The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Religious terms defined

Published: May 12, 2007   

VOCATION: A divine calling to follow a state of life. The four vocations are single, married, priestly or religious life.

HOLY ORDERS: Sacrament in which a bishop confers spiritual power and grace to carry out the ordained ministry of the Church. Within this sacrament, there are three orders: the diaconate (deacons), the priesthood and episcopate (bishops).

DEACON: A permanent deacon is a single or married man who is ordained by the bishop and may proclaim the Gospel, preach homilies, assist the priest at Mass, administer baptism, distribute Communion, preside over funeral and burial services (but not Mass), act as the official witness at weddings and do acts of charity.

PRIEST: A celibate ordained minister who administers the sacraments including Mass, absolution for sins, preaching and teaching the word of God and fulfilling the pastoral responsibilities assigned by his bishop or superior.

BISHOP: A celibate ordained minister who receives the fullness of the priesthood and is a successor to the Apostles. Only a bishop can ordain others.

DIOCESAN/RELIGIOUS PRIEST: Diocesan priests are attached to a diocese and take a vow of obedience to their bishop. Religious priests belong to a religious order and take vows (commonly obedience, poverty and chastity) and are assigned by their superior within or beyond the diocese.

SEMINARIAN: A candidate for the priesthood who studies in a seminary.

PROFESSION: A formal act by which a religious sister, brother or priest takes the vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and consecrates him/ herself to God. A professed person lives out the charism (special gift) of the order in his/her ministry.

RELIGIOUS BROTHER/MONK: A brother is a member of a male religious order who is not ordained. A monk is a member of a religious order -- who might or might not be ordained -- that is dedicated to seeking God in prayer and work, usually living in a monastery.

RELIGIOUS SISTER/NUN: A sister is a female member of a religious order who may work outside the convent in various ministries. A nun is a female religious order member who lives in cloister or does limited work outside the convent.

POSTULANT: A person in formation before entering the novitiate stage of training. The duration and format of the postulancy varies from one order to another.

NOVICE: A person in advanced formation preparing for temporary vows in a religious order. The novitiate usually lasts a minimum of 12 months.

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