Two Kinds of Priests
What's the difference between a religious and diocesan priest?
As a child, when I went to Mass at my parish, I saw priests who presided at the Eucharist, preached, and heard Confessions. During the week I went to a Catholic school run by religious priests. There the friars, besides saying the Mass, taught and played with us at recess. One of the parish priests also taught high school. And another one played soccer with kids in the neighborhood. So it wasn’t easy to tell the difference between “regular priests” and friars.
It is true, however, that they are not the same. The first ones, called “diocesan priests,” belong to a diocese and report to the bishop, who assigns them within the diocese. Religious priests, on the other hand, belong to a congregation with a particular mission or charism, and their whole life is spent in service of that mission.
Diocesan priests commit their lives to serving the Christian community in obedience to their bishop. For many centuries now, the church has required that they be celibate.
Religious priests, even before ordination, join an institution and make a commitment to carry out its mission living in community and making vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience. In the community they pray together, share goods, celebrate, discern their mission, and live.
In a sense both diocesan and religious priests do the same: they celebrate the sacraments, educate youth and adults, teach the Bible, and accompany Christian communities and families. Each contributes to making the gospel present in our world.
- If you were considering a vocation to the priesthood, what would attract you the most?
- What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of life in community?