The Sacrament of Holy Orders


Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, Christ asks of some men the sacrifice of their lives by following Him as His more intimate companions in order to be a spiritual shepherd for the people given to His care. Though it looks different today than it has in the past, the reality is that since the beginning of time, certain men have been called to the priesthood. It is a call which God has inscribed in their nature and because of this, priesthood is a call that will bring them lifelong fulfillment.

Priests act in persona Christi capitas, which means “in the person of Christ, head of the Church.” That is why the priest speaks in the first person at Mass, “This is my body, given up for you.”

As Saint John Paul II wrote:

“The priest offers his humanity to Christ, so that Christ may use him as an instrument of salvation, making him as it were into another Christ.”

The mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time. The Sacrament of Holy Orders' has three degrees:

  • Deacons (Diaconate) are ordained into the ministry of service to the Church. Deacons do not receive the ministerial priesthood, but ordination confers on them the functions of the Ministry of the Word, Divine Worship, and Service of Charity under the pastoral authority of their bishop.
  • Priests (Presbyterate) are united with the bishop in sacerdotal dignity and called to be the bishop's prudent co-workers in the exercise of their pastoral functions. They gather around their bishop who bears responsibility with them for a particular church. They receive from the bishop the charge of a parish community or determinate ecclesial office.
  • Bishops (Episcopate) receive the fullness of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, which integrates them into the Episcopal college and makes them visible heads of the particular Church entrusted to them. As successors of the apostles and members of the college, the bishops share in the apostolic responsibility and mission of the whole Church under the authority of the Pope.

For additional information on the priesthood, contact one of the parish priests or deacons at (410) 531-6040, visit or call the Vocation Office of the Archdiocese of Baltimore at (410) 547-5431.