Image by Josh Applegate

Clergy-Specific Help

While there is much practical and spiritual help that Catholic lay people and other ministers can give you, there are a few things - particularly the Sacraments -  that the Catholic Church has entrusted to deacons, priests and bishops by virtue of their ordination.  Clergy can also be good resources for getting connected with other forms of spiritual help, which falls under the general category of Pastoral Counseling.

Pastoral Counseling

"Pastoral Counseling" is a broad term which covers a wide range questions and issues for which you might meet with a priest, deacon, or other trained pastoral minister. 

Generally, people seek pastoral counseling for:

  1. Theological questions of all kinds

  2. Sacramental questions, such as:

    • To receive a Sacrament or begin process to become Catholic​

    • To discuss the process for annulment

  3. Vocational questions, such as:

    • Interest in ordination or religious/consecrated life​

    • To discuss discerning God's will 

  4. Relational or Family Issues

Priests or Deacons may or may not be specialists with your particular issues but they often have a network of resources and contacts to whom they can refer people. 


It is common for a priest, deacon, or pastoral minister to meet with a parishioner up to three times before referring them to others, such a spiritual director, a licensed counselor or other helper.

Other pastoral care and social service links can be found here.

Image by Jonathan Dick, OSFS

Sacramental Ministry


Anyone can receive it.

Bishops, Priests and Deacons preside, but if a person is in danger of death, anyone can baptize them.


A baptized person can receive it.

Bishops preside, or priests to whom the Bishop gives permission - for instance, for those confirmed at an Easter Vigil Mass.


A baptized Catholic can receive it if they are properly disposed by having observed the fast and confessed all mortal sins.

Bishops or priests preside.


A baptized Catholic can receive it.  A non-Catholic (baptized or not) could confess - hypothetically - but it would not be a Sacrament and they cannot receive absolution.

Bishops and priests can administer Reconciliation.

Anointing of the Sick

A baptized Catholic can receive it in case of serious illness or impending death. A non-baptized person would first be baptized, then anointed.  A baptized non-Catholic or a Catholic who was not yet confirmed would be confirmed as their anointing.

Bishops and Priests can anoint the sick.


For marriage to be a Sacrament, it must be between a baptized man and a baptized woman.  If one of the two is baptized but not Catholic, a dispensation is needed for the marriage to be valid.

Bishops, priests or deacons preside, but the bride and groom are the ministers of the Sacrament of Marriage which they confer on each other.

Holy Orders

Baptized Catholic men who have been selected can receive Holy Orders, that is, ordained as deacons, priests and bishops.

Bishops preside at Ordinations.  In the case of a bishop, canon law specifies that there are to be three consecrating bishops present to consecrate a new bishop.

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