All Catholics, both men and women, are called by virtue of their Baptism to give witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ in the wider world and use their specific gifts, talents and charisms to build up the Church, the Body of Christ.
Holy Orders is the Sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to the Apostles continues to be exercised in the Church until the end of time: thus it is a Sacrament of apostolic ministry. It is a ministry of service to the wider community of the baptized. It includes three levels or ranks: episcopate (bishops), presbyterate (priests) and diaconate (deacons).
Priests are usually unmarried (celibate) men who exercise their ministry with a parish community. Their ministry is one of building up the community of faith through the proclamation of the Word of God, celebrating the Sacraments (especially the Mass) and facilitating various ministries within a parish community.
Bishops are chosen from among priests to lead a specific geographical area comprised of many parishes. It is the bishop’s responsibility, as chief shepherd, to offer pastoral care to his diocese and maintain unity with the wider, universal church, especially with the successor to Saint Peter, the Pope.
Deacons are men, both married and unmarried, who serve as ministers of the Sacraments of Baptism and Marriage. They assist in the celebration of Mass, especially through the proclamation of the gospel, ministering at the altar and distributing Holy Communion. Deacons are called especially to service to the poor and the needy of the community.
Non-ordained men and women also serve the church through ministries of service and leadership as religious sisters and brothers. Those serving in this capacity join a specific community or religious congregation. Many of these communities focus on a specific kind of ministry to the wider Church (e.g. teaching, care of aged, outreach to the poor, etc.).