Diocesan Priesthood

God calls. We respond.

A vocation is a response to a specific call that Jesus Christ places on our hearts. It is
our individual way of living discipleship in the Church.

Our primary call, through the Sacrament of Baptism, is to be a follower (disciple) of
Jesus Christ. It is to be a holy person. Within that first call to follow Christ, God calls us
in specific ways to live a vocation to the married life, the single life, the consecrated
religious life or the ordained life.

Different Vocations:  Diocesan Priesthood and Consecrated Life

While many of us are familiar with our parish priests, there are actually two kinds of
priests: diocesan priests and religious priests. Both kinds of priests are ordained and
can administer the sacraments and celebrate Mass and have an essential role and
share in the ministry of Jesus Christ.  All priests share in the one priesthood of Jesus. 
But there are some significant differences between the call to Religious Life and the call
to Diocesan Priesthood.  They are different not only in the way they live priesthood, but
in the essence of their vocations.  Those men called to Consecrated Life, who live the
life of a “Religious Order” priest differ from those called to the Diocesan Priesthood. 
What Is a Diocesan Priest?
A priest who commits himself to and is ordained for service of God’s people in a definite
geographical area (a diocese) and is called a diocesan priest. A priest of the Diocese of
Los Angeles would expect to minister within the counties of Los Angeles, Ventura and
Santa Barbara, which comprise of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
In addition to serving the day-to-day needs of people in parishes, diocesan priests may
also serve in a variety of other capacities such as campus ministers, teachers,
chaplains for hospitals or prisons, or in diocesan administration.
Why Should Someone Want to be a Priest?
Everyone looks for a meaning and fulfillment in life. For a Catholic, life’s meaning must
have a relation to serving God. As a man grows in the Catholic Christian life and in a
relationship with God, he discovers his purpose and place in God’s plan. As a result,
some men feel called to a special kind of service to Jesus, serving the Catholic Church
as its leader in prayer, worship, and service.
What Does a Priest Do?
The Ministry of each priest depends somewhat upon his particular interests and skills
and the needs of the Diocese of Helena. A diocesan priest spends much of his time
preparing for and celebrating the sacraments (Eucharist, Reconciliation, Baptism,
Marriage, Sacrament of the Sick, Confirmation).
Each day some time is set-aside for personal, private prayer. Visiting the sick, visiting
people in their homes and working with the various parish and neighborhood
organizations are all part of his ministry. The parish priest must also be available to
people when they have special needs. He is also a spiritual leader in the community.
Along with his parishioners, he addresses issues that touch all members of the
community, particularly those who are abandoned and forgotten. He is frequently
involved in individual counseling (marriage problems, parent-teenager problems, drug
problems or just life in general).
Priests who are pastors are responsible for all ministry provided by the parish and for
the administration of the parish. Like anyone else, a priest must also find some time for
rest and relaxation when he can do things he enjoys.
Who Can Become a Diocesan Priest?
A single man with average intelligence, emotional stability, good health and sincere
interest in serving God’s people may qualify for the priesthood. He must have a sincere
interest in people and a true love of the Roman Catholic Church and its teachings, as
outlined by the Second Vatican Council and subsequent official Church documents. He
should also be a person who is generous and looking for the challenge that comes in
following the Lord Jesus Christ and His Church.
How Long Does it take to become a Priest?
For a man considering the possibility of priesthood he must ultimately receive a
bachelor’s degree and a graduate theology degree. The exact requirements are tailored
to the situation of the individual but generally involve the candidate receiving substantial
education in philosophy and theology, much of which is obtained at a seminary.
In the Archdiocese of Los Angeles our seminarians attend St. John’s Seminary in
Camarillo (occasionally another seminary) for five years to receive the post-
undergraduate training. This time includes four years of classes plus a year of pastoral
training (similar to an internship), usually in the middle of the seminary time. The years
of training include significant times of discernment about the vocation to priesthood.
Following this time of preparation and discernment, the Bishop may call the candidate to
The entire process takes from 5 to 7 years after the candidate finishes college, since
some will need to acquire the required classes in philosophy and/or begin discernment
of a priestly vocation (especially if they are moving from another field of employment).
While this seems like a long period of time, it is similar to preparing for other
professions. Our purpose is to fully prepare a man to minister to the people of the
Archdiocese of Los Angeles.
What Are the Programs Available for a Man Considering the Possibility of
If you are in high school or will be entering college soon, the Diocesan Vocations
Director is prepared to help you explore the possibility of priesthood while attending
college and assist you in directing your class selection and spiritual life toward
discerning priesthood. The archdiocese runs Our Lady Queen of Angeles Program for
Priestly Formation to aid college students.
If you are already enrolled in a college or graduate school and would be interested in a
Discernment Program, you may contact the Vocation Director listed below.
If you are a man older than college age and are considering the priesthood, then you
can also contact the Vocation Director.
In any event, it always is good to speak with one of the priests in your parish about your
Diocesan Vocations Director
Fr. Sam Ward
Fr. Perrho
Becoming a Deacon

If you are interested in beginning the discernment process, now is a good time to get
into conversation with your pastor (and, if married, with your spouse). In dialogue, you
can explore what this ministry means, where your interest comes from, what you’re
noticing in your spiritual life, and simple things which might further your discernment
(like prayer, journaling, serving the poor, etc.). Give this time.

In the Catholic Church, the diaconate is the first of three ranks in ordained ministry.
Deacons preparing for the priesthood are transitional deacons. Those not planning to
be ordained priests are called permanent deacons. Married men may be ordained
permanent deacons, and single men may be ordained with a commitment to celibacy.
Brief History of the Diaconate

The diaconate has its origins in apostolic times and flourished during the first four
centuries of the Church’s history.  Later, for very complex reasons, the diaconate went
into decline until it became little more than a step on the way to the priesthood in the
Western Church.

When the Second Vatican Council restored the diaconate as a permanent ministry in
the Church, it did so for three primary reasons: first, a desire to restore to the Church
the full complement of active apostolic ministries, second the desire to integrate and
strengthen those who were, in fact, already exercising diaconal functions, and third, to
more fully serve the needs of the people.

Loving service is a task that falls upon every Christian as an immediate duty of life in
obedience to and in imitation of Jesus.  Service is obviously, also a primary and central
task of priests and bishops, but the deacon especially has this role by virtue of his
ordination.  The deacon continually makes visible to the Church the redemptive service
fulfilled by Jesus Christ. He represents and promotes in the Church what the community
of faith must be, namely a community of service.

The diaconate was restored as a permanent ministry by Pope Paul VI, on June 18,
1967, upon the recommendation of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council.  The first
deacons in the United States were ordained in 1971.
What does a Deacon do?

The deacon is Minister of the Word, Liturgy and Charity:
  The Ministry of the Word includes proclaiming the gospel and teaching the doctrines
and traditions of the church. The deacon provides oversight and direction to catechists
and the faithful, who evangelize, teach and pre- pare people to receive the Sacraments.
At the Mass the deacon proclaims the Gospel of Christ and instructs the faithful on the
meaning of Scripture by preaching.

  As Minister of Liturgy the deacon is a visible and grace- filled sign of the integral
connection between sharing at the Lord’s Eucharistic table and serving the poor in the
community. The deacon assists at Mass, may preside over the Rite of Baptism,
witnesses the Sacramento of Matrimony, presides at Communion services, funerals,
and Benediction and administers sacramentals and blessings.

  The Ministry of Charity is the Church’s expression of our Lord’s outreach to the poor,
sick, the hungry, the imprisoned and otherwise afflicted and marginalized, confronting
human injustice and protecting the dignity of human life from conception to natural
How do I know I am called to be a deacon?

There is no simple answer to this question. However, we believe that God's will can be
discovered by the person of faith through personal prayer, competent spiritual direction
and recognition that the Church has the obligation to discern if such a vocation is truly

Certain personal, social and spiritual qualities are re- quired for ordained ministry.
These are generally of two kinds: those that pattern the candidate in the likeness of
Christ, and those required to meet the special needs of the local Church at a particular
time and place. Anyone con- templating a vocation to the Diaconate should be actively
involved in ministry in his local community and/or parish. A candidate's desire to be a
deacon is never sufficient in itself. He must, in addition, await prayerful, enlightened
decision of the Church.

Criteria for Entry into Formation Program

Men seeking application into Diaconate formation come with an understanding that the
Diaconate is a call to a dedicated life of service, to a specific vocation. The parish is the
primary place where applicants experience Church. Therefore, it is the responsibility of
the community and particularly of the pastor to invite and to present to the Church from
among its members those who may be qualified to serve as ordained ministers.
The deacon stands in the midst of the community as one who makes present in his
person and deeds the serv- ant character of Christ and Church. Through the sacra-
mental ordination the deacon becomes a public sign to the world that the Church is
authentically servant. The deacon is the animator and promoter of the common service
of the Church
Answers to Common Questions

Q: What is the difference between a priest and a deacon?

A: The call to be deacon is to serve.  The symbol of the ministry of the deacon is the
basin and the towel, the items Jesus used when he washed the feet of the apostles,
illustrating how we are called to love and serve others.

The deacon brings the needs of the marginalized the poor, the imprisoned, the sick and
disabled to the altar.  He sees that they are not forgotten or excluded from the liturgical
and communal life of the parish.  The deacon can preside at baptisms, weddings and
funerals when there is no Mass.

The role of the priest is to help the members of his parish grow spiritually, leading them
in ways to better love God and neighbor.  Only the priest can preside at Mass and
consecrate the Eucharist, hear confessions, have authority to forgive sins, anoint the
sick and the dying, and, with delegation from the Bishop, confirm.

Q: Is there an age requirement?

A: A deacon must be between the ages of 35 and 65 at ordination.  The process of
becoming a deacon in the Diocese of Dallas currently takes about 5 1/2 years.

Q: Can a deacon get married?

A: A married man can be ordained a deacon; however, if his wife dies, he cannot
remarry.  Likewise a single man can be ordained a deacon but cannot marry.

Q: Can women become deacons?

A: The Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament refers to women deacons, but they
were not ordained, and their role is believed to have been different from that of men. 
The restoration of the diaconate by Vatican II Council follows the tradition of only
ordaining men.

Q: How much do deacons get paid?

A: The diaconate is not a paid ministry but, rather, is one of service.  A deacon may be
hired, however, to fill the role of Director of Faith Formation, Administrator of a parish, or
work in some other paid position in a parish or diocese.  In those instances, he is being
paid because of the job he is hired to fulfill, and not because of his role as deacon.
For more information contact:
Telephone: (213) 637-7282