Holy Orders 3  Holy Orders 2

Jesus called them: “follow me and I will make you fish for people”. immediately they left their nets and followed him … (Matthew 4: 19-20)

Holy Orders is a sacrament of service through which the mission which Christ entrusted to his apostles continues to be carried out by the Church. Through a special gift of the Holy Spirit, this sacrament enables the ordained to exercise a sacred power in the name and authority of Christ to serve the People of God.

At the deepest level priesthood is about union with Jesus Christ: the goal is to become more and more like him. Being a priest is more than a job – it’s a way of life, requiring strong personal and professional commitment that is reflected in all that you do, all that you are. The opportunity to serve God and bring hope, joy and healing into the lives of many people brings with it a deep happiness and a sense of peace.

Priests serve God and others through:

  • Offering pastoral care – visiting the sick and troubled, counselling individuals, married couples or families, animating parish projects and activities.
  • Proclaiming God’s word – through the witness of our lives and through homilies founded on daily reflection and prayer.
  • Ministering the Sacraments – celebrating Eucharist and baptism, witnessing marriages, leading funerals, and bringing God’s healing presence to people through the Sacraments of Penance (Confession) and the Anointing of the Sick.

The Three Ordained Ministries of Holy Orders

The Three Ordained Ministries of Holy Orders unfolds itself through three stages as it confers successively the powers of deacon, priest, and bishop. Deaconship, priesthood, and bishopric are the three stages in the sacrament of Holy Orders as it was instituted by Christ. At each stage, as in every sacrament, there is an increase in sanctifying grace (the unmerited gift of divine favour from God). At each stage there is the imprinting of a character upon the soul; each successive character, like a progressively brighter sun, enveloping and containing the one that has gone before. In that character are rooted the right and the power that belong to the order which is being received.

  • For the deacon it is the right to baptise, to preach, and to administer Holy Communion.
  • For the priest it is the power to change bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ and to forgive sins.
  • For the bishop, who alone has the complete fullness of the priesthood, it is the power to confirm and to ordain—to pass the power of the priesthood on to others in the sacrament of Holy Orders.


Priesthood also embraces the exercise of spiritual leadership, the teaching of faith and morals, formation of lay leaders and whatever other duties are deemed necessary by his Bishop or Religious Superior. Ordination to the Priesthood requires holiness of life, moral integrity and celibacy.

Please follow this link to the Vocations section of the Sydney Archdiocese Website and click on the ||Seminary of the Good Shepherd.


The Effects of the Sacrament

The Sacrament of Holy Orders, like the Sacrament of Baptism and the Sacrament of Confirmation, can only be received once for each level of ordination. Once a man has been ordained, he is spiritually changed, which is the origin of the saying, “Once a priest, always a priest.” He can be dispensed of his obligations as a priest (or even forbidden to act as a priest); but he remains a priest forever.

Each level of ordination confers special graces, from the ability to preach, granted to deacons; to the ability to act in the person of Christ to offer the Mass, granted to priests; to a special grace of strength, granted to bishops, which allows him to teach and lead his flock, even to the point of dying as Christ did.

Permanent Diaconate

In 1964 the Second Vatican Council renewed in the west the ancient order of the permanent diaconate. In Lumen Gentium (#29) the Council Fathers spoke of the “deacons, upon whom hands are imposed not unto the priesthood, but unto a ministry of service …”

The renewal of the permanent diaconate is a part of the Council’s vision to renew all clerical and lay ministries. Through baptism all the followers of Christ are called to holiness through the living out of their specific vocation and gifts.

The restoration of the diaconate makes available to the Church in Sydney the fullness of the Sacrament of Holy Orders; Bishop, Priest and Deacon. Through their ordination deacons are dedicated to the people of God in communion with their bishop and the priests in the service of the Altar, the Word and Charity.

What sort of formation is involved?

Those who have been admitted into the diaconate program (aspirants) will normally receive four years of personal, spiritual, theological and pastoral formation prior to ordination. This will generally include a theology degree from an approved Catholic institution. The formation program will also consist of part of one weekend every month as the candidate builds up a deeper spiritual life and is equipped with the skills that will be needed in serving the People of God.

After consultation with the bishops, priests and deacons of the Archdiocese, the Archbishop of Sydney, George Cardinal Pell, announced in 2007 his intention to re-open a program for the selection, formation and deployment of permanent deacons in the Archdiocese.

In the Archdiocesan Pastoral Plan 2008-11 Starting Afresh with Christ, provision was made for the establishment of an Office and program for the Permanent Diaconate. The Office of the Permanent Diaconate began in 2010 with an Archdiocesan program of catechesis and the first men were accepted into formation at the start of 2011.

What Happens During The Holy Orders Ceremony?

All the candidates should present themselves in the church with tonsure and in clerical dress, carrying the vestments of the order to which they are to be raised, and lighted candles. They are all summoned by name, each candidate answering “Adsum”. When a general ordination takes place the tonsure is given after the Introit or Kyrie, the minor orders after the Gloria, subdiaconate after the Collect, the diaconate after the Epistle, priesthood after Alleluia and Tract. After the Tract of the Mass the archdeacon summons all who are to receive the priesthood.

The candidates, vested in amice, alb, girdle, stole, and maniple, with folded chasuble on left arm and a candle in their right hand, go forward and kneel around the bishop. The latter inquires of the archdeacon, who is here the representative of the Church as it were, whether the candidates are worthy to be admitted to the priesthood. The archdeacon answers in the affirmative and his testimony represents the testimony of fitness given in ancient times by the clergy and people.

The bishop, then charging the congregation and insisting upon the reasons why “the Fathers decreed that the people also should be consulted”, asks that, if anyone has anything to say to the prejudice of the candidates, he should come forward and state it.

The bishop then instructs and admonishes the candidates as to the duties of their new office. He kneels down in front of the altar; the ordinandi lay themselves prostrate on the carpet, and the Litany of the Saints is chanted or recited. On the conclusion of the Litany, all arise, the candidates come forward, and kneel in pairs before the bishop while he lays both hands on the head of each candidate in silence. The same is done by all priests who are present. Whilst bishop and priests keep their right hands extended, the former alone recites a prayer, inviting all to pray to God for a blessing on the candidates.

After this follows the Collect and then the bishop says the Preface, towards the end of which occurs the prayer, “Grant, we beseech Thee etc.” The bishop then with appropriate formulæ crosses the stole over the breast of each one and vests him with the chasuble. This is arranged to hang down in front but is folded behind.

Though there is no mention of the stole in many of the most ancient Pontificals, there can be no doubt of its antiquity. The vesting with the chasuble is also very ancient and found already in Mabillon (Benedictine monk of the Congregation of Saint-Maur) “Ord. VIII and IX.” Afterwards the bishop recites a prayer calling down God’s blessing on the newly-ordained. He then intones the “Veni Creator”, and whilst it is being sung by the choir he anoints the hands of each with the oil of catechumens.

The anointing of the hands, which in ancient times was done with chrism, or oil and chrism, was not used by the Roman Church, said Nicholas I (A.D. 864), though it is generally found in all ancient ordinals. It probably became a general practice in the ninth century and seems to have been derived from the British Church (Haddan and Stubbs, “Councils and Eccl. Documents”, I, 141). The bishop then hands to each the chalice, containing wine and water, with a paten and a host upon it. This rite, with its corresponding formula, which as Hugo of St. Victor says (“Sacr.”, III, xii), signifies the power which has already been received, is not found in the oldest rituals and probably dates back not earlier than the ninth or tenth century.

When the bishop has finished the Offertory of the Mass, he seats himself before the middle of the altar and each of those ordained make an offering to him of a lighted candle. The newly-ordained priests then repeat the Mass with him, all saying the words of consecration simultaneously.

Before the Communion the bishop gives the kiss of peace to one of the newly-ordained. After the Communion the priests again approach the bishop and say the Apostle’s Creed. The bishop laying his hands upon each says: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost, whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” This imposition of hands was introduced in the thirteenth century. The chasuble is then folded, the newly-ordained make a promise of obedience and having received the kiss of peace, return to their place.

For further information in the Archdiocese of Sydney go to:http://www.sydneydiaconate.org