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.
Today the word “ordination” is reserved for the sacramental act which integrates a man into the order of bishops, presbyters, or deacons, and goes beyond a simple election, designation, delegation, or institution by the community, for it confers a gift of the Holy Spirit that permits the exercise of a “sacred power” (sacra potestas) which can come only from Christ himself through his Church. Ordination is also called consecratio, for it is a setting apart and an investiture by Christ himself for his Church. The laying on of hands by the bishop, with the consecratory prayer, constitutes the visible sign of this ordination.
The word vocation comes from the Latin word vocare which means to call. Indeed, it is the Lord who calls men to be holy priests. Any man who believes that the Lord may be calling him to the priesthood is urged to speak with a priest whom he trusts. Certainly, our parish priests would welcome any man who is seeking more information about this life! Additionally, further information and resources may be found on the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Heed the Call website.
Just as the Lord calls men to be holy priests, so too does He call both men and women to serve him through the consecrated religious life. Any man or woman discerning this particular vocation is encouraged to contact various religious communities for information on their apostolic works and charisms. Again, our parish priests would certainly welcome conversation with any man or woman who believes that the Lord may be calling them to this great life of selfless service to the Lord and will be most willing to assist the man or woman in finding more information about the different communities.