Priests & Deacons
A Calling to the Priesthood
"Ours is a mission which is indispensable for
the Church and for the world, a mission
which calls for complete fidelity to Christ
and constant union with Him."
Opening of the Year for Priests - Homily of
Pope Benedict XVI
Through the ministerial priesthood Christ unceasingly builds up and leads His Church. Bishops, in an eminent and visible manner, are called to take the place of Christ himself as teacher, shepherd and priest, and act as His representative. Each bishop has the pastoral care of the particular Church entrusted to him and is responsible for the apostolic mission of the Church.
Priests – co-workers of the bishops
Bishops, as sharers in Christ’s ministry to His Church, appoint those who have been called to the order of the priesthood to be their co-workers. Priests, therefore, exercise their ministry only in dependence on the bishop and in communion with him.
Through the sacrament of Holy Orders, priests are consecrated in order to preach the Gospel, teach the faith, to celebrate the Eucharist, and be a visible sign of the presence of the Good Shepherd to the flock that have been given to their care.
Through the sacrament of Holy Orders, priests share in the universal dimensions of the mission that Christ entrusted to the apostles.
“A priest is an ordinary man called to an extraordinary ministry.”
Cardinal Basil Hume
The Parish – a faith community
The parish is where most people experience what it means to belong to the Church. A parish is a family, a living cell of the one family of God. However, there are various special ministries for priests outside of parish life.
In any parish, the priest’s ministry is to build a community of faith, of truly faith-filled people. It is there that they encounter the living Jesus in the Scriptures, in the
Sacraments, in the whole prayer-life of the community, and in their fellow parishioners. One of the main tasks of priests in a parish is to help people to discover the part God has given them to play in his work, and the gifts he has bestowed on them. Every parish is in some way a network of smaller communities woven together by the ministry of the priest and centred on the celebration of the Eucharist.
The parish priest is a shepherd, bringing his flock the care of the Good Shepherd. His ministry tries to create an atmosphere of prayer and loving care, a community where people feel they belong, where they are valued and accepted. Every parishioner has a role in building such a caring family, but the priest has a central ministry here.
Visiting people in their homes is a vital part of his ministry. Jesus himself did a lot of visiting. Priests visit the sick in their homes and in hospital, bringing them the healing touch of the Lord.
He cares for the dying, leads the funeral Liturgy and comforts the bereaved. The priest will also spend time in the local Catholic schools (where he may well be a governor). There are all kinds of ministries to young people to support. There may be special institutions such as a prison or military base tp serve. His teaching ministry will include many forms of preparation for the sacraments and of adult education. There are parish social events which call for his ministry of presence and support.
The priest gathers together a team of people who work in many ways to carry forward the work of the Lord. One of his own main tasks is to teach the teachers, to care for the carers, to lead the leaders, all in the name of Jesus himself. His whole ministry, with and for his parish team and all his parishioners, is centred always on the Eucharist - in other words, on Jesus himself,the centre of all ministry and life.
“...He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor . He has sent me to proclaim
release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free.” Luke 4:18
Celebrating the Sacraments
Celebrating the sacraments is central to the priestly ministry. The priest proclaims the presence of Jesus in the sacraments. It is Jesus himself who is the minister of the
sacraments. When the priest baptises, anoints, consecrates and absolves, it is the Lord himself who is at work through the words and actions of his friend and servant.
The Eucharist - heart of the priestly ministry
In the Eucharist the priest is the living icon or image of Jesus as our great High Priest offering Himself to the Father, as our Head, uniting His body to Himself in His sacrifice, and as our Good Shepherd nourishing his flock with the sacrificial gift of himself. The Eucharist is the heart of the life and ministry of the priest and of the community he serves. Everything else he does flows from it and leads back to it, and it is there above all that we see the priest’s role most clearly.
“In the footsteps of the Curé of Ars, let yourselves be enthralled by Christ. In this way you too will be, for the world in our time, heralds of hope, reconciliation
Letter of Pope Benedict XVI Proclaiming a Year for Priests on the 150th Anniversary of the birth of the Curé of Ars, 16 June, 2009.
For more information see:
If you feel you may have a calling to the priesthood, please speak to the Parish Clergy or contact:
The Diocesan Vocations Director: Fr Paul Cummins
The Catholic Chaplaincy
Devon, EX4 4QU
Tel: 01392 274724
Prayer for Vocations
The ministry of priests is a sign of Your unfailing care.
Call from among us the priests needed for the Church
of today and tomorrow.
Bless all students for the priesthood. Grant them joy,
wisdom, courage and a generous spirit.
Sustain priests with a real sense of Your love and the
support of those they are called to serve.
Keep them faithful to their calling.