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Priests and Seminarians

Diocesan Priests

  • Clergy — A collective term referring to bishops, priests and deacon—all those ordained who administer the rites of the church.
  • Deacon, Diaconate — In the Catholic Church, the diaconate is the first of three ranks in ordained ministry. Deacons preparing for the priesthood are transitional deacons. Those not planning to be ordained priests are called permanent deacons. Married men may be ordained permanent deacons, but only unmarried men committed to lifelong celibacy can be ordained deacons if they are planning to become priests.
  • Ministry — A broad term in Catholic usage for any activity conducive to the salvation of souls. It can include ordained ministry such as liturgical leadership and administration of the sacraments, or lay ministry such as instructing children in the faith, serving the poor, visiting the sick, or being an altar server, reader or music leader at Mass.
  • Monsignor — An honorary title granted by the pope to some diocesan priests. Priests in religious orders or congregations never receive the title of monsignor. In English the standard abbreviation is Msgr.
  • Parish — A specific community of the Christian faithful within a diocese, having its own church building, under the authority of a pastor who is responsible for providing ministerial service. Most parishes are formed on a geographic basis, but they may be formed along national or ethnic lines.
  • Pastor — A priest in charge of a Catholic parish or congregation. He is responsible for administering the sacraments and instructing the congregation in the doctrine of the church. Catholic Pastors are normally referred to as Fr. (Father), or Rev. (Reverend).
  • Pastoral council — A parish or diocesan body that the pastor or bishop consults concerning policies and decisions in the governance of the local church. Council's role is always subject to the authority of the pastor or bishop.
  • Presbyteral council — Also known as the priests' council, this is the principal consultative body mandated by the Code of Canon Law to advise the diocesan bishop in matters of pastoral governance.
  • Presbyterate — May be a synonym for priesthood or may refer to the collective body of priests of a diocese.
  • Sacerdotal Sacerdo is Latin for priest, or Holy person, so Sarcerdotal is an adjective describing things pertaining to priests or the priesthood.
  • Chaplain — Member of the clergy who is associated with a Chapel or who serves at a secular institution such as a hospital, prison, university, or military unit.
  • Sacristan — A Sacristan is in charge of the Church and mass objects within a Sacristy, such as the priests vestments and altar vessels. In larger churches this can include caring for fonts, relics, holy oils, candles and other and mass objects.
  • Secular — Secular means worldly, from the Latin word meaning generation, or age. In Catholic usage, it can refer to regular diocesan clergy, who do not belong to a religious order, or it can refer to 'Tertiaries', or laymen who follow religious disciplines, but live within the world.

Seminaries and Holy Orders

  • Seminary — An educational institution for men preparing for the priesthood.
  • Catechetical Schools — In early Christianity, Catechetical schools were organized along the same lines as the classical academies of Pagan Rome, but with a focus on Christian theology and catechesis. They were prototypes of Christian institutes of higher learning and served as the first seminaries. The Catechetical Schools of Alexandria and Antioch are the most famous of the Ancient schools of the Church.
  • Cathedral Schools — Cathedral schools arose throughout Western Christendom in the early Middle Ages, in order to serve as seminaries and offer higher education. A standard curriculum base on classical higher education was established by Alcuin and promoted throughout the Frankish empire, and some of the larger Cathedral schools evolved into early universities.
  • Ordination — The Sacrament of Holy Orders, involving the act of consecrating or setting apart of men to be the sacred ministers for the Catholic Church.
  • Vocation — The Latin word for 'calling' is vocare, so vocation refers to the calling from God to follow a particular way of life, especially a religious life. Both Marriage and Holy Orders are considered sacraments of Vocation, but the term usually refers to the calling to the priesthood or religious life.
  • Seminarian — A seminarian is a candidate for the priesthood, usually enrolled in an approved program of studies in preparation for the sacrament of Holy Orders.
  • Minor Orders — The Minor orders were traditionally recognized as Lesser degrees of ministry received by candidates for the priesthood during the course of their studies. They were abolished in 1972, but are still used in seminaries especially those preparing priests to offer the Traditional Latin Mass. The minor orders were porter, lector, exorcist, acolyte, and subdeacon.
    • Porter (Ostiarius) — The porter or doorman is the lowest of the minor orders, usually received during the first year when seminarians receive their tonsure. Traditionally porters guarded the door of the Church and assured that no unbaptized persons entered during the Mass of the Faithful.
    • Exorcist — An exorcist is a person able to cast out demons. Until Vatican II it was one of the minor orders. Since then the title is reserved for priests who have been trained and duly authorized to perform the rite of exorcism.
    • Acolyte — An acolyte assists a priest in the celebration of Mass and in distributing communion and takes part in other religious rites and processions. It was formerly a minor order. Acolyte functions are new served primarily by altar servers or sacristans.
    • Lector — A lector does the reading during the Mass of Catechumens or liturgy of the Word. In the traditional rite it is a minor order. In the Novus Order the duties of the lector are fulfilled by a layperson serving as a reader.
    • Subdeacon — A subdeacon can perform the duties of any of the minor orders and in addition, can serve as a third cleric during a solemn high mass in the traditional rite.