Priests · Deacons · Lay Ministers · Religious Life
When looking at the future, there are many paths a person can choose.
Sometimes individuals feel called to the priesthood, religious life, or other service within the Church.
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There are many different ways God calls people. You don’t have to wait for a lightning bolt or a supernatural vision. Most often the call from God is found deep within your own heart (planted there by God left to be discovered by you!). It might manifest itself in different ways such as a desire to want to help others or a desire to know God more deeply. If you like being with people especially during some of the bigger moments in their lives… their weddings, the birth of their children, the death of a loved one… the priesthood could be for you. No two callings are the same, just like no two priests are the same. The important thing is, if you think you’ve been called, check it out. What have you got to lose?
A vow is a solemn promise made freely as an individual gives his or her life to God. Many religious communities make vows of poverty, celibacy, and obedience. Some communities have other vows. Diocesan priests do not make vows. For ordination, they freely make promises of celibacy and obedience to their bishop.
A diocesan priest ordinarily serves the church within a well-defined geographical area (a diocese). He serves the people within that particular diocese as a parish priest, but may also be involved in other forms of ministry: teaching, chaplaincy in hospitals or prisons, campus ministry, etc.
Most diocesan priests live and work in the same diocese for most of their life. Diocesan priests make two promises: obedience to the bishop and celibacy. Being part of a diocese or an order is like being part of a family. The men are like brothers to each other and usually turn out to be some of your best friends.
A religious priest, on the other hand, is a member of a community which goes beyond the geographical limits of any diocese. A religious priest seeks to live a vowed life within a community of men for mutual support and the accomplishment of some work. There is an emphasis in the community on shared ideals, prayer, and commitment to Christ. Religious priests work in a wide variety of ministries. Religious communities were founded at different times in history and often focus on a special ministry. For example, the Jesuits are involved in education and missionary work. As members of a worldwide order or group of men, following the ideals of their founder, like the Franciscans who follow the example of St. Francis of Assisi, they make vows to live their lives in the same manner. The vows that religious priests make are poverty, celibacy (chastity), and obedience. The vow of poverty means that the priest will not own anything of his own. A religious, for instance, would not personally own a car, but more than likely would have the use of one provided by his community. All of his property will be shared by the brothers in his order.
Permanent deacons are ordained ministers of the Church who, like bishops and priests, have received the Sacrament of Holy Orders. Deacons are called to Diakonia – to be servants of God to His people.
The ministry of a permanent deacon is a threefold:
The deacon participates as an evangelizer and teacher in the Church’s mission of heralding the word. In the Liturgy of the Word, especially in the Eucharist or in those liturgies where he is the presiding minister, the deacon proclaims the Gospel. Other forms of his function in the Church’s ministry of the word include catechetical instruction, formation of candidates preparing for the sacraments, leadership roles in retreats and renewal programs and outreach to alienated Catholics.
In the celebration of the Eucharistic Liturgy, the deacon participates in specific penitential rites, proclaims the Gospel, may preach the homily in accord with the provisions of Canon Law and voices the needs of the people in the General Intercessions. He assists the presider in accepting the offerings of the people and helps to prepare the gifts for sacrifice. He may extend the invitation of peace, serve as an ordinary minister of communion and finally he dismisses the community at the end of the liturgy. Other liturgical roles include those of solemnly baptizing infants, witnessing marriages, bringing Viaticum to the dying and presiding over funeral rites. He may officiate at exposition, benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, conduct public rites of blessing and administer the Church’s Sacramentals as designated in the Book of Blessings
The deacon’s ministry of Word and Liturgy would be severely deficient, if it were not accompanied by his exemplary witness and assistance in the Church’s ministry of Charity and Justice. Thus, Pope John Paul II affirms both: “This is at the very heart of the diaconate to which you have been called: to be a servant of your brothers and sisters.” Thus we see the deacon ministering in hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, soup kitchens and being of service to his fellow workers and, of course, his family. In a world hungry and thirsty for convincing signs of the compassion and liberating love of God, the deacon makes the mission of the Church visible in his words and deeds, responding to the master’s command of service and providing real-life examples of how to carry it out.
Interested in learning more about the faith?
The Diocese of Buffalo is in partnership with St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry, a dynamic graduate school of theology and ministry, where students from all walks of life come to study with a love for truth, faith, and ministry. They offer both in-person and online classes at their Rochester and Buffalo locations. They offer both graduate and certificate programs. Learn more.