Some Christians are called to ordained ministry, as deacons, priests, or bishops, exercising ministries of Word and Sacrament.
The ministry of a bishop is to represent Christ and Christ’s Church, particularly as apostle, chief priest, and pastor of a particular diocese or jurisdiction; to guard the faith, unity, and discipline of the whole Church; to proclaim the Word of God; to act in Christ's name for the reconciliation of the world and the building up of the Church; and to ordain others to continue Christ's ministry. In the Progressive Catholic Church, bishops will only be consecrated if the community has discerned a need.
The Ordination Discernment and Vocation Process in the Progressive Catholic Church
Thank you for considering a vocation as a Deacon or Priest in the Progressive Catholic Church (PCC) -- we look forward to discerning this vocation with you. This is a serious matter to discern, and it takes time. The most important thing to discern at each step of the process is whether this vocation enables both the Aspirant and the Church to flourish, both spiritually and personally, from the vocation. If both the Aspirant and the Church discern that the vocation is fruitful, then the Church will work to equip the Aspirant with the skills necessary for the vocation to be lived out in the best way possible. Here is a brief outline of the process.
During the first stage, inquiry, the Inquirer gets to know the Progressive Catholic Church and vice versa. This involves conversations with the Bishop, other Clergy, and Laity of the PCC; becoming thoroughly acquainted with the PCC’s website and social media sites; attending an PCC Gathering if possible; and, perhaps most importantly, participating in worship with us. The Vocations Director will guide this process. For those who live near PCC communities, this will be done in person, while for everyone, there are also online opportunities for worship. We encouraging becoming involved in our community as much as possible.
The purpose of this stage is for the Inquirer to obtain a fairly in-depth knowledge of the PCC and for the PCC to get to know the Inquirer to see if this would be a good fit for both the Inquirer and this Church. This is a time for questions and for getting to know people in the PCC. It is understandable that, at this stage, the Inquirer may be looking at other jurisdictions as well, and no commitments for further discernment or formation have been made on the part of either the Inquirer or the PCC.
After the Inquirer has gotten to know the PCC and vice versa over a period of time, once both the Inquirer and the Vocations Director believe it to be appropriate, the Inquirer may submit an application to enter the formation process for ordained ministry. This step is only appropriate once the Inquirer has determined that the PCC is the right particular church and has finished inquiring with other jurisdictions. Also, the Applicant should be worshiping in PCC communities as their primary worshiping community. Only baptized Christians who have been confirmed by a Bishop in apostolic succession (or by a Priest authorized by such a Bishop to confirm) are eligible to apply – those potential Applicants who have not received one or both of the sacraments should receive them in the PCC prior to applying.
The application process begins with completing the application for formation for ordained ministry, which has some basic personal and ecclesiastical information regarding the Applicant, as well as requiring the submission of two essays, one a spiritual autobiography describing one’s faith journey and the other a description of one’s understanding of their vocational call to ordained ministry. We encourage Applicants to be very thoughtful in these essays and truthful in the application. The application will be read by a member of our vocations department
IV. Cleric and Minor Orders
Once the person has been admitted as a Cleric through the rite of tonsure and giving of the surplice, the Cleric is a member of the Minor Clergy of the PCC. This is a time of more focused formation and discernment. During this time, there are four main areas of formation that the Cleric will undergo, as part of the PCC Community for Diaconal and Priestly Formation (Formation Community):
A. Community Formation
The Cleric will deepen their understanding of and involvement in the PCC; learn more about and deepen their commitment to our values and ethos; and further develop relationships with the Clergy and Laity of this Church.
B. Spiritual Formation
The Cleric will continue to worship regularly with various PCC communities, including the Formation Community, and pray the liturgy of the Office and Eucharist daily. Formation will be given in deepening one’s experience of liturgical prayer as well as in developing additional prayer practices, such as devotional and contemplative prayer and scriptural meditation.
C. Ministerial Formation
The Cleric will begin to develop a plan for the ministry they plan to exercise once ordained as a Deacon or Priest, and will work with mentors to develop both general skills required of all ordained ministers and those particular skills necessary for their planned ministry. This formation will include carried out with hands-on ministry.
D. Intellectual Formation
The Cleric will study Scripture, theology, spirituality, church history, ethics, and liturgy. A major emphasis is in developing the skills to continue one’s own skills in these various areas.
Every quarter, the Bishop, Formators, and Cleric will evaluate the Cleric’s progress. At various points in the formation, if the Church and Cleric discern that it is appropriate, the Cleric will be ordained to each of the four minor orders of Doorkeeper, Reader, Exorcist, and Acolyte as they take on more ministerial responsibility in the church. Prior to each ordination, there will be a more extensive evaluation with the Discernment Committee to determine if the Cleric is ready for the next step.
While the sacramental orders of Deacon and Priest impart an indelible spiritual character on the Ordinand, the minor orders do not, and if a Cleric withdraws, they are no longer ordained in any of the minor orders they have received. As with postulancy, this is a period of both discernment and formation, and at any time, the Cleric may choose to withdraw from the process or the ICCC may determine that the Cleric be released from the process.
The subdiaconate is the first of the major orders, although it is not a sacramental order. The particular significance of this step is that, at this point, if both the Cleric and the Church agree that the Cleric should be ordained a Subdeacon, both the Subdeacon and the PCC are making a permanent, lifelong commitment to one another. The Subdeacon agrees to continue in ordained ministry within the PCC for the rest of their life, and the PCC makes a commitment to the subdeacon to care for them spiritually for the rest of their life. This is not a step to be taken lightly, and the Cleric engages in serious discernment with the Discernment Committee, with their recommendation requiring approval from both the Chapter of Canons and Bishop to move forward. Similar discernment will occur before ordination to the diaconate and priesthood.
The Subdeacon, once ordained, continues in formation as described above. The period of formation from admission to the postulancy to ordination as a Deacon is normally four years.
Diaconate is the first of the three sacramental orders. If a Deacon intends to remain a Deacon only and not pursue priesthood, the first year of diaconate will consist of focused ministerial formation and mentorship suited to their particular diaconal ministry. After that, the Deacon is expected to continue their formation for the rest of their life, but is personally responsible for it, in consultation with the Bishop.
If a Deacon does intend to become a Priest as well, then the formation will consist of ministerial formation preparing them for priesthood, in addition to continuing formation as a Deacon. A year of diaconate is required prior to ordination as a Priest.
The first year of priesthood includes mentorship by experienced Priests and continuing focused formation. After that, the Priest is expected to continue their formation for the rest of their life, but is personally responsible for it, in consultation with the Bishop.