time varies from diocese to diocese, but six to eighteen months is usually asked of the seminarian in the United States.
Ordination to the Presbyterate
The ordained priest is ordain unto the ministry of Christ. In baptism, all are baptized priest, prophet, and king. In baptism we share in the general priesthood of Christ. We bear the responsibility for unfolding our baptismal grace through the course of our life. For those called to the priesthood, once ordained are responsible to the ministerial priesthood of Christ. Not only should they unfold their own baptismal grace, they are responsible to assist others in this duty too. The priesthood does not belong to the priest, it belongs to Christ. The priest celebrates all of the sacraments for the faithful, except Holy Orders.
Ordination to the Episcopate
When Jesus formed His Church, he had countless men, women, and children that were His disciples. From them, he chose twelve to be apostles. Later, after the death of Judas Iscariot and the Resurrection of Jesus, Matthias was chosen by remaining eleven apostles to succeed Judas. Through the course of history, the apostles chose successors, these successors are know as Bishops. Onward through history, as the need arose, more bishops were chosen, ordained by the laying on of hands, and continued to shepherd God's people in the ministry of Jesus Christ. One does not elect to become a bishop, one is chosen by the others, as it has happened from the institution by Jesus. The priests and deacons are at the service of the bishop and are an extension of his shepherding and care of souls in his diocese.
Religioius Orders have long accepted men and women to make vows and joing their communities. It is possible to become a Monk or a Nun, a Brother or a Sister, maybe even a Hermit. These vocations are separate from Holy Orders, and some clerics also join a religious order, e.g. Benedictines, Christian Brothers, Daughters of St. Clair, Dominicans, Franciscans, Jesuits, Maryknoll Missionaries, Missionaries of Charity, Salesians, and many, many, more.
If you are discerning a vocation, we invite you to contact or Vocation Director to learn more about the opportunities for you the discuss, explore, and learn about a vocation in the ministry of Jesus Christ.