WHAT IS A CATHOLIC PRIEST?
The majority of priests worldwide are diocesan priests. These are men that have been ordained to work within a diocese or archdiocese. At the time of their ordination as deacons (usually about a year before their ordination as priests) they promise respect and obedience to the diocesan bishop and his successors. They also promise to live in chastity, and according to the status of clergy (which includes a comparatively simple life). Diocesan priests do not make vows, technically speaking, and do not promise poverty. Therefore, the diocesan priests may own property, such as cars, and may handle their own financial affairs. At a diaconate ordination the bishop accepts the promises of the deacon and priest, and thereby incardinates them into the diocese. This gives the transitional deacon and diocesan priest certain rights - such as the right to be supported by the diocesan church - and imposes on them the obligation to work for the diocesan church under the leadership of the bishop. Although there are procedures in place through which a diocesan priest may choose to transfer to another diocese, this is a life-long commitment of mutual responsibility. Due to the fact that most of the work within a diocese is accomplished at a parish level, diocesan priests usually work within parishes. Diocesan priests also work in Catholic schools, as hospital chaplains, in administrative offices within the diocese, and in many other important roles. Diocesan priests are often referred to as secular priests because their main work is pastoral.
Some priests are members of religious orders or institutes. A religious order or institute is an organization established by the Church to promote a particular style of life or expression of spirituality or to perform a specific type of work. Most religious communities of men work in more than one diocese, and many work worldwide. In addition, each religious community has its own constitutions and its members live according to these constitutions. Members of religious communities take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. Some religious communities of men work in parishes while others do not. Religious priests work as hospital chaplains, retreat directors, teachers, itinerant preachers, parish priests, missionaries, and in many other fields. Each community has its own charism or gift of the Spirit, which its members incorporate into their work.
The diocesan bishop supervises priests within religious orders when they are engaged in active ministry within the diocese. As a result, no community is permitted to work within a diocese without the bishop's approval. The religious community's superior supervises the internal workings of the community. If a religious community serves the needs of a particular parish it does so based on an agreement with the diocesan bishop.