By divine institution, the sacrament of Orders establishes some among the Christian faithful as sacred ministers through an indelible character which marks them. They are consecrated and designated, each according to his grade, to nourish the people of God, fulfilling in the person of Christ the Head the functions of teaching, sanctifying, and governing. (CIC 1008)

Catholics are asked to pray for the priests of their parish, past, present, and future, for their personal holiness and virtue, for their fidelity to the Church. Catholic families should not only pray for vocations, they should be open to the possibility that a son among them might be called to serve the Church as a priest. For more information about serving as a priest in our Diocese of Allentown, call Msgr. David L. James, diocesan Vocations Director, at 610-433-0755.

“I know whose ministers we are, where we find ourselves and to where we strive. I know God’s greatness and man’s weakness, but also his potential. [Who then is the priest? He is] the defender of truth, who stands with angels, gives glory with archangels, causes sacrifices to rise to the altar on high, shares Christ’s priesthood, refashions creation, restores it in God’s image, recreates it for the world on high and, even greater, is divinized and divinizes” (St. Gregory of Nazianzus, quoted in CCC 1589).

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Jesus commissioned His Apostles to do what He did in His ministry: celebrate the Sacraments, proclaim the Gospel, and care for souls. He entrusted Simon Peter with a particular leadership role in this regard: “Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. To you I give the keys of the kingdom of heaven: Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:18-19).

Leadership-as-service manifests in the priesthood with the Lord’s threefold office of priest, prophet, and king/shepherd: the ordained priest offers the Lord’s sacrifice and administers the other sacraments; he thinks and teaches as the Church does in matters of faith and morals; he gives appropriate direction in matters of faith and morals, and shows compassion to people in physical, emotional, and spiritual distress.

Priests don’t grow on trees; as with the general population, they arise (ideally) from the fully committed love of a husband and wife, perhaps alongside siblings. They usually received a solid Catholic formation from their family, or they might have “stumbled upon” the Faith as students (often college, where people experiment with a lot of things, some of which thankfully stick). They found worthy spiritual nourishment in their parishes, Newman centers, among their relatives, workmates, and friends, and even in strange ways among their adversaries. They were inspired by priests they have experienced or known of in their lives or in the past.

Of course, there is no mold for a priest, save for Jesus Christ Himself. His ordained ministers serve all around the world in dioceses and religious communities, in all manner of settings, all fulfilling the call finally ratified at their ordination: “Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are. Believe what you read, preach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”

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