DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DIOCESAN PRIESTS, RELIGIOUS PRIESTS & SOCIETIES OF APOSTOLIC LIFE; RELIGIOUS SISTERS; BISHOPS & ARCHBISHOPS; ARCHDIOCESE AND DIOCESE… ARE YOU AWARE OF THESE?

I decided to treat them together because one is linked to the other in a way.

To begin with, in many ways all Catholic priests are the same. Each priest has gone through many years (usually 9-11yrs) of education and preparation at a seminary/institute before his ordination. All priests are ordained to preach the Gospel and serve God’s people in the person of Christ. Most importantly, they administer the sacraments… The differences are mostly seen by contrasting the vows made by religious priests and the promises made by diocesan priests.

DIOCESAN PRIEST
A diocesan priest makes promises at ordination:

  1. To obey his bishop (Obedience)
  2. To live a celibate life (Celibacy)

A diocesan priest lives and works in a certain geographical area – the Archdiocese or Diocese. Most often, a diocesan priest is assigned to a parish by the bishop, and he lives and works in that area. He does not make a promise of poverty, and usually owns a car and other possessions in order to do his work and live independently in simplicity. His main work is preaching the Gospel, offering Mass, anointing the sick and dying, baptizing, celebrating marriages, burying the dead, and consoling those who need his help. He is focused on the needs of the people of his parish…

RELIGIOUS PRIESTS
Religious priests are not necessarily more spiritual than diocesan priests. The word refers in this case to the form of life these priests live. All men and women who make public vows in a religious order are called religious. It means that by their vows of poverty, celibate chastity, and obedience, their lives are oriented in a special way to the virtue of religion so that all they do becomes a continual act of the worship of God a religious priest will have made three solemn vows, before he is ordained, to live:

  1. Poverty
  2. Chastity
  3. Obedience

The vow of poverty does not mean “wretchedness” or not having anything. This means that the person cannot acquire or dispose of anything except as their superior decides; however, they share the community goods in common. Chastity means that they cannot marry and must, course, observe chastity as celibates. Obedience means that they must submit to the orders of their superiors as to their occupation, their place of living, their schedule and obey the rules and regulations of their order or congregation.

These three ways of living are called the Evangelical Counsels because they are recommended to Christians by our Lord as part of His Gospel. Interestingly, the Catechism teaches that every Christian is called to live the Evangelical Counsels according to his state of life, though religious priests live them in a “more intimate” way (CCC #916).

One very striking feature of a religious is COMMUNITY LIFE. Religious normally live together as a community; they follow a pre-determined schedule, eat together, pray together, recreate together, and do many things in common.

At the request of the bishops, many religious priests do parish work, either out of their institution or in a parish that has been entrusted to their order or congregation. In this work they remain subject to their rule and to their superiors, except as to the parish ministry, where they follow the directives of the bishop. In the aspect of invitations, the religious priests or brother/sister is not always master of his/her schedule and may have to ask permission from the superior.
More importantly, we must point out that nuns/religious sisters, lay brothers are also religious and

have the same vows and the same situation applies to them (under the religious life). Examples of religious Congregations include: Franciscans (Capuchins, OFM), Redemptorists (CSs.R), Order of Preachers (O.P.; Dominicans), Benedictines (OSB), Oblates of St. Joseph (OSJ), among others… Most times, you can identify them with their kind of habits (attires).

In between the line of Religious and Diocesan priests, there lies “THE SOCIETY OF APOSTOLIC LIFE”. Generally, Priests from Societies of Apostolic life are secular. They include:  Missionary Society of St. Paul (MSP), Society of St. Patrick, Society of Jesus (SJ; Jesuits), Society Missionary of Africa (SMA). However, they do have some kind of profession of oaths and rule, but they are not consecrated religious. Consecrated religious belong to Institutes of Consecrated Life. As to habits and the title Brother or Sister, that really depends on the statutes of the society.

It is good for Catholics to understand these distinctions because religious priests and brothers are often embarrassed by expensive gifts they receive. Living a community life and subject to the vow of poverty, the gifts they receive are subject to the decision of their superiors. They may decide that the gift must be shared or given to a person who needs it more. In case of doubt, one should consult the superior.

Is one “better” or “holier” than another? Absolutely No. A vocation director is familiar with both types of priesthood and can be very helpful in guiding a man as he discerns what life God is calling him to.
On the issue of the difference between vows of Chastity and celibacy, they almost mean the same thing, since both are geared to the same goals.. At times they are often used interchangeably. Moreover, the Canon Law urges Clerics to live in continence… in other words; Clerics are obliged to observe perfect and perpetual continence for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven and are therefore bound to celibacy. While Chastity also requires purity of mind, heart, and body and a call to love for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven…

Talking about the difference between an archdiocese and a diocese; we come to understand that an archdiocese is a (big) diocese that serves as the head of a Metropolitan Province or Metropolia which encompasses several other dioceses, called suffragan dioceses. These dioceses together form a type of region, much like a large metropolitan area, with the archdiocese at the head.  For example, the archbishop of Lagos (His Grace, Most Rev. Dr. Martins Adewale) is metropolitan over the dioceses and bishops of Abeokuta and Ijebu-Ode… Hence, if he gets to retirement age, a bishop from either Abeokuta Diocese or Ijebu-Ode may possibly succeed him as the archbishop of Lagos. This is because Ijebu-Ode and Abeokuta dioceses fall under the metropolitan section/administration of Lagos… The case is the same with others states in Nigeria (If you observe carefully).
In Eastern rite catholic church, the archdiocese often exercises real authority over the bishops in his metropolia.
In the Roman Catholic dioceses (in some situations) however, this leadership role is merely honorary and carries few or no real privileges.

(SEE ALSO: WHY DOES THE CATHOLIC CHURCH BAPTIZE INFANTS? INFANT BAPTISM AND ITS SCRIPTURAL JUSTIFICATION)

As a follow up, an archbishop is the head of an archdiocese, and a bishop is the head of a diocese (or an auxiliary to a diocese or archdiocese). An archbishop is often called a metropolitan, emphasizing his leadership over the metropolitan province. Bishops can also acquire the title archbishop by virtue of their office (such as a papal nuncio, or ambassador from the Holy See) or as a personal, honorary title.

Finally, let us continue to pray for Vocations and ask God to bless those that have already embarked on this clarion call.

I hope this is well understood…

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