Chapter Eight - The Sacrament of Holy Orders

Holy Orders and Matrimony, are directed towards the salvation of others; if they contribute as well to personal salvation, it is through service to others that they do so. They confer a particular mission in the Church and serve to build up the People of God. 

Through these sacraments those already consecrated by Baptism and Confirmation for the common priesthood of all the faithful can receive particular consecrations. Those who receive the sacrament of Holy Orders are consecrated in Christ's name "to feed the Church by the word and grace of God."  On their part, "Christian spouses are fortified and, as it were, consecrated for the duties and dignity of their state by a special sacrament."

Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry. It includes three degrees: episcopate, presbyterate, and diaconate (Catechism of the Catholic Church #1534-1536).

One of the most important keys to understanding the Sacrament of Holy Orders is to first understand the mission of Christ.  From there, it’s key to understand how Jesus entrusted His mission to the apostles and to all the faithful, each in their own unique way.  With a proper understanding of these two questions, we will be well on our way to understanding the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

The Mission of Christ

Let’s start with the first question.  What was the mission of Christ?  What did He come to do on Earth?  The best way to understand this is to understand all that pointed to His coming in the Old Testament.  In the Old Testament we see what we call “prefigurations” of Christ.  These are concrete ways that God prepared to come to Earth and fulfill His mission.  Specifically, we can identify three things that God did in the Old Testament that are fulfilled in the mission of Christ.  These three things are the institution of 1) The Levitical Priests; 2) The Prophets; 3) And the Kings. 

Levitical Priests: From the beginning of time, after the fall of Adam and Eve, God invited humanity to begin a process of atoning for sin. Cain and Abel were the first to bring animal sacrifices to God (Genesis 4:4-5). Abel’s was acceptable to God since it was the firstborn of his flock. After that, Noah offered sacrifice to God (Genesis 8:20-21). And who could forget the sacrifice of Abraham (Genesis 22) when God called him to offer his firstborn son, Isaac, but stopped him just before the sacrifice, allowing him to offer a ram instead? 

Eventually, God formed the people of Israel by leading them forth from slavery in Egypt by Moses and Aaron.  The gift of freedom from slavery in Egypt started by the institution of the first Passover.  God had Moses and Aaron instruct the people:

On the tenth of this month every one of your families must procure for itself a lamb, one apiece for each household. If a family is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join the nearest household in procuring one and shall share in the lamb in proportion to the number of persons who partake of it. The lamb must be a year-old male and without blemish. You may take it from either the sheep or the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month, and then, with the whole assembly of Israel present, it shall be slaughtered during the evening twilight. They shall take some of its blood and apply it to the two doorposts and the lintel of every house in which they partake of the lamb (Exodus 12:3-7).

Every house offered an animal sacrifice, sprinkled blood on the door post, and prepared to be set free.  Then, many years later, once settled in the new Promised Land of Israel, God formed the Levitical Priesthood from the descendents of Aaron.  God laid down various instructions (found in Exodus and especially the book of Leviticus) which guided the priests in their duty of offering sacrifice.  Solomon built the first temple which was dedicated for the purpose of sacrifice and this tradition continued until after the time of Christ when the final temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. never to be rebuilt.

Without going into an exhaustive study of the Levitical Priesthood, suffice it to say that these priests, as with all those before them who offered sacrifice to God, were prefigurations of the one High Priest, Jesus Christ, who offered Himself as the perfect and spotless Lamb of God, the firstborn Son, to atone for the sins of the world.  Jesus was the final and ultimate Priest who offered Himself as the final and ultimate Sacrifice. 

Prophets: Another prefiguration of Christ we see in the Old Testament was the Prophets. The Prophets were those who were called by God, and anointed with the Holy Spirit, to speak God’s message. It was typically a message of repentance and conversion by which God continually called His straying people back to Himself. The prophets were men of God (1 Samuel 2:27), servants and messengers of the Lord (Isaiah 42:19), seers (Isaiah 30:10), they were filled with the Spirit and were inspired men (Hosea 9:7), and they were watchman for the people (Ezekiel 3:17). 

There were formal prophets designated by God and anointed for that role, and then there were those who were not formally given the title but, nonetheless, acted as God’s messengers. Abraham was called a prophet (spokesman) by God in Genesis 20:7. Aaron was a spokesman of Moses who was a messenger of God in Exodus 7:1

There are also formal prophets from the Old Testament. The best known of these prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel since we have much written down about them. They are referred to as the Major Prophets. There are also twelve Minor Prophets: Hosea, Amos, Micah, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Malachi. In addition to these prophets, Joshua was referred to as a prophet as was Samuel. Joshua took over for Moses and led the people into the Promised Land, and Samuel was the last of those referred to as the Judges. 

As with the section on the priesthood above, we could go into great detail regarding the Old Testament prophets, their works, and the uniqueness of each of their situations. That is not the purpose of this current chapter. Instead, the goal is to illustrate the fact that there were prophets and that they played a significant role prior to Christ preparing the people for the coming of the Messiah in various ways. Most specifically, they continually spoke for God and called the people back to God from their evil ways. They spoke the truths of God and were inspired by God to do so. 

The greatest of the Old Testament Prophets is actually found in the New Testament. John the Baptist is the greatest and last of the Old Testament Prophets because he was the immediate precursor to Christ. He prepared the way for His immediate coming. 

Jesus takes on this new role of the Prophet of all prophets by coming as Truth itself. He is the Truth, the Way and the Life. He is the Word of God in fullness. He is the definitive and final “statement” from God revealing all truth. Jesus is the fulfillment of all Prophets. 

King: In our day and age we tend to separate civil governance from the Church. The “Separation of Church and State” we say. As a result, we can fall into the trap of thinking this means separation of God and civil governance. But is this what God intended? Is this the way it has always been and is it the way it will always be? The answer is no, no and no. In creating the world, God intended to be centrally involved in its governance. And He will do just that in eternity when He establishes the new Heavens and new Earth. 

In the Old Testament we see God raising up leaders to govern. Noah, Abraham and Moses led their people with the authority of governance. Saul, David and Solomon are known as powerful kings. And there were numerous other kings who were anointed and empowered by God to rule His people. 

The role of a king was ultimately to govern in truth and justice, respecting and implementing God’s law as the ultimate law. King David, especially, was seen as a good king who governed with a shepherd’s heart. Though he wasn’t perfect, he brought stability and peace to God’s people 

Throughout the Old Testament we see God shepherding his people with good leaders as well as leaders who go astray and wreak havoc on the community. 

But all of these leaders were only prefigurations of the one great Leader, Shepherd and Ruler to come. And that, of course, is the King of Kings…Jesus. Jesus, as King, came to be the perfect Shepherd of all. His kingship is one that governs the spiritual world now, and at the end of time, He will rule the material world in perfect justice. He governs our souls as we let Him and desires to bring perfect order and peace. He is the perfect King. 

So the point of this section is to illustrate the mission of Christ. He was sent by the Father, into the world, to be Priest, Prophet and King. In fact, He was the perfect fulfillment of each one of these roles. Together, they sum up His entire mission. 

From here, let’s look at how Jesus entrusted His mission to the apostles as well as His entire Body, the Church. 

Entrusting the Mission

Jesus is no longer here on Earth, or is He? As mentioned in the chapter on Penance, after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to the Apostles as they were locked in the upper room: 

Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the holy Spirit.” (John 20:21-22

There are two key parts to this passage we should focus in on. First, Jesus said, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” This is key because it shows that the apostles were to now share in the very mission of Christ. They were to share in the mission that Jesus was sent to fulfill by the Father. They were being sent, as Jesus Himself said earlier in John’s Gospel, to do even greater works than He did (see John 14:12-14). So this tells us clearly that Jesus’ mission to be Priest, Prophet and King did not end with His ascension into Heaven. In fact, His earthly life was, in some ways, just the beginning of His mission. 

The second key part in this passage is the gift of the Holy Spirit, “And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” This reveals the fact that it is by a unique gift of the Holy Spirit, namely, ordination to Holy Orders, that the apostles are now able to carry out Jesus’ mission as Priest, Prophet and King. It is not by their own effort or power they carry out the mission, rather, it is by the power of the Holy Spirit, given at their ordination, that they are enabled to carry out the mission of Christ in this unique way. 

Of course, the apostles were not the only ones entrusted with the mission of Christ. By virtue of our Baptism and Confirmation, all the faithful, that is, the entire Body of Christ is entrusted with this threefold mission of Christ. Ordained ministers fulfill this threefold mission in a very unique way that is different than the laity, but nonetheless, the laity also shares in the mission of Christ through a participation called the “Royal Priesthood.” 

Here are some examples of how the laity fulfill the threefold mission of Christ: 

Priestly Role:

·         Offering their life to Christ as a living sacrifice

·         Offering their daily work to Christ that He may sanctify it

·         By making an offering of prayer to Christ so that He may sanctify the world

·         By offering their works of charity to Christ as a sacrifice of love for others


Prophetic Role:

·         By spreading the Word of God in the world

·         By the prophetic witness of a life of virtue

·         By taking on certain catechetical roles within the Church

·         Parents fulfill this role by teaching their children the faith


Kingly Role:

·         By allowing Christ to govern their own soul so that their soul lives in God’s Kingdom

·         By bringing order to civil society striving to bring all civil laws into conformity with the divine law

·         By affecting the social order of culture so that it reflects the truths of God

·         Parents fulfill this role by guiding their children and helping them to live lives in conformity to Christ’s


With this basic understanding of the role the laity play in fulfilling the mission of Christ, let’s now turn our attention to the way the ordained fulfill this mission in their unique way.  In order to understand this properly, we must understand, first, the three degrees of Sacred Ordination: bishop, priest and deacon.

The Degrees of Ordination

Episcopacy (bishops): The bishops are the successors to the apostles.  A little known fact is that every bishop actually could trace his line of ordination back to the apostles.  Of course this may be impossible to do practically speaking in that it would be hard to find the historical records of ordination all the way back.  But regardless of that, it is true that every bishop is directly descended from the apostles.  From that upper room, when the apostles were ordained by Christ, they eventually went out to evangelize and govern the world.  As they established a new Christian community, the apostle would ordain a new bishop to care for that new church.  Those new bishops would do the same and so forth all the way until today.  In fact, this unbroken line of ordination is an essential aspect of ordination.  Without it, there would be the complete loss of the episcopacy as well as the priesthood and deaconate. 

Being the descendents of the apostles, bishops share in the fullness of the priesthood.  Only they have the authority to ordain new priests and deacons.  And each bishop is independent of each other.  The Holy Father in Rome, the Pope, is a bishop also.  It’s just that he, being the successor of St. Peter himself, exercises a singular spiritual authority over the entire Church.  But in regards to his ordination, the Pope is no more or less a bishop than every other bishop. 

Presbyters (Priests): Like the bishops, presbyters share in the priesthood of Christ.  They exercise the same spiritual power to celebrate Mass, forgive sins, bring healing, preach with authority and shepherd souls.  The difference is that priests are tied to a bishop.  They are coworkers with the bishop in the ministry of Christ.  In fact, every priest must be under a bishop so as to function in his role.  Even those in religious orders must be tied either to the local bishop, or to the Pope himself as their bishop.

Deacons: Deacons are not ordained to the priesthood; rather, they are ordained unto the “ministry.”  This ministry is one of service in the Church.  They do not take on the role of shepherd in the same way priests and bishop do, but they are entrusted with the task of preaching with authority.  They also must be tied to a bishop and act as servants in the Church in their own unique way according to the needs.

Fulfilling Christ’s Mission through Ordination

Let’s now look at how the threefold mission of Christ is fulfilled in the ordained minister. We already looked at how these roles are fulfilled in the laity through the royal priesthood, so it is now important to understand the way it is fulfilled through ordained ministry. Ordination, being a Sacrament, provides the necessary grace to fulfill the mission outlined below. 

Role as Priest: As mentioned, the presbyters and bishops share in this role in a unique way by virtue of their ordination. This unique participation in the priestly role of Christ differs from the laity and deacons not only in degree, but in essence. In other words, it’s not that the presbyters and bishops just fulfill this role to a greater degree as if supercharged; rather, they fulfill this role in an entirely different way. 

Presbyters and bishops fulfill the priestly role of Christ by actually perpetuating the one and eternal Sacrifice of the Cross through the offering of the Holy Eucharist. As the priest offers Mass, it is Christ Himself who is present offering the one eternal Sacrifice. We say that the priest is in Persona Christi, he acts “in the Person of Christ.” So it is not the priest himself offering the Mass; rather, it is Christ who is alive in and one with the priest. This happens by virtue of his ordination. And by virtue of that ordination it is Christ Himself who offers each Mass. 

Presbyters and bishops also act in Persona Christi every time they absolve sins in the confessional, and every time they anoint a person with the oil of the sick in the Sacrament of Anointing. 

This sharing in the mission of Christ is “priestly” in that it results from the grace of the one perfect Sacrifice of the Cross. This grace is the same grace that flows from the Cross which was Jesus’ perfect priestly act. 

Role as Prophet: All people are called to share the Word of God by what they say and what they do. That includes you, priests, laity, religious and everyone. But they all do it in their own unique way. Those who share in the ordained ministry share in the prophetic mission of Christ in a powerful way. 

Let’s look at a practical example to help illustrate this point. Say there is a layman who gives a class at a local parish on the Gospel of John. What he shares is good, true and insightful. Now imagine that this same talk is given by the parish priest. The content is the same, the words are the same, but is the prophetic message the same? The answer is that, even though what is said is the same, the fact that the priest gives the message is significant. By virtue of his ordination, the message he speaks takes on an added authority. God speaks not only through the words, but also through the priest’s sacred ministry. And, of course, the same is true if what is taught is erroneous. In that case, the error taught by someone ordained is more damaging to the Church than if it were taught by someone not ordained. 

The point of this illustration is to show that God speaks His Word through the ordained ministry in a unique and powerful way. God’s Word is not just words, rather, His Word is a communication of His very Person. 

This is especially true within the sacred Liturgy itself. The Liturgy is a sacred action of both Christ and the Church. Jesus shows up sacramentally, but He also shows up as the Word that is proclaimed. For that reason, the ordained minister is the only one who is permitted to preach within the context of the Liturgy. This homily is to be a heart to heart conversation between God and His people. It is to be seen as a revealing of the very mind, heart and Person of God Himself. And the glorious truth is that God is able to accomplish this revealing of Himself through the ordained minister despite the fact that the ordained minister is a sinner like the rest of humanity. God can do amazing things even with poor instruments. 

By analogy, it would be like a master musician who picks up an inexpensive violin and produces beautiful music. Sure, the better the instrument the better the sound. But, more important than a good instrument is the musician Himself. God is that Musician and we are the instrument. He uses us, and in the case of the Liturgy, uses the ordained minister as a means of His glorious Word. 

The bishops (and especially the pope, as explained in Book One of this series) are entrusted with the fullness of the proclamation of the Word of God. Priests also share in this ministry of the Word as coworkers of the bishops. Deacons are also entrusted with the proclamation of the Word of God by virtue of their ordination and are also given a special gift (charism) so as to preach that Word with authority. 

Kingly Role: Too often we have a misunderstanding of what it means to be a “king” or to act with the authority of governance. Our common misunderstanding of this role seems to stem from the fact that so many, throughout history, have abused their power of governance. This is seen in numerous forms of abuse found in secular governance throughout the ages. It is also found in abuses of authority within the Church itself. There is an old phrase that comes to mind here, “absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Though this may not always be the case, it is a common tendency due to our fallen human nature. The power of governance of people brings with it temptations to abuse that authority and to govern with harshness and selfishness. 

Jesus’ Kingship was of the highest order and is the perfect model for all governance. His Kingship is commonly analogized to be that of a shepherd. A shepherd is humble and has as his only concern the desire to lead his sheep, keep them safe, and keep them well fed. The shepherd is intimately involved in the day to day life of the sheep. He is there in the sheepfold with the sheep. They know the shepherd, hear his voice and follow him. 

Priests and bishops are empowered by virtue of their ordination to act as shepherds to God’s people. They act as shepherds in the very name and person of Christ. This priestly governance (also referred to as “hierarchy” – hieros=priestly and archy=governance) is manifested in two primary ways. First, it’s manifested in the external governance of the Church itself, and, secondly, it’s manifested in a more personal shepherding of souls. 

The priestly governance of the Church is seen on various levels. The Pope is entrusted with the universal governance of the whole Church on Earth. Each bishop is entrusted with the governance of his local church (diocese). And priests, when given the responsibility of being a Pastor, are entrusted with the governance of that parish. This governance brings with it various rights and responsibilities and is exercised, ideally, with the heart of Christ. 

On a more personal, one-on-one level, all priests and bishops are entrusted with the care of souls and are called to shepherd people through their pastoral ministry. This certainly includes offering them the sacraments and preaching the Word of God, but it also includes individual shepherding through spiritual guidance. This more intimate encounter between God’s people and priests reveals the personal nature of shepherding. Shepherding (governance) is not at all just about the priest “being in charge;” rather, it’s first and foremost about the priest or bishop leading God’s people to Christ. 

Some Practical Considerations

The previous pages of this chapter give a general understanding of Holy Orders, its origin in the Old Testament, its fulfillment in Christ, and Christ’s entrustment of that mission to the Church. In addition to this general overview of Holy Orders, it is important that we look at several practical considerations and questions that often come up. Let’s look at why Holy Orders is reserved only to men, celibacy, the distinction between religious and diocesan priests, and how ordination itself takes place. 

Ordination of Men: The ordination of bishops, priests and deacons is reserved only to men. Why is that? Is it a form of discrimination? Is it a hold out from the past? Will it ever change? These are important questions to properly understand and answer. 

The answer to these questions is quite simple. The reason only men are ordained is because we do what Jesus did. Jesus picked twelve men as His apostles and they became His first bishops. Also, from that time on, those whom the apostles picked as their successors and coworkers were men. Therefore, the Church continues to do what Jesus and the Apostles did. 

Deacons were the same way. In Acts 6 we have the institution of the deaconate. The Apostles needed help and they chose seven men to be ordained deacons. This practice then continued on throughout the centuries. 

What’s key to understand here is that, with all of the sacraments, we do what Jesus did. For example, we baptize with water because Jesus was baptized with water. We use bread and wine for the Mass because that’s what Jesus did. And we use men for ordination because that’s what Jesus did. 

It’s easy to question this and wonder why Jesus picked only men for His first bishops. Was it just the cultural influences of the time? Was Jesus Himself pressured by that culture? No, certainly not. Jesus was very often counter-cultural and not afraid to stand up to the erroneous practices of the time. So we should conclude that He did what He freely willed to do. 

Furthermore, Jesus was male. God the Son took on human flesh in the form of a man. Thus, this is another reason for ordaining only men. 

Another question that may arise is whether this means Jesus, or the Church, is prejudiced by restricting ordination only to men. Again, most certainly not. There is nothing wrong in choosing only men for ordination. Truthfully, we will only fully know why Jesus did this when we get to Heaven. We’ll have to ask Him then. But we should know and believe that Jesus was not prejudiced. In fact, He was quite caring and counter-cultural in the way He treated women with the utmost respect and dignity. But, for some reason, he chose men for Holy Orders. Men and women are different from each other which is an obvious statement. But in our day and age we tend to think that equality of dignity means exactness of roles and responsibilities. But is that true? What is true is that men and women are 100% equal in dignity, but differ in their roles in the world, family and the Church. We must be very careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that being “different” implies being “better or worse.” It doesn’t. Different just means different and we should not be afraid to embrace this in accord with God’s plan. But we must also constantly maintain complete equality in dignity. 

Can this practice of ordaining only men ever change? No, it cannot change anymore than the Church could change using bread and wine for Mass or water for Baptism. So this practice will remain until the end of time. 

Celibacy: In the Western Church the practice of ordaining only celibate priests and bishops is the norm. Married men can be ordained deacons but if their wife were to pass away before they do, they cannot remarry. 

In the Eastern Church the practice of celibacy has never been in place, therefore, a married man can be ordained. However, bishops are chosen only from those priests who are celibate. 

Why do we have celibacy in the Western Church? This could be answered from varying perspectives. Scripturally, Jesus himself spoke of those who would remain celibate for the sake of the Kingdom (Matthew 19:12). And we should not forget that Jesus Himself was celibate. St. Paul speaks of celibacy as an ideal in 1 Corinthians 7. And as the apostles went forth to proclaim the Gospel to new towns and countries, they left their families to fulfill their missions. 

As for “why” we have celibacy, it seems that, in addition to the Scriptural basis and personal life of Christ as a celibate, there are practical, ministerial, and symbolic reasons. 

Practically speaking, celibacy allows a priest to fully dedicate himself to His priestly ministry. And this is the ideal for a priest. If a priest were married with children, it would be only proper that his wife and children would take precedence over his priestly ministry. However, the priesthood is one that must strive to imitate Christ in every way. Priests must, ideally, make their priestly ministry the center and priority in their lives. For that reason, married priests will more easily experience a certain conflict between two very good things – between their ministry and their family. Not that this would be an irreconcilable conflict or even a negative conflict. It would simply be a conflict of priorities. Therefore, the Western Church has maintained celibacy so that priests can be singly focused on their ministry. 

Could celibacy ever change? Sure it could. The pope has the authority to change this since it is nothing more than a discipline of the Church and not an essential part of the priestly ministry. This is evidenced by the fact that some of the apostles were married, priests in the Eastern Church can be married, and there are even extreme situations within the Western Church when priests can be married (when a married Anglican priest converts to Catholicism he can get permission to be ordained a Catholic priest while married). However, though celibacy could change in theory, most believe it will not change. It’s been the practice for many centuries and will most likely remain the practice of the Church. 

Religious and Diocesan Priests: The first thing that should be said about the distinction between religious order priests and diocesan priests is that a priest is a priest. There are not two forms of the priesthood. All priests are priests, all deacons are deacons, and all bishops are bishops. 

With that said, there are different ways that priests live out their priestly ministry. One of the primary distinctions is whether they are religious or diocesan priests. 

A religious priest is one who first belongs to a religious order, such as the Franciscans or Dominicans, and later, with the consent of the order’s superiors, is also ordained. The primary reason for a religious to also be ordained a priest is to help fulfill the mission of the order. These priests remain religious brothers or monks and exercise their priesthood/deaconate in accord with the direction of the superiors of that order. Religious priests take vows in accord with the practice of their order but most every order takes vows of celibacy, obedience and chastity. 

Diocesan priests are ordained for a specific diocese under a specific bishop for the purpose of serving the needs of that particular diocese under the direction of the bishop. Diocesan priests make solemn promises of obedience and celibacy. Obedience means, first and foremost, that a priest fulfills the ministerial responsibilities assigned to him by his bishop. Celibacy is straight forward in that it means a diocesan priest sacrifices the good of marriage and family for the sake of being singularly devoted to the priestly ministry. 

Ordination Itself: If you ever have the opportunity to attend an ordination ceremony it is worth attending. It’s a beautiful and solemn ceremony that takes place after years of preparation. A diocesan priest prepares for ordination through eight years of study after high school. This typically involves an undergraduate degree in philosophy and a graduate degree in theology. During the time of priestly formation, the seminarian also engages in various apostolic ministries, spiritual direction and formation of his human personality. A religious will often also fulfill at least eight years of study and, at times, even more. 

Ordination takes place to the deaconate and priesthood by a bishop and only a bishop. Bishops are also ordained by other bishops and, customarily, this takes place with at least three bishops present. 

The ritual involves publically making the priestly and diaconal promises, the laying on of hands and, for priests, anointing of their hands with chrism oil. During the ceremony they are vested in their new liturgical garb and are welcomed by the other priests or deacons present. It is truly a glorious ceremony. 

The last thing to mention about ordination is that, like Baptism and Confirmation, Holy Orders imparts an “indelible character” upon the soul of the one to be ordained. This means that once a man is ordained, he is ordained eternally. There is no way to take this sacred gift away. Even if he were to leave or be removed from active ministry, the spiritual character of ordination cannot be removed. Once a bishop, priest or deacon, always a bishop, priest or deacon. 

We’ve just scratched the surface of Holy Orders but, hopefully, this basic introduction to this sacrament helps you grow in appreciation for the gift of our bishops, priests and deacons. They are here to serve the Church and rely greatly upon our prayers and support.