What is the Priesthood?

Priests in the Catholic Church may be categorized as either diocesan or religious. Both types of priests have the same priesthood faculties, acquired through ordination by a bishop. Differences lie in their way of life, type of work, and the Church authority to which they are responsible. Diocesan priests commit their lives to serving the people of a diocese, a church administrative region, and generally work in parishes, schools, or other Catholic institutions as assigned by the bishop of their diocese. Diocesan priests take oaths of celibacy and obedience. Religious priests belong to a religious order, such as the Jesuits, Dominicans, or Franciscans. In addition to the vows taken by diocesan priests, religious priests take a vow of poverty.

Preparatory study for the priesthood may begin at the college level or in theological seminaries after college graduation. Programs emphasize and support religious formation in addition to a regular, college-preparatory curriculum. Young men are never denied entry into seminaries because of lack of funds. In seminaries for diocesan priests, scholarships or loans are available, and contributions of benefactors and the Catholic Church finance those in religious seminaries—who have taken a vow of poverty and are not expected to have personal resources.