The Sacrament of Holy Orders is the continuation of Christ's priesthood, which He bestowed upon His Apostles; thus, the Catechism of the Catholic Church refers to the Sacrament of Holy Orders as "the sacrament of apostolic ministry." "Ordination" comes from the Latin word ordinatio, which means to incorporate someone into an order. In the Sacrament of Holy Orders, a man is incorporated into the priesthood of Christ, at one of three levels: the episcopate, the priesthood, or the diaconate.
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.
For additional information on vocations, please contact one of the parish priests or deacons at(410) 461-1670, or call the Vocation Office of the Archdiocese of Baltimore at (410) 547-5431.