Glossary of Catholic Terms and Acronyms


The chief diocese of an ecclesiastical province.

Auxiliary Bishop

A bishop assigned to a Catholic diocese or archdiocese, to assist a residential bishop.


The chief priest of a diocese. Bishops are responsible for the pastoral care of their dioceses. In addition, bishops have a responsibility to act in council with other bishops to guide the Church.


Greek for rule, norm, standard, measure. Designates the Canon of Sacred Scripture, the list of books recognized by the Church as inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Canon Law

Canon Law, Code of - The collection of laws (canons) governing administration of the Roman Catholic Church. All aspects of Church life are addressed in the Code, including its administrative structure, the sacraments, and the teaching office of the Church, among others.


Cardinals are appointed by the Pope and constitute the senate of the Church. They aid the Pope as his chief counselors.


Religious instruction and formation for persons preparing for baptism (catechumens) and for the faithful in various stages of spiritual development.


From the Greek meaning “to sound forth,” it is the procedure for teaching religion.


The major church in an archdiocese or diocese. It is the seat of the local Ordinary (diocesan bishop, religious superior or other authority).


Greek word for universal. First used in the title Catholic Church in a letter written by St. Ignatius of Antioch to the Christians of Smyrna about 107 A.D.

Catholic Campaign for Human Development

The US Catholic bishops’ domestic anti-poverty program. Started in 1970, it is funded through an annual collection in Catholic parishes.


Collective term referring to male persons who administer the rites of the Church through Holy Orders.


Part of a convent or monastery reserved for use by members of the order that live in that facility.


The shared responsibility and authority that the whole college of bishops, headed by the Pope, has for the teaching, sanctification and government of the Church.


One of the three sacraments of initiation, along with Baptism and Eucharist.


An object is a crucifix only if it depicts Christ on a cross, otherwise it is a cross.


An ordained minister who assists the Celebrant during the Liturgy of the Word and at the altar for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.


The diaconate is the first order or grade in ordained ministry. Any man who is to be ordained to the priesthood must first be ordained as a transitional deacon. Deacons serve in the ministry of liturgy, of the word, and of charity. The Permanent Diaconate is for men who do not plan to become ordained priests. The program is open to both married and unmarried men.


The title of a priest appointed by the bishop to aid him in administering the parishes in a certain vicinity, called a “deanery.” The function of a dean involves promotion, coordination, and supervision of the common pastoral activity within the deanery or vicariate.


Deanery - A regional subdivision of the Archdiocese. 


A regional subdivision of the Archdiocese. 


In the Catholic Church, the diaconate is the first of three ranks in ordained ministry. Deacons preparing for the priesthood are transitional deacons. Those not planning to be ordained priests are called permanent deacons. Married men may be ordained permanent deacons, and single men may be ordained with a commitment to celibacy.


A particular church; a fully organized ecclesiastical jurisdiction under the pastoral direction of a bishop as local Ordinary.


Refers to official structures or legal and organizational aspects of the Church.


A movement for spiritual understanding and unity among Christians and their churches. The term also is extended to apply to efforts toward greater understanding and cooperation between Christians and members of other faiths.


In general, the term refers to the ordered body of clergy, divided into bishops, priests, and deacons. In Catholic practice, the term refers to the bishops of the world or of a particular region.

Knights of Columbus

Fraternal organization for Catholic men. Knights of Columbus engage in religious and charitable projects in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, Mexico, and the Philippines.



The Roman, Orthodox and Old Catholic churches consider matrimony a sacrament and refer to it as the Sacrament of Matrimony. This is a marriage contract between baptized persons.

National Conference of Catholic Bishops

(NCCB) Episcopal conference of U.S. bishops. The membership is comprised of diocesan bishops and their auxiliary bishops. The conference decides matters of ecclesiastical law and issues policy statements on political and social issues. Newman Apostolate An apostolate to the Catholic college and university community, now commonly known as “campus ministry.”

Ordain - Ordination

The proper terms in Catholic usage for references to the conferral of the sacrament of Holy Orders on a deacon, priest or bishop.


Diocesan bishops, religious superiors, and certain other diocesan authorities with jurisdiction over the clergy in a specific geographical area, or the members of a religious order.


A specific community of the Christian Faithful within a diocese, which has its own church building and is under the authority of a pastor who is responsible for providing the faithful with ministerial service. Most parishes are formed on a geographic basis, but they may be formed along national or ethnic lines.

Presbyteral Council

A consultative group of priests that assists the Archbishop in his governing of the Archdiocese. Council members are representative of all priests in the Archdiocese and include priests elected by fellow priests, priests included by virtue of the offices they hold (ex officio) and priests appointed by the Archbishop.


Presbyteral Council - A consultative group of priests that assists the Archbishop in his governing of the Archdiocese. Council members are representative of all priests in the Archdiocese and include priests elected by fellow priests, priests included by virtue of the offices they hold (ex officio) and priests appointed by the Archbishop.

Presbyterial Council

Also known as the priests’ council, this is the principal consultative body mandated by the Code of Canon Law to advise the diocesan bishop in matters of pastoral governance. It consists of bishops and priests serving the diocese.

Religious Priest/Diocesan Priest

Religious priests are professed members of a religious order or institute. Religious clergy live according to the rule of their respective orders. In pastoral ministry, they are under the jurisdiction of their local bishop, as well as the superiors of their order. Diocesan, or secular, priests are under the direction of their local bishop. They commit to serving their congregations and other institutions.

Rite of Christi an Initiation of Adults (RCIA)

The norms and rituals of the Catholic Church for people who wish to join the Church. Part of the process is intended for baptized Christians who wish to become Catholics. The term is used in a general sense to refer to the process of entering the Catholic Church.


The skullcap of Roman Catholic clerics.  The Pope wears a white zucchetto, Cardinals wear red zuchettos, Bishops wear purple zucchettos and priests wear black zucchettos.



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