A bishop oversees the ministerial and administrative life of a diocese, which is made up of local communities (parishes) of the faithful. The bishop acts as a father for and as a brother to all of the priests in his diocese. He also serves 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.
The primary purpose and vision of the Bishop’s Office is to provide the bishop with the support and assistance he needs to fulfill his threefold mission as the primary teacher of the faith, celebrant of the sacraments and governor of the diocese.
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 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.
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 works of peace and justice, especially for the poor and disenfranchised.
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, who came to serve. A bishop seeks to administer and guide the Church in ways that preserve her unity as the bride of Christ, bringing people and resources together to accomplish her mission in love.
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.