Holy Orders is the sacrament by which men are ordained to be of special service to the Church as priests, deacons, or bishops. While all of the baptized are called to a life of service and commitment to Jesus Christ, the Church calls upon some to serve the community in a special way through this sacrament.
This video about the Sacrament of Holy Orders, prepared by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, provides a clearer understanding of this sacrament.
Through the Sacrament of Holy Orders, the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time. The Sacrament's three degrees (Episcopate, Presbyterate, and Diaconate) are conferred as follows:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. [Catechism of the Catholic Church 1994 Reference: 1536,1595,1596]