The Sacrament of Apostolic Ministry by which the mission entrusted by Christ to his Apostles continues to be exercised in the Church through the laying on of hands. This sacrament has three distinct degrees or “orders”: deacon, priest, and bishop. All three confer a permanent, sacramental character.
The priest’s special calling is first and foremost to preach the Good News of God’s love and humanity. In offering himself as a candidate for the priesthood, he must give evidence of wisdom and spiritual maturity, as he is called to lead the Christian community with patience and kindness. The priest celebrates Mass and administers the Sacraments, taking an active role in offering Christ’s gift of Himself.
From earliest times, deacons have had a special place in the pastoral work of the Church, preaching, ministering at baptisms and weddings, and caring for the poor and hungry on behalf of the whole Church. Nowadays, married men are more and more frequently ordained to the diaconate, where they have a strong role in assisting priests and bishops and serving the people.
Finally, bishops are chosen and ordained to supervise and lead priests and deacons, to unify, bless and teach the people and act as a sign of Christ in the local church and community.