Holy Orders

Sacrament of Holy Orders

Indeed Ordination is "the Sacrament of faith" in a particular way.

:And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me." Luke 22:19



Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. CCC 1536


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Through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation the faithful are “consecrated to be … a holy priesthood.”

The grace of the Holy Spirit proper to this sacrament is configuration to Christ as Priest, Teacher, and Pastor, of whom the ordained is made a minister.
VocationDiocesen PiesthoodReligious LifeSalvatoriansF.A.Q.

What is a vocation?

If you are looking for a simple definition of a vocation, the literal meaning of the word is a "call."

But a vocation is more than an ordinary call. A vocation is a call from God, and anyone who has felt God's call knows that the process is anything but simple. While most people think of a vocation as what they are called to do in life, it is important to understand that the first and most important call from God is a call to be - the universal call to holiness.


Your vocation is not the same as your career or profession. However, there is an overlap between a vocation and a profession.

A career or a profession is something that you have in order to support yourself and to contribute in some way to the good of the society. You don't need to believe in God to choose a career or a profession. A person can pick, choose and switch profession freely depending on his/her preferences, strengths or circumstances. A profession or a career always has a horizontal dimension.

When we talk about vocation, we introduce a vertical dimension in our life, which is God. It is no longer ‘what do I prefer?' but rather ‘What does God want me to be?" A vocation is not something that you can switch like a profession or a career.

For example, a person may work in retail sales because he/she has what it takes to sell a product, to establish customer relations, to follow directions and to work with a team to accomplish daily tasks. That same person's vocation may be to be a single person, a wife or a husband, to be a religious brother or sister, to be a deacon or priest.


This distinction between a call to holiness and a call to a specific vocation - single person, married life, consecrated life or ordained ministry - is important.

The universal call to holiness is rooted in our baptism. It is a call to know, love and serve the Lord. It is a movement that draws us toward a deeper union with God. We feel a growing desire to love God and to love our neighbour. We come to understand that there is a reason for our existence and there is meaning in our lives.

The universal call to holiness is an ongoing conversion experience. It keeps opening our eyes to new awareness of God's loving presence. It keeps inviting us to turn toward God by aligning our will with God's will.

A willingness to do God's will is built on two convictions. We have to believe that God loves us more than we love ourselves and that God wants our happiness more than we want it. In other words, we have to believe that God knows more than we do about what will make us truly happy. If God had given us everything we ever asked for we would be seriously unhappy. The basis of our desire to find and to do the will of God should be the belief that God's will for us is our only chance to be truly and lastingly happy.

A brief outline of the four specific vocations

We live out the invitation ‘to be holy' differently depending on which vocation we have chosen. The four specific vocations are: single life, married life, consecrated life or the ordained ministry. Each vocation is a call to follow Christ closely.

For someone who has chosen a single life, even though they have not formally taken the three vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, yet they make a personal commitment to put their freedom at the service of others in their work and prayer. And in doing so, they strive to follow Christ in their daily lives.

For a married Christian couple, they follow Christ by giving themselves to each other completely and without any reservation, promising to love each other faithfully for the rest of their lives, sharing their joys and sufferings in whatever circumstances life brings them. They express their love through their sexual union, which brings them together in the closest intimacy and opens them to the gift of new life.

For someone who has chosen the consecrated life, their path of following Christ is through their vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. They are called to live as Christ lived; to model their lives on the life of Jesus- chaste, poor and obedient - making their hearts more free for prayer and service.

For those who have chosen the ordained ministry, through sacramental ordination, they share in the priesthood of Christ in a special way. Their very beings are transfigured so that they can represent Christ the Good Shepherd for God's people and Christ as the Head of the Church. They not only offer their own lives to the Father, as all Christians do, but they also stand before the Church and minister to the faithful as Christ ‘in person.' Thus, when they teach with the authority of the Church then Christ teaches; when they absolve sins in the sacrament of Penance then Christ forgives; when they offer the Sacrifice of the Mass then Christ offers that Sacrifice; when they love, support and care for God's people then Christ is present with his people.

Different yet the same

The lifestyle and demands of each particular vocation is very different but there are some similarities between them. Each vocation is a commitment to love in a certain way. The object of every vocation is God. It is not building a better society, renewing the Church, having a family, fulfilling yourself, helping people or confronting new challenges. All these things may be involved in a vocation but the primary objective is to love God.

As Blessed Pope John Paul II wrote, "Love makes us seek what is good; love makes us better persons. It is love that prompts men and women to marry and form a family, to have children. It is love that prompts others to embrace the consecrated life or become priests." Each vocation challenges us to live our faith more deeply and to follow Christ more closely. Each vocation, if it is lived generously and faithfully, will then involve times of lasting happiness and reward but also suffering and sacrifice. Finally, it is important not to compare the value of different vocations but to appreciate the value of each one and to discover which one is right for you.


To be a Diocesen Priest

A Diocesan priest is ordained to be a minister in the Church. He is not a member of a religious order but is ordained to serve in a specific geographical area called a/n (arch)diocese. He takes a vow of celibacy (that is, he is not married) and a vow of obedience to his Bishop and the Bishop’s successor in the (arch)diocese. He will generally minister in a parish.

A Diocesan priest is a man who:

  • is called to be open to God’s love, promises and will for him
  • is prayerful, desiring to love God and God’s people with his whole being
  • serves in the Sacramental ministry in the Church for which he is ordained: presiding at the celebration of Eucharist, administering the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Marriage and the Sacrament of the Sick
  • teaches and preaches the Gospel of Jesus and provides for and supports the spiritual formation of the people through the teachings of the Church
  • is available and involved in the day-to-day lives of the people he is privileged to serve
  • represents the presence of Christ and the Church – ever beside its members through the successes and struggles, joys and sorrows of life
  • provides practical pastoral ministry such as visits to parishioners especially those who are sick or dying, visits schools encouraging teachers and children in their living of the Christian faith
  • provides leadership with others, enhancing the role of the laity to make the parish a welcoming, active, participative, prayerful and inclusive place in which all know themselves to be loved by God and called to fulfill their personal vocations within the Church and beyond
  • is presence of the Church in the wider community
  • administers the parish, including financial oversight and integrity
  • takes responsibility for his personal spiritual development, continuing formation, ongoing education and emotional and physical health in order to fulfill his responsibilities well


First, a man who feels called to the vocation of a diocesan priest must be accepted by the Bishop of a particular (arch)diocese. He will have to make a formal application, meet with the bishop and participate in a vocational assessment process as directed by the (arch)diocese.

Formation for Priesthood:

The process of preparation for priesthood is usually called formation because it involves more than academic study and professional education. It includes the development of the whole person. Priestly formation takes place primarily in a seminary with some parish and other pastoral assignments. The period for preparation can take between four to seven years depending on previous education and experience. There are four main elements in the process of formation, the academic, spiritual, pastoral and the personal.

Academic Formation:

Men preparing for priesthood generally study for six or seven years at tertiary level. The structure of the studies may vary from one seminary to another. Study usually involves two or three years of humanities with philosophy forming a key component. Philosophy is considered important both because it sharpens the mind, and because the language and concepts of philosophy form a good starting point for the study of theology. Students who have previously qualified in the areas of the arts, sciences or philosophy may not be required to complete the full programme in these areas. Four years of theology are required for the preparation of priests. Core areas of study in the field include Scripture, Moral and Systematic Theology, Liturgy, Canon Law and Church History.

Spiritual Formation:

To be a priest is to be a man of prayer and to be a leader with others in a community of faith. Faith is more than knowledge of doctrine; it is lived relationship with God. Men preparing for priesthood are helped to deepen that relationship through prayer and especially through praying with Scripture. Each student also has available to him a spiritual director whose responsibility is to meet with him regularly, to listen to the story of his faith journey, and to help him in his continuing discernment of the will of God in his life. Time for retreats is also an important part of spiritual formation.

Pastoral Formation:

During the years of preparation for priesthood, students are helped to develop the practical skills they will require for parish ministry. These are skills that will enable them to be good and compassionate listeners, leaders and teachers of the faith. Throughout formation, students will have pastoral placements so that they can learn through experience and example. It would be usual for students to have some preparation in areas such as school, hospital or prison chaplaincy, service of the poor and, particularly in the final year, regular parish ministry supported by experienced priests.

Personal Formation:

Personal formation is more difficult to define but it will include processes of reflection and interaction with others which enable the student to grow in their maturity, personal gifts, understanding of sexuality with respect to their celibate vocation, self-understanding, and relationship enabling them to work creatively and constructively with others.


Throughout the time of preparation for the priesthood it is the responsibility of the formation team and of the student himself to be constantly reviewing his progress in the four critical areas of formation. In this way decisions are made, periodically, which lead either towards ordination or to the recognition of a different vocation. A decision to leave the seminary is never a failure or a waste. Part of the purpose of formation is to provide a process through which a person is enabled to discern God’s will for his life. Even if a person chooses or is asked to leave seminary the experience gained during formation will help him to develop gifts for his future life and enable him to make a positive contribution both to the Church and to wider society, in whatever path he later follows.

I remember the first time I heard of religious life. Honestly, I thought that the term referred to any religious person, but later I learned that religious life entailed much more. In college, I had the opportunity to meet people who were in religious life, such as nuns and sisters. When I first met a sister, I was actually scared of them. For some odd reason, I thought if I ever ran into a sister, it meant that God was calling me to be one. I also believed that I had to be super holy and educated to even talk to one. However, I started to realize that they were completely normal people.

So, what is religious life? I'm no expert, but over the years of growing in my faith and interacting with those in religious life, I have learned a lot. Religious life is a form of consecrated life in the Catholic Church, which consists of men and women who make specific vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. According the Catechism of the Catholic Church, religious life "is distinguished from other forms of consecrated life by it liturgical character, public profession of the evangelical counsels, fraternal life led in common, and witness given to the union of Christ with the Church" (CCC 925), and is life seen as a gift received by the Church. Those who are part of the religious life make their vow in either a Congregation or Community such the Community of the Beatitudes, which are approved by the Catholic Church. Each religious Community is formed and developed through tradition that comes from the founders of those communities. These communities can consist of sisters, nuns, brothers, monks, or religious order priest.

I will elaborate on the differences between sisters and nuns, and brothers and monks. In general, religious sisters take what are called simple vows where a nun makes solemn vows and usually engage in more prayer time. Also, nuns are distinct in that they live in what is called contemplative/cloistered life or what is considered living in a confined area or enclosed place such as the monastery. Visitors are not allowed to enter into a cloistered area and nuns or monks are not permitted to leave, unless under some special circumstances. If there are visitors, there is a grill or barrier that separate the two. It may seem at first like a miserable life, but after being blessed to meet some Carmelite nuns behind a grill at a monastery in St. Louis, I was shocked to see how much joy they were filled with. They described their life as beautiful and fulfilling. The differences between nuns and sisters is similar to that of monks and brothers. A monk will live in a monastery as well and they can either be a priest or deacon.

Religious life includes vows, charisms, and spirituality. Again, the vows made by a religious person include chastity, obedience, and poverty. Each vow plays a significant role in religious life. A charism is the way in which an order expresses itself in following Christ. This can relate to culture, such as the culture of teaching or serving the poor. The final part of religious life is spirituality. Spirituality consists of a set of values or a manner of the derived from people and Saints within the Catholic Church, such as St. Dominic, where the Dominican spirituality begin. Overall, this is just a general idea of what religious life is. However, from the sisters and others I have met in religious life, their lives are a beautiful example of what it means to devote and commit your life completely to God.

To be a Salvatorian


What does it mean to be a Salvatorian?

Salvatorian religious life is a way to live following Jesus as the Saviour of the world. To be a Salvatorian religious is to believe in life, to trust in God’s action, to be full of hope, to cultivate noble ideals, to involve everyone in the building of a better world. A Salvatorian is one who feels saved by Jesus, since he is his friend, brother, and Lord, and so wants to lead others to salvation.

Salvatorian religious Brother.

The religious Brother is a person who consecrates himself to God through the vows of Chastity, Obedience, and Poverty thereby surrendering himself completely to God with all his heart and life. The Salvatorian religious Brother can contribute to the salvation of people by working in the formation of lay leaders, in formal education, in spiritual direction, in youth ministry, in the communications media. The religious Brother is one who by means of his consecration discovers new ways to lead people to Jesus.

Salvatorian religious Deacon.

The religious Deacon also consecrates himself through the vows of Chastity, Obedience and Poverty. In addition, he participates in ordained ministry in its first degree, or the diaconate. As a Deacon, he dedicates his time to the poor, to visits to the sick, to the sacraments of Baptism and Matrimony, to preaching and the proclamation of the Gospel, in addition to collaboration in parish ministry. The religious Deacon is one who through his consecration and ministry serves the People of God principally by means of charitable service.

Salvatorian religious Priest.

The religious Priest also consecrates himself through the vows of Chastity, Obedience and Poverty. In addition, he participates in the second degree of the sacrament of Orders, the presbyterate. He is the one responsible for parish ministry, for the celebration of the Eucharist and of the sacrament of Reconciliation. The religious Priest can help many people encounter Jesus and find salvation. As a Salvatorian Priest, he ministers with a distinct spirituality, a Salvatorian spirituality, which marks him.

What is a sister or nun?

A sister or nun is a woman who belongs to a religious order, or community. Many people use the word nuninterchangeably with sister, but technically nuns are those who live a cloistered (or enclosed) monastic life; whereas sisters serve in an active ministry. After a period of preparation (called formation) sisters and nuns take lifelong vows. Usually they take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience; that is, they promise to live simply, to live celibately, and to follow the will of God through their community..

What is a brother?

A brother belongs to a religious community of men. A brother takes religious vows, usually poverty, chastity, and obedience.  A brother's life revolves around prayer, communal living in a religious community or monastery, and a ministry within the Church and society.  A brother is not ordained to the priesthood, and thus does not perform the sacramental duties of a priest. Some men's communities include both brothers and priests, and both have equal respect and status in the community.

What is the difference between a diocesan priest and a priest from a religious order?

All priests are ordained to the priesthood through the Sacrament of Holy Orders. However, a man may choose to be a diocesan priest (sometimes called a secular priest) or a religious priest (or order priest).

If he chooses to be a diocesan priest, then he enters the diocesan seminary system, and once ordained typically serves within his own diocese (a geographic territory designated by the Catholic Church). He is appointed to his ministry-most often parish work-by the bishop of that diocese. A diocesan priest is accountable to his bishop and the people he serves.

If a man chooses religious priesthood, he joins a men's religious community. While he may perform parish ministry, he generally serves in other ways, typically doing work related to the mission and ministries of his religious congregation. A religious priest is accountable to his major superior and the other men in his community for his religious life and his local bishop and the people he serves for his priestly duties.

Can married people enter religious? Widowed and divorced?

Religious life in the Roman Catholic Church is reserved for celibates only. Some religious institutes have accepted widowed and divorced people who have had their marriages properly annulled by the Church.

What are the vows of religious life?

The main vows for men and women in religious life are chastity, poverty, and obedience. Individual institutes may require additional vows.

How long does it take to become a priest?

Between 5 to 8 years of Seminary studies. The number of years depends on whether you have had any college experience yet. If you have not had any college experience, whether you have just graduated high school or not, it generally takes 8 years.

How do I know that God is calling me?

God may not speak directly to us like our family and friends do. God speaks in subtle ways. Prayer opens your heart to recognize when He may be speaking directly to you. Sometimes other people may say something to us that stirs our hearts. That can also be God’s way of communicating to you. As long as you are praying you will know.

What does a priest do?

A typical day for a priest is different each day depending on the work in which he is involved. Generally, a priest offers Mass in the morning and then prays the Liturgy of the Hours. He may have work to do in the parish office. He would visit hospitals and nursing homes. He may teach classes at his parish, and he would prepare people to receive various sacraments like matrimony and baptism. Basically, a priest lives to be of service to others.

How old do you have to be to enter the seminary?

Some men enter the seminary after graduating from high school and some men enter the seminary following college or after working for a number of years. The United States Catholic Conference of Bishops has asked dioceses to accept men over 45 only in extraordinary circumstances, on a case-by-case basis..

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