In the United States there are 41,406 Catholic priests. These men share the sacrament of holy orders. Priests are not the only ordained members of the Catholic Church, but when people think of Catholic clergy, they most often think of priests.

Diocesan Priests

Friendly priest with arms outstretched

The majority of priests belong to a diocese. They dwell in a specific geographic area, such as Philadelphia. These priests minister under the guidance of the diocesan bishop.

Religious Order Priests

Senior priest giving sermon, portrait

Ordered priests belong to a community such as the Franciscans or Benedictines. They live in community, eating and praying together. They often minister within and without their community.

What Do Priests Do?

high angle view of three teenagers sitting on chairs with a priest in a church

Priests serve as pastors to parishes, teachers, and chaplains for hospitals or prisons. Within the parish, duties include preparing themselves and parishioners for the sacraments, counseling, and overseeing parish administration.

Priesthood and Marriage

Wedding ceremony

Celibacy is traditional in the Latin Rite of the church. Eastern Rite priests are allowed to be married before ordination. There are married Latin Rite priests who converted from Lutheranism or Episcopalianism.

Women and the Priesthood

Portrait of a Nun Wearing a Crucifix

Women share in the priesthood of all believers, but cannot be ordained priests. Pope John Paul II formally stated that the church does not have the power to ordain women.

Missionary Priests Come To The USA

Portrait of a Smiling Priest Standing Outside a Church in Front of a Large Group of People

Today 20% of diocesan priests are from Mexico, Central and South America, Africa, India and Asia. They minister to Catholics in the United States in inner-city, rural and suburban parishes.