This is the sacrament through which one becomes a member of the Catholic clergy. Through Holy Orders, the mission entrusted by Christ to his Apostles to preach the Gospel and to baptize all in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit continues to be exercised in the Church.
"Holy Orders" most commonly is used when discussing the priesthood. A priest is an unmarried man consecrated and ordained to the priesthood. In his ministry, he preaches the Gospel, celebrates divine worship and the sacraments - especially the Eucharist - and is called to serve in the person of Christ as a shepherd of the faithful. In any given day, the priest can experience the full range of human life - from baptizing a newborn, to witnessing the marriage of a couple, to bringing new members into the Church, reconciling sinners to God, to anointing those who are ill or on danger of dying, and to celebrating a Funeral Mass and burying the dead. The parish priest is the most common "face of the Church" in society.
Another degree of Holy Orders is the diaconate. Deacons may be either "permanent" deacons - men (usually married) who remain as deacons for life, or "transitional" deacons - unmarried men (usually seminarians) who are in formation for further ordination to the priesthood. A deacon is ordained to a ministry of service and performs his ministry through preaching and teaching the Word of God, through service at worship, and through service to others.
Before one pursues a vocation to Holy Orders, a period of discernment is necessary. For us, it means that we must look for God’s presence and listen for God’s voice amidst the clamor and confusion of modern life to see where God is calling us to serve Him. And, just as a parent, God changes how he speaks to us as we grow.
As with all divine calls, God’s call to ordained ministry comes to us at various times in our life. His call will sound different at each stage in our life, depending on what our ears are listening for.
Although not a part of Holy Orders, religious life as a nun, sister, monk, or brother in service to God is also a vocation and requires a period of reflection, formation, preparation, and discernment.
If you are considering serving God as a priest, deacon, or religious, contact your pastor at 757-484-7335 or firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the diocesan Vocations Office at 804-359-5661 or visit www.richmonddiocese.org/vocations.