What’s the difference between a diocesan priest and a priest in a religious order?

The diocesan priest and the Religious priest both exercise the same priesthood under a different authority structure. The diocesan priest is subject to the Bishop of his diocese; the Religious is subject to his Religious Superior. In addition, the diocesan priest does not take a vow of poverty whereas the Religious priest does. The diocesan priest does not live in community, but most Religious priest do. Diocesan priests, however, can choose to live a kind of community life by coming together with fellow priests.

The order priests, such as Franciscans, Dominicans, Benedictines, etc., each have a particular charism or religious lifestyle that contributes to the life of the church, e.g. poverty & ecology, preaching, monasticism & sung liturgy. The secular (diocesan) priests do all of the fundamental work in parishes through the sacramental life (Eucharist, baptism, marriage, funerals etc.) whereas the order priests perform complementary or support activities. Normally, order priests are freed from the parish day to day work in order to offer the other elements of Christian life: prayer, retreats, reflection, vocation, ministry etc.

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