"...that all may be one" John 17:21
The Catholic Church is a global community of believers founded by Jesus Christ nearly two-thousand years ago. There are over 1 billion Catholics in our global Church. The Catholic Church is made up of many people from diverse cultural backgrounds. Sometimes the Catholic Church is thought of as a big tent – it encompasses many people within the spectrum of social practices and political belief. But we are all united by the saving power of Jesus Christ and the welcoming family that is his church.
Our Church founded by Jesus
The Catholic Church is the original Christian church. Sometimes people are confused and contrast the Catholic Church with Christianity when in fact they are one in the same. The Catholic Church was the first group of Christians and it is from the Catholic Church that all other Christian groups have splintered over the centuries.
Leadership Instituted by Jesus
The Catholic Church is foremost a worldwide communion of Christians, but it is also an institution. Within the Catholic Church there is a leadership structure. This structure dates back to the Apostles and was put in place by Jesus himself through the power of the Holy Spirit. The leaders of the Catholic Church are not like kings and queens, but rather servant-leaders following the example of Jesus. Servant-leaders put themselves at the service of those whom they lead just as Jesus did. The primary servant-leaders of the Catholic Church are all men who have undergone a ritual called Holy Orders in which they are ordained or commissioned into the priesthood. Becoming a priest, while a special privilege, carries much responsibility - for priests act in the place of Jesus in a special way.
The exclusive selection of priests as men is a tradition that is rooted in Jesus’ selection of the original twelve apostles, the twelve men he chose to carry out his mission after Jesus’ death. As with any institutional structure there is also a head. And as Catholics we look only to Jesus as the head of our Church. However, in the divine wisdom of our Lord, included in this church structure is an office of prime minister. This position is foremost charged with shepherding, guiding and caring for the people. This is our Pope (or our “Lead Pastor” if you will).
Christ with us
One of the most important roles of the priest in the Catholic Church is that he re-presents Jesus’ great sacrifice at each Eucharistic liturgy. A Eucharistic liturgy is commonly referred to as Mass, the time when Catholics gather to worship God by listening to readings of the Bible and receiving Jesus in the form of bread and wine. Catholics believe that the bread and wine at Mass are turned into the body and blood through a consecration by the priest. The consecrated body and blood are then distributed to the worshippers in the same manner that Jesus did with his twelve apostles the night before he was hung on a cross (crucifixion). This ritual is at the center of Catholic belief and worship. Jesus is present with us – body, blood, soul and divinity. It is a beautiful mystery and the ultimate expression of love.
Aside from the special duties of the ordained priesthood, there is also an expectation of all Catholics to carry out the ministry of Jesus. By our initiation into the church through our baptism, all Catholics are baptized as priest, prophet, and king. And it is through our baptism that we become responsible for a share in the work of Jesus Christ.