Although there is only one Sacrament of Holy Orders, there are three levels of participation in Holy Orders. Men are ordained as Deacons, Priests, and Bishops.
- Bishops are the successors to the Apostles, leading the flock in the name of Christ, in union with the Pope who is the Bishop of Rome and Universal Pastor of the Church as Successor of St. Peter. Bishops’ authority comes down from the Apostles. Each Bishop has been ordained by a bishop whose line goes back ultimately to the Apostles themselves. The Bishop of a diocese is the chief shepherd of the diocese.
- Priests (i.e. Presbyters) collaborate with Bishops in carrying out the ministry of Christ. Since no bishop would be able to minister to all Catholics in his diocese, Priests are called upon to assist the Bishops with ministry. Priests exercise ministry in communion with their bishop and make a promise of obedience to the bishop when they are ordained. The main duties of a priest are to preach the Word of God, to celebrate the Sacraments (especially Penance and the Eucharist), and exercise leadership in the Church, especially at the parish level.
- Deacons assist Bishops and Priests. They are entrusted with ministry of the Word, assistance at the altar, and the service of charity.