Catholic Vocations
Archdiocese of Melbourne

Absolve/Absolution - to declare someone free from guilt, blame or responsibility; to give absolution for sin. Only a priest, standing in the place of Christ, can give absolution for sin as part of the Sacrament of Penance (Confession).

Acolyte - a person who assists deacons and priests during the liturgy, especially at the altar for the celebration of Holy Mass. He may assist with the distribution of Holy Communion not only at holy mass but also to the sick and elderly. An acolyte is also entrusted to publicly expose the Blessed Sacrament for adoration for the pastoral needs of a parish or community.

Allegiance - as Catholics we pledge our allegiance or loyalty to Jesus Christ and His Church. This is done on our behalf by our parents and Godparents during infant Baptism and on our own behalf at Confirmation. Consecrated men and women pledge allegiance to God and their Religious Superior. Diocesan Priests pledge allegiance to their Bishop.

Anoint - as part of the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Ordination and Anointing of the Sick, special oil which has been blessed by the Bishop is applied to the head or hands of the one being anointed.

Apostle - literally "one who is sent out" - as Christians we are all called to go out and witness to our faith in Jesus Christ. At the end of Mass the Priest may say "Go out in peace", or "Go out to love and serve the Lord." (See also Disciple.)

Apostolic - a word used to signify that the Church of today is identical with the Church founded by Jesus Christ upon the Apostles.

Archdiocese - the territory and churches subject to the jurisdiction of an Archbishop. In Australia there are seven: Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra/Goulburn, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney. (See also Diocese.)

Aspirant/Aspirancy - in the Christian sense it is someone wishing to be accepted for a particular vocation, for example, the first stage of formation for men wishing to join the Permanent Diaconate.

Authority of the Church - conferred on St Peter by Jesus and from him to each Pope, speaking in his official capacity of pastor and teacher of all Christians, and the bishops of the Catholic Church dispersed throughout the world or assembled in a general council.

Baptism - the first Sacrament or Rite of Initiation whereby a person becomes a Member of the Church of Jesus Christ. In Australia this is often sought by parents for their infant child, but a person can be baptized at any age.

Bishop - the head of a diocese, or an auxiliary bishop of an Archdiocese.

Candidate - the prospective recipient of an award or a person seeking or being considered for some kind of position. In the Church it may be a seminarian awaiting ordination to the priesthood, a person hoping to be accepted as a novice of a Religious Order, or someone waiting for Confirmation.

Celebration - performance of the liturgical rite of any of the sacraments is termed a celebration, for example celebration of Marriage, celebration of the Eucharist.

Celibacy - the renunciation of marriage implicitly or explicitly made, for the more perfect observance of chastity, by all those who receive the Sacrament of Orders.

Chaplain - a person who has received professional training to offer spiritual support to others, such as in a school or university, or in hospital or prison. A Chaplain may be an ordained minister (priest or deacon), a consecrated religious or a lay person.

Charism - a gift or grace given by God in order that someone may fulfil their vocation. A talent is given for our own use, a charism is given to us for the benefit of others.

Chastity - refers to the virtue of ordering our sexual behaviour according to accepted moral standards. The Catholic Church recognises the great good of sexual intercourse and deems it is only appropriate in a marriage. Thus married people keep themselves pure for each other. A priest or consecrated religious keeps himself/herself pure for God.

Christ the Good Shepherd - the understanding of Jesus from His Word in John 10:11 - I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

Christ the Head of the Church - see Ephesians 1:22 - Christ is the head of the Church and we are the Body of the Church. Catholics believe that Jesus found His Church on Peter "the Rock" and the Apostles. The Pope and Bishops of today carry on that role and tradition and Catholics everywhere are the members of the Body of Christ, the Church.

Christian Initiation - the Sacraments of initiation-Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion-are the three primary sacraments, on which the rest of our life as a Christian depends.

Church - both the building where the faithful gather for worship and the faithful themselves - bishops, priests and people - who together are called "the Church".

Cloister - from a Latin word meaning "enclosure", a cloister is usually a rectangular open space surrounded by covered arcades. Generally refers to an enclosed space in a convent or monastery open only to the members of the Community.

Commend to Eternal Life - Christians believe that the death of the body is not the end of life as the soul lives on in Eternity. Prayers at the end of a funeral service or Requiem Mass "commend" the soul to eternal life - to live with the saints in heaven.

Community - both any group of people in common, such as the community of the faithful - the Church, and specifically a religious community or "order" of consecrated men or women who live under the rule as established by their founder, for example the Sisters of St Joseph founded by St Mary Mackillop of the Cross.

Confession - the Sacrament of Penance when the faithful confess their sins to a priest who pronounces absolution "in the place of Christ".

Consecrated - an act by which something or someone is set apart from profane/common use for sacred use in the service and worship of God. Thus a consecrated religious sister, brother or priest takes vows to live their life in the service and worship of God.

Contemplative - someone who lives a contemplative life or joins a contemplative order adopts a way of living especially adapted to prayer and contemplation of God while excluding all other preoccupations and distractions - also called an "enclosed order".

Contraception - any means by which a couple seeks to break the connection between the life-giving and love-giving aspects of sexual intercourse. The Church teaches that every act of intercourse in a marriage should be open to life, though in fact a woman is capable of conceiving on only a very few days in a month.

Convent - both the members of a religious community of either sex when spoken of together and the building/s in which they live.

Conversion - refers to a change of heart, a turning or returning to faith in God and practice of that faith.

Culture of Vocations - an attitude and way of living of a society or community of people which tends to promote consideration of and openness to hearing and following a call from God.

Deacon - the name means a minister or servant of the people, in practice it is either a man who is in the final stage of his seminary training prior to being ordained a priest, or, a permanent deacon is a man, married or unmarried, who is ordained by the Bishop to bring the word of God to the people - they preside over public prayer, baptise, assist at marriages and funerals, they minister in schools, the military, prisons, ports, hospitals and diocesan agencies.

Diocese/Diocesan - the territory and churches subject to the jurisdiction of a bishop.

Discernment - a process of seeking to understand and accept God's will for a person and/or a community. Discernment takes times, prayer and being open to respond to God's Will.

Disciple - literally "one who learns", so a disciple of Jesus tries to learn all about Him in order to become more like Him. We go on learning forever, but we cannot remain a disciple forever - at some point we need to become an apostle and go out to share the Good News.

Eastern Church - Catholicism is practised by both Eastern or Byzantine Rite churches which historically were centred around Constantinople and Western or Latin Rite churches centred around Rome. Essentially the beliefs are the same though they give priority to the teachings of different Saints.

Eucharist - literally meaning "thanksgiving' it is the name given to the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar its twofold aspect of sacrament and Sacrifice of Mass, and in which Jesus Christ is truly present under the bread and wine.

Evangelise - literally to preach the Gospel or to convert to Christianity. As Christians we are all called to holiness - by our words and our example we will lead others to Christ.

Faith/Faithful - both what is believed and those who believe. We cannot know everything about God, therefore we are called to have Faith in what we cannot know. It is both trustfulness and fidelity.

Fertility - the capacity to be fruitful, thus "fertile land". The fertility of a married couple is their ability to become parents - their children are the "fruit" of their love.

Formation - a time of intellectual and spiritual preparation, thus time in a seminary is a time of formation for men studying to become priests; those entering consecrated life undergo some years of formation before making final vows. All of us need to be "formed" to a correct understanding of the truth.

Formator - a teacher or spiritual counsellor who assists a student/seminarian/novice/postulant in their formation.

Fruitful - both evidence of fertility as in the children of a marriage, but also evidence of growth in faith - as we learn more about Jesus so we become more like Him.

God - infinite being (without limits of time or space) who is the Creator of all creation. In Christian belief God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit - three persons in one who is all goodness, all truth and all beauty.

God's Will - literally God's will for each of us is our greatest happiness. To discover our vocation and live according to God's will for us is to discover that happiness in his life. In the next life our greatest happiness will be to contemplate the face of God for all eternity.

Good News - In Christian terms the Gospel is the "Good News" of Jesus Christ which we are called to take to all the world.

Habit - the distinctive clothes of a Consecrated sister, brother or priest. The traditional "habit", known as European dress, has been replaced in some orders by that which they habitually wear, such as a crucifix or emblem of their order.

Holy Orders - the Sacrament by which grace and spiritual power for the discharge of ecclesiastical offices are conferred, for example the Ordination of a priest or deacon.

Lay/Laity - all members of the Christian community who are not ordained or consecrated, including single and married people.

Lector/Reader - a person who has been trained and is authorised to read the Sacred Scriptures during the Liturgy of the Word at Mass or in other liturgical celebrations.

Liturgy - all forms of the official, public worship of the Church.

Marriage/Matrimony - the Sacrament by which a man and a woman are joined in Holy Matrimony as husband and wife before the priest and witnesses of the community. The sacrament confers the grace to live out their vocation as a married couple for the sanctification of each and the birth and education of children.

Mass - the prayers and ceremonies which make up the celebration of the Eucharist in the Roman (Latin) Rite, also known as the Sacrifice of the Mass in accordance with the instruction of Jesus to His Apostles at the Last Supper.

Ministry - the term used to mean the service of God through the service of others.

Missionary - a person who through deed and word preaches the Gospel and reveals God active among peoples and cultures often in lands other than his/her own native land.

Monastery - a place where consecrated sisters or brothers and priests live a contemplative life and where work and prayer are key elements of the day.

Neighbour - everyone who is not your family is your neighbour, vis the story of the Good Samaritan.

Novice - a stage in the formation of a consecrated sister, brother or priest after they have taken temporary vows but before they take final vows.

Obedience - from a Latin word meaning "to hearken to", hence "to obey". In religious terms it is the vow to God and the voluntary promise to their superiors, which consecrated men and women make in order to be directed by them in the ways of perfection.

Ordained - literally one who is set aside, marked with a special sign for a particular purpose. Thus a bishop lays his hands on the head of man to ordain him for priestly office - to stand "in the person of Christ" for His people.

Parish/Parishioner - the parish is a local area within a diocese where the parish priest ministers to the parishioners - faithful of that area.

Pastoral - in a religious context it is related to the care of souls. Thus a parish priest has pastoral responsibility for the people of his parish.

Penance - to make amends for my sins through prayer and action. The Sacrament of Penance also known as Confession.

Permanent Diaconate - that order of ministers who are ordained by a bishop to serve the people by bringing them the Word of God. He is neither priest nor pastoral associate, but serves at the direction of his bishop.

Perpetual - referring to "perpetual vows" it mean final, unending or enduring. A person who has taken perpetual vows in a religious order can only receive dispensation/release from their vows by the Pope.

Philosophy - the love of wisdom and the study of the truth, for example Anthropology is the study of the human person. Whereas theology refers to the study of religion/faith.

Postulant - the first stage in the novitiate of a consecrated sister, brother or priest when they seek full admission to the order.

Poverty - consecrated men and women take a vow of poverty to keep only what is necessary for their personal wellbeing, everything else is held in common by the community. It frees them to live out their vocation without material concerns/distractions.

Pray/Prayer - how we talk to God, acknowledging his power and goodness and our weakness and dependence, and intercede (ask) him to fulfil the needs of ourselves and others.

Preaching - publicly telling the Good News of Jesus Christ, usually by the priest or deacon in a Homily to explain the Word of God, the Scriptures to the faithful.

Priest - a man who is ordained by a Bishop to be the minister of Divine worship and to serve the people of God - to stand in the place of Christ for the faithful.

Professed - generally a consecrated man or woman who has taken the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. However we are all called, "To profess the faith of Christ crucified."

Reconciliation - the sacrament of Reconciliation or Penance is the rite by which the faithful confess their sins to a priest and receive absolution.

Religious Order - a community of consecrated men or women who follow the inspiration (charism) of their founder.

Retreat - an opportunity to go apart from everyday life for a time of prayer and contemplation in order to seek to draw closer to God and discern his will for us.

Sacrament - an outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual grace, thus in the Sacrament of Baptism the water is the visible sign of the grace of acceptance as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ.

Sacrifice - literally means "offering", most commonly used to describe the death and resurrection of Jesus for the redemption/salvation of all people.

Secular Institute - a group of people who may not take religious vows but agree to live their lives as lay people for the greater glory of God and the support of the community, they may have regular times of prayer and spiritual education/guidance to grow in their faith.

Seminary/Seminarian - the place where and the men who are studying to become priests. Formation is based on the academic, spiritual, human and psychological dimensions of the human person.

Single Life - the life of a lay person who is not married, they may be single due to choice or circumstance.

Sins - those things which we do which separate us from God.

Society of Apostolic Life - similar to a secular institute, a Society of Apostolic Life is a group of men and women who come together for a specific purpose. They do not take vows. They do not necessarily life in community, but the mission of the community is emphasized.

Spiritual - concerned with matters of the spirit rather than the body, thus spirituality is a way of praying and living out the life of faith.

Spouse - husband or wife - each partner of a marriage.

Testimony - the story of one's life and vocation, in law and in religion it is a solemn attesting as to the truth of the matter. In this context it is the story of how someone recognized the call of God and what that has meant in their life.

Theology - the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths.

Tradition - the Tradition of the Catholic Church is considered to be the teaching of the Church passed down through two thousand years since the time of Christ and added to through the centuries to form the Magisterium or teaching power and authority of the Church.

Transfigured - transformed into something more beautiful and elevated.

Universal Call to Holiness - a teaching of the Catholic Church that all people are called to holiness and unity with Jesus Christ - according to John Paul II this isn't an option but the essence of being a Catholic.

Vocation - that state of life to which an individual is called by God in order to achieve his/her greatest happiness and undertake the role for which he/she has been created.

Vow - literally "promise" or "oath", in this context it is a promise to commit one's life to God under obedience to a Religious Superior (Consecrated man or woman) or Bishop (Priest or Deacon).

Witness - some who attests to the occurrence of some action or promise, such as the witnesses at a marriage ceremony.

Worship - an act of religious devotion to God, it can take the form of private or public prayer.

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