In the Sacred Scriptures, we see Jesus choose 12 disciples, or apostles, to learn from Him and to carry on His mission to evangelize the world. Later, after Jesus death, resurrection, and ascension, the Apostles numbering only eleven under the guidance of the Holy Spirit choose another to join them in that mission. From that day the Church has continued the mission of ordaining men who are called to serve as witnesses to Jesus Christ and do His work in the world. Today, those men are known as the Pope and Bishops of the Roman Catholic Church.
While all believers are called to be Priest, Prophet, and King; God has chosen men to serve him directly in those roles. These men deliver to us the Sacraments of the Church making God's grace present in our times of need. All men who are ordained receive a permanent spiritual mark (or character) that configures them to Christ. This mark signifies and designates them as visible representatives of Christ's living presence in His Church.
There are three levels of ordination:
The Bishop receives the fullness of the Sacrament of Holy Orders and is the visible head of the local Church (a diocese). He is also a member of the episcopal college. This is the magisterium that formed, with the Pope, governs and guides our Church. Our Bishop is David Malloy and we are a part of the Rockford Diocese.
The Priest serves the various communities and brings the Sacraments present to them. They preside at liturgies, preach, administer the Sacraments, counsel people as spiritual directors, teach, and help to shepherd communities. A priest is configured to Christ and we speak about this in the term "in persona Christi" or "in persona Christi capitas". This means that it is Jesus Christ himself who is bringing the Sacraments to you through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Deacons are men who are either being called to the priesthood (transitional deacons) or men who are married and are still called to the vocation of Holy Orders (permanent deacons). A deacon is ordained and configured to Christ the servant (in persona servi). This is why the Priests stole covers both his shoulders and the deacons instead only one (like a servant with a towel.) A deacon then is a man who serves the Bishop, helping at Mass, but also going into the communities to help shepherd the people. Permanent deacons are men who are married, have proven themselves by their actions, studied for several years and have discerned a call to be ordained. Men who are permanent deacons are not allowed to remarry if, God forbid, their wife passes before them. They instead must remain in service to the Church in chastity. In our diocese, the formation program for deacons begins with 2 years of ministry formation followed by 5 years of Diaconate formation.
Remember, it is up to us as the people of God to continue to raise families and encourage our children to get involved. It is at the hands of the Priest that the Eucharist, that Jesus Christ himself, is made present to us. Raise your children to understand this. Foster vocations. Pray for vocations!
If you feel you may be called to the Sacrament of Holy Orders please contact our diocese office for vocations:
Phone: (815) 399 - 4300