Holy Orders

Holy Orders is the sacrament which continues Christ’s mission through the grace and power given to men to carry out the sacred duties of deacons, priests or bishops. The word “Orders” derives from a term used in ancient Rometo refers to a specific group of persons such as a governing body. Members are ordained, or incorporated into this body; they enter the order. In his official capacity as an ordained minister, the priest acts in the person of Christ, the Head of the Church. The priest represents Christ, who acts as priest, teacher and shepherd through him. This is one of the reasons that in the Catholic church, ordinations are limited to male candidates only. It is also believed that Christ specifically chose men.

Three degrees of the sacrament of orders

The episcopate, presbyter ate and deaconate comprise the three degrees of this sacrament. The episcopate (the office of a bishop) is the fullness of the sacrament. Episcopal ordination confers the fullest participation in the priesthood of Christ. The bishops are successors of the apostles and continue their ministry of teaching, shepherding and leading the flock of Jesus Christ to holiness. In a special way they represent Christ as teacher, shepherd and priest.

College of Bishops

Although each bishop is consecrated as pastor in a local Church, he is, together with all the other bishops, responsible for all the Churches. The practice of having several bishops take part in the consecration of a new bishop shows this collegiality. Each new bishop must be approved by the Pope who is the sign of the communion and universality of the one Church, as well as guarantor of the freedom of the particular Churches.

Mission of the priest

Priests are co-workers of the bishops and like them, share in Christ’s office of teacher, shepherd and priest. Priests are to preach the Gospel, exercise the pastoral ministry, and lead the faithful in worship. A special part of their sacramental ministry is offering the Eucharist and acting for Christ in the sacrament of Penance.

Role of Deacons

Deacons are ordained by the bishop to the ministry of service. They assist the bishop and priests by baptising, proclaiming God’s Word to the faithful, preaching, distributing Communion, giving Eucharistic Benediction, blessing couples who receive the sacrament of Matrimony, presiding over funerals, and performing many works of service. Married men can be ordained as deacons. The only priestly functions that deacons are not allowed to exercise are consecration of the Eucharist at Mass, forgiveness of sins in penance and sacramental anointing of the sick.

Conferring of Holy Orders

The bishop confers Holy Orders. He places his hands on the head of the one to be ordained, praying that the Holy Spirit will consecrate him and give him the gifts proper to his ministry. The hands of the priest are anointed for service. The chalice and paten are presented to the priest for celebration of the eucharist. He is also presented with the book of gospels. The stole and vestments are placed upon his shoulders. He takes a promise of obedience to his bishop. These all represent aspects of the mission & service of a priest.

What is the difference between a diocesan priest and a religious priest?
A diocesan priest belongs to a body of priests (called a presbyterate) who are members of the same diocese and, therefore, under the leadership of the same bishop. A religious order priest belongs to a specific congregation or community that is bound together by a common mission. Unlike diocesan priests, religious order priests take a vow of poverty and do not own items individually. Most often, religious order priests specialise in a certain type of ministry, such as education, social services, health care or foreign missions.

Becoming a priest in the diocese of Cork and Ross…..
For more information:

Contact: Fr. Michael Keohane
Address: Cork and Ross Offices, Redemption Road, Cork
Tel (Diocesan Office): 021 4301717


Contact: Fr Bertie O’Mahony, PP
Address: Parochial House, Cork Road, Carrigaline, Co Cork
Tel: 021 4371684

See also: http://www.vocations.ie/