The Roman Catholic priesthood began on the first Holy Thursday over 2,000 years ago when Jesus Christ celebrated the Last Supper in the Upper Room in Jerusalem with His apostles. On that night, Jesus gave the Church both the Sacrament of Holy Orders – the priesthood – and the Sacrament of the Eucharist. For this reason, the Catholic Church places great importance on the ministerial priesthood because it continues the call of Jesus and the response of the apostles to His command to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19).
From the very beginning, priests have celebrated the sacraments, taught the Church’s teachings, and provided leadership to the people. The priesthood is mainly about service and is dependent upon the priesthood of Christ to help the Christian faithful become holy and gain eternal life.
Today, there are more than 400,000 priests in the world, called by Christ from every region and nationality. This diversity helps to show that the priesthood is the same everywhere, but the Church always remembers that the ministry of ordained priests is measured always against the one supreme model of Christ the eternal High Priest.
For 2,000 years, Jesus has called men to this unique life of sacrifice and service: “I will give you shepherds after my own heart” (Jer. 3:15). In these words from the prophet Jeremiah, God promises His people that He will never leave them without shepherds to gather them together and guide them on their way to eternal salvation.
What was important for the first followers who said “yes” to Jesus’ invitation to join Him in His ministry remains so today for those engaged in priestly formation. Men who are open to the power of the Holy Spirit by choosing to pursue a vocation to the priesthood are surely helping to bring about the New Springtime in the Church.