Definition of a Bishop
A bishop oversees the ministerial and administrative life of a diocese, which is made up of local communities (parishes) of the faithful. The bishop is the superior of all the priests in his diocese, as well as the local spiritual leader for all of the faithful within his care. The word ‘diocese’ comes from a Greek word meaning “to keep house.” A bishop is regarded by Catholics as a shepherd, a successor of the apostles whom Jesus Christ chose to carry on the work of His church.
A bishop is called to exercise a three-fold office within the Catholic Church: to teach, govern, and sanctify.
The very nature of the office of bishop is to be a teacher of the Faith. The teaching is grounded in the Word of God as has been preserved in the Church and handed on to us in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition of the Church, continually inviting people to salvation by believing, accepting and living divinely revealed Truth. As His own public ministry was ending, Christ directed the apostles to preach the gospel “to the ends of the earth”, a mission each bishop performs daily within the diocese he shepherds.
To govern a diocese is an exercise in constancy, courage and fidelity. Presiding in charity over the diocese entrusted to his care, the authority of the bishop comes from Jesus Himself and is always modeled on Christ, the Good Shepherd. A bishop seeks to administer and guide the Church in ways that preserve the unity of the Church and bringing people and resources together to accomplish the mission of the Church in love.
The ministry of a bishop is to sanctify the church and world, most importantly, through his good example of prayer and reverence for the things of God. The bishop’s journey of faith shines as a public witness and source of hope for his diocese, thereby helping people to attain Christian perfection and holiness by communicating the love of God and neighbor after the example of Jesus Christ. The bishop, as the local chief shepherd, encourages a spirit of prayer, celebrates the sacred liturgy and all the sacraments for the sanctification of all people, and promotes the work of peace and justice, especially for the poor and disenfranchised.
The joint responsibility to teach, govern and sanctify the people of God is the unifying ministry of a bishop. The fullness of priesthood belongs to those who have received the order of bishop.