Glossary of Catholic Terms and Style Guide

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The forgiveness of a debt either by the remission of sin in the Sacrament of Penance or the lifting of a canonical penalty.
May refer to any layman who serves the Mass or who assists at other church services. However, all candidates for Holy Orders are instituted to the lay ministries of acolyte and lector – what used to be called “minor orders” – during formation. Pope Paul VI officially established the lay ministries of acolyte and lector and opened them to male laity not aspiring to sacred orders. Lowercase in all uses.
Ad Limina
The abbreviated form the Latin phrase ad limina Apostolorum is translated, "to the thresholds of the apostles." It describes the quinquennial (five-year) reports that all bishops and military vicars are required to make to the Holy See.
Administration of ecclesiastical goods
This includes transactions involved in acquiring and managing temporal goods. Ordinary administration involves day-to-day operations that do not require special permission. There is an intermediate level called acts of greater importance. These acts significantly impact the parish finances and administration. Then there are acts of extraordinary administration that are unique, infrequent, and not only impact parish finances and administration, but affect parish life. Statutes express limits and procedures for the authorization of acts of greater importance and extraordinary acts of administration.
Adoration, Perpetual
The practice of continuous exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, usually in the monstrance, for the purposes of uninterrupted vigil and adoration on the part of the faithful.
A long, white garment that can be used by all liturgical ministers. It is a reminder of the baptismal garment worn when the new Christian "puts on Christ."
In broad terms, a transaction that results in the Church losing control of its goods. The most common instance of alienation involves the transfer of title to Church property. As a means of ensuring that decisions to alienate property are made with the appropriate amount of deliberation, Church law requires the consent of consultative bodies at the parish and archdiocesan levels to complete the transaction.
The focal point of a church, where the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is made present under sacramental signs in the Mass. Similar to a table, but should not be referred to as such. Do not capitalize. Not to be confused with “alter.”
A place where scriptures are proclaimed and homilies may be preached. It is a main focal point of the church and a lector stands at or behind it when reading aloud. Also referred to as a pulpit.
A recess that holds the holy oils that are blessed and consecrated at the Chrism Mass during Holy Week.
A Hebrew word of assent found in the Old and New Testaments, generally left untranslated but meaning "So be it," "Truly," "Certainly," or even, "I do believe."
Technically called a decree of nullity, is a sentence by a church court, confirmed by an appellate court, that a putative marriage was not valid from the start because something was lacking: full knowledge and consent by both parties, freedom from force or grave fear, or some other factor needed for a valid marriage. "Putative" (meaning apparent or seeming) is a key word in the entire process: It refers to a marriage in which at least one party acted in good faith, believing it was valid at the time it took place. Children from a putative marriage are considered legitimate even if the marriage is later ruled to be invalid. This has been a source of one of the major popular misunderstandings of annulments; namely, that an annulment somehow makes the children of that union illegitimate. Church law explicitly rejects this interpretation, saying that children of a putative marriage are legitimate even if the marriage is later judged to be invalid.
"The one sent." This normally refers to the 12 men chosen by Jesus to be the bearers of his teachings to the world. They are:
  • Simon, renamed Peter
  • Andrew
  • Bartholomew
  • James the Greater
  • James the Lesser
  • John
  • Judas Iscariot
  • Matthew
  • Matthias - was chosen to fill the place of Judas
  • Philip
  • Simon the Zealot
  • Thaddeus
  • Thomas
Referring to the 12 Apostles. It also characterizes certain documents, appointments, or structures initiated by the Pope or the Holy See.
Title of a bishop with jurisdiction over an archdiocese, which is the principal see of a region; he has certain limited supervisory jurisdiction over the other dioceses in his province. 
Uppercase when preceding name of person but lowercase in all other instances, even when referring back to a specific person. (e.g. Archbishop Robert J. Carlson … the archbishop said.) Same usage rules for bishop, cardinal, pope.
For information about the current archbishop of St. Louis, visit
For more style guidelines, see “bishop.”
A territory of the Church governed by an archbishop. It is the primary see of an ecclesiastical province having one or more other dioceses (see “diocese” and “province”).
The Archdiocese of St. Louis includes the counties of St. Louis, St. Charles, Lincoln, Warren, Franklin, Jefferson, Washington, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve, Perry, and the City of St. Louis.

As of 2018, a total of 44 currently existing Catholic dioceses have been formed out of the territory that once belonged to the Archdiocese of St. Louis since being founded in 1826 as the Diocese of St. Louis. The original territory stretched from Arkansas in the south to the Canadian border in the north, and parts of Illinois and Wisconsin in the east to Idaho and parts of Nevada in the west.

This word and its derivatives should always be lowercase except when used in a proper name such as Archdiocese of St. Louis or the St. Louis Archdiocese. Preferably, use “archdiocesan” when used as a possessive (“St. John the Baptist is an archdiocesan school”).
Liturgical instrument used for the sprinkling of holy water.
Associate Pastor
A priest who assists the pastor in the pastoral care of a parish or parishes.
Auxiliary Bishop
A bishop assigned to assist a diocesan bishop in the administrative and pastoral care of a diocese. "Auxiliary" refers to jurisdiction, not to sacramental ordination. A man may be named an auxiliary bishop, but he is ordained a bishop. See “bishop.”


The first of the seven sacraments, and the “door” which gives access to the others. Baptism, the first sacrament of initiation, is the first and chief sacrament of forgiveness of sins because it unites us with Christ, who died for our sins and rose for our justification. In baptism a believe receives the remission of original and personal sin, begins a new life in Christ, and is incorporated into the Church. The rite of baptism consists in immersing the candidate in water, or pouring water on the head, while pronouncing the invocation of the Most Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
See “Sacrament”
Baptismal Font
A receptacle for water that is used in the Sacrament of Baptism.
A church specifically designated by the Vatican for its historical and religious significance and has been accorded special privileges by the pope.
The word basilica is derived from a Greek term meaning “royal house.” There are two kinds of basilicas. The world’s four major, or papal, basilicas are located in Rome: St. John Lateran, St. Peter, St. Paul Outside the Walls, and St. Mary Major.
Minor, or lesser, basilicas are significant churches in Rome and elsewhere in the world that meet certain criteria and are given special ecclesiastical privileges. Minor basilicas are traditionally named because of their antiquity, dignity, historical value, architectural and artistic worth, and/or significance as centers of worship. A basilica must “stand out as a center of active and pastoral liturgy,” according to the 1989 Vatican document Domus Ecclesiae.
Because designation as a basilica indicates a special bond of communion with the pope, the parish must celebrate “with particular care” the feast of the Chair of Peter on February 22, the solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul on June 29, and the anniversary of the pope’s election or his inauguration into his pastoral ministry.
As of January 2018, more than 1,700 churches worldwide have been designated as minor basilicas, including 84 churches in the United States. Of the three in Missouri, the Archdiocese of St. Louis has two: the Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France was designated by Pope John XXIII in 1961; the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis was designated on April 4, 1997 by Pope John Paul II.
Three physical signs indicate that a church is a lesser basilica. The first is the presence of the conopaeum, also known as the ombrellino — a silk umbrella-like canopy designed with stripes of yellow and red, traditional papal colors. The second is the tintinnabulum, or bell. It is mounted on a pole and carried along with the conopaeum at the head of the clergy during processions on special occasions. Third, minor basilicas have the right to display the papal symbol—crossed keys—on banners, on furnishings, and on the seal of the basilica.
Usage: capitalize as part of a proper name, i.e., the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis. Spell out all words for the proper titles of the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis and the Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France.
Capitalize, but lowercase biblical and when referring to the general term. Example: “The Wall Street Journal is his bible.”
The highest order of ordained ministry in Catholic teaching and a successor of the Apostles; from the Greek word meaning "overseer.” Most bishops are diocesan bishops, the chief priests in their respective dioceses. But some (auxiliary bishops) are the top assistants to their diocesan bishops, and some priests are made bishops because of special posts they hold in the church, such as certain Vatican jobs. Diocesan bishops and their auxiliaries are responsible directly to the pope for the pastoral care of their dioceses. In some cases diocesan bishops are assigned a coadjutor bishop, who is like an auxiliary except that he automatically becomes the diocesan bishop when his predecessor resigns or dies. See auxiliary bishop and coadjutor. In addition to their diocesan responsibilities, all bishops have a responsibility to act in council with other bishops to guide the church. Adj. episcopal.
On first reference bishops and archbishops may be referred to as “The Most Reverend” or “Most Reverend”, i.e., Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop of St. Louis. Never “Most Reverend Archbishop...” Second reference and later may be “Bishop/Archbishop” followed by first and/or last name(s), i.e, Archbishop Carlson. When not followed by a name, “bishop”/“archbishop” or “the bishop”/“the archbishop” are acceptable (Ex. “The archbishop of St. Louis announced a new initiative today.”). Auxiliary bishops follow the same style as above, just adding “auxiliary” on first reference.
Visit for particular style guides for the current bishops of St. Louis.
An individual who has been beatified; a step on the path to sainthood. May abbreviate Blessed as Bl. in headlines and on second reference. (see “religious titles)
May also refer to items that are blessed, i.e., sanctified, by a priest or bishop.
Blessed Sacrament
The consecrated bread and wine when they become the Body and Blood of Christ. Also referred to as the Eucharist (see entry for “Eucharist”). The Blessed Sacrament is perpetually reserved in Catholic churches in a prominent place, marked by a burning sanctuary lamp. The Blessed Sacrament is not to be referred to as a “wafer” or “communion wine.” The bread may be referred to as a host or hosts before or after consecration.
A metal pan used to hold incense. See “thurible.”
Brother/Religious Brother
A man who has taken vows in a religious order but is not ordained or studying for the priesthood. Sometimes he is called a lay brother to distinguish him from clerical members of religious orders. See “lay.” For religious orders, use full name on first reference, only first name on second and subsequent references (e.g. Brother John Smith … Brother John …). May also be abbreviated as Br. on second reference.


A person in the RCIA process who has been baptized in another Christian Tradition and is now seeking to come into full communion with the Catholic Church is called a candidate.
Candidate may also refer to a candidate for ordination (see “ordinand”)
Greek for "rule" or "measure." Refers to a law of the Church or a doctrinal formula of a council or synod. The canon of Scripture comprises books of the Bible received in the Church as authentically inspired and normative for the Faith.
Canon may also be used as a title for priests in some limited cases, such as those belonging to particular religious orders and/or those living under a particular rule of life (see “priest”). 
Canon Law
The name given to the official body of ecclesiastical laws by which the Catholic Church is governed. The current code was promulgated by Pope John Paul II in 1983.
The one who leads the congregation in singing the music within the liturgy in a prayerful way.
Cardinals (from the Latin cardinālis, which pertains to a hinge, or a thing on which something depends) are the highest-ranking prelates below the Pope himself. By church law cardinals are regarded as the pope's closest advisors. They are appointed by the Pope to assist him through the College of Cardinals with questions of major importance and, individually, in the daily care of the universal Church. Cardinals are created at during a ceremony called a consistory. In the interregnum following the death of a pope, members of the College of Cardinals administer the church and those who are not yet 80 years old meet in a conclave in Rome to elect the next Pontiff. Most cardinals are archbishops; canon law since 1983 says they must at least be bishops, but exceptions have been made in several cases where a noted priest-theologian over the age of 80 has been named a cardinal to honor his theological contributions to the church. See College of Cardinals.
Three archbishops of St. Louis have been elevated to the College of Cardinals during their episcopacy here: Cardinal Glennon, Cardinal Ritter, and Cardinal Carberry, although Cardinal Glennon died before he made it back to St. Louis from the consistory in Rome.
Two other archbishops, Rigali and Burke, were created cardinal after their episcopacy in St. Louis.
Two former auxiliary bishops of St. Louis were later elevated to the College of Cardinals: John Patrick Cardinal Cody (Archbishop of Chicago 1965-1982) and Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan (Archbishop of New York 2009-present).
Usage: Cardinals are elevated to the College of Cardinals, or created, but not ordained. Individual cardinals can be referred to in several ways with the title of cardinal at the beginning or middle of their name, e.g., Cardinal Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Cardinal Burke, Justin Cardinal Rigali. Abbreviated Cdl. Cardinals may be referred to as “His Eminence,” i.e., His Eminence, John Cardinal Carberry, Archbishop of St. Louis. Also see “bishop.”
A long, black garment worn by priests (black), monsignors (rose), bishops (violet), cardinals (red), and the Pope (white). May be worn by a priest anytime and anywhere, but most commonly during liturgical functions. Seminarians and some altar servers also wear a cassock during liturgical functions under a surplice (a white, shirt-like garment). During a liturgy in which a priest is not functioning as a minister, he will also wear a cassock and surplice. Priestly cassocks have thirty-three buttons, signifying the thirty-three years of Jesus Christ’s earthly life. Sometimes also called a soutane.
Religious instruction and formation for those preparing for baptism and for Catholic faithful in all stages of spiritual development. See “faith formation.”
A person who teaches catechesis. The main catechist at each parish is usually known as the Director of Religious Education (DRE) or the Coordinator of Religious Education (CRE).
Unbaptized adult or child preparing for the sacrament of initiation through the RCIA process.
Individuals being taught the elements of the Catholic faith.
The archbishop's chair in the cathedral, the symbol of his role of chief teacher and pastor of the local church.
From "cathedra," literally, chair of the bishop. The official church of a bishop who has jurisdiction over a diocese is the cathedral. It is located within the diocese, generally in the see city in which the bishop exercises his authority and conducts worship for all under his jurisdiction. Some dioceses which are large or serve multiple large towns may have co-cathedrals. In other instances a pro-cathedral may serve as an interim seat of the bishop when a cathedral is temporarily unavailable. A proto-cathedral is a former cathedral.
The Archdiocese of St. Louis has one cathedral: the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis (see “basilica”). It is commonly referred to as the “New Cathedral.” The Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France, is commonly called the “Old Cathedral” but it does not currently serve as the see of the Archbishop of St. Louis. It may be referred to as proto-cathedral or colloquially as the “Old Cathedral.”
Capitalize when used as part of an official name of a cathedral; lowercase in general usage.
A term meaning “universal.” Capitalized when referring to the Catholic Church, its members, beliefs, doctrines, or practices.
Catholic Church
Refers to the worldwide body of followers of Christ, and specifically the Church established by Christ on the foundation of the Apostles, possessing the fullness of the means of salvation which he has willed. Always capitalize.
The Catholic Church includes the Roman Catholic Church and several local/regional Catholic churches which have submitted to the authority of the Roman pontiff (Ex., the Greek Catholic Church). These Eastern Catholic churches are in full communion with the whole Catholic Church and accept the canonical authority of the Holy See of Rome, but they retain their distinctive liturgical rites, laws, customs and traditional devotions. The Catholic Church is distinct from the Orthodox Catholic Church. (See “Eastern Catholic Churches”)
Apart from its obvious use to refer to a building where Christians gather to worship God, church has a rich theological and doctrinal meaning for Catholics that also sets limits on how it is applied. The local or particular church means the (arch)diocese, the community of faithful gathered around the altar under its bishop. Each particular church has all the necessary means of salvation according to Catholic teaching—that is, fidelity to apostolic teaching, assured by ordained ministry in apostolic succession; the seven sacraments accepted throughout Christianity before the Reformation; and all the communal means to holiness that God grants through his graces. The universal church—the meaning of catholic church, lowercased—is the communion of all those particular churches spread throughout the world who are in union with the bishop of Rome and who share in fidelity to apostolic teaching and discipleship to Christ. Catholics also recognize the mainline Orthodox churches as churches; and until the recent ordination of women in several Old Catholic churches of the Union of Utrecht, the Catholic Church had recognized Union of Utrecht churches as churches. Christian churches which share partially in the historic apostolic communities of Christian discipleship, but which in the Catholic Church's perspective do not have the fullness of apostolic succession in their bishops or ordained ministry, are called ecclesial communions, rather than churches. This position, strongly affirmed by the world's Catholic bishops at the Second Vatican Council and reaffirmed in numerous church documents since then, remains a topic of considerable disagreement in ecumenical dialogues. In Catholic teaching the church embraces all its members—not only those still living on earth (the Church Militant), but also those in heaven (the Church Triumphant) or purgatory (the Church Suffering). The ancient teaching that outside the church there is no salvation (extra ecclesiam nulla salus) has been officially nuanced in church teaching to include many who do not explicitly embrace the church and all its teachings, or even many who join no Christian religion. The teaching affirms the central role and responsibility of the church to reach out to all people with the Gospel message while acknowledging that those who have not been apprised or convinced of that message may still be saved if they live upright lives in accord with their own convictions and understanding of God.
The Catholic Church as an institution is often referred to in the feminine sense as Holy Mother Church or the Bride of Christ; feminine pronouns may be used (Ex. “The Catholic Church in her wisdom…”)
Catholic Teaching
That which the Pope or the College of Bishops enunciate on faith or morals when they exercise the authentic magisterium, or "teaching office," of the Church. The appropriate response of the Christian faithful is a healthy respect for and acceptance of sound teaching in the Church. The principle of the pursuit of truth and the primacy of conscience, however, are still in play because teachings are included which are not infallible. (Comm. on Code 752)
Bishop, priest, or deacon who presides at a liturgical function.
Refers to a decision to live chastely in the unmarried state. At ordination, a diocesan priest or unmarried deacon in the Latin rite Catholic Church makes a promise of celibacy. The promise should not be called a "vow." Priestly celibacy is a discipline of practice, but not a doctrine of the Catholic Church. Adj. celibate. See chastity.
Severe penalties in Church law, applied with the hope that the offender will recant his or her position or decision. Penalties include suspension (for clerics), interdict and excommunication.
The cup-like vessel used to hold the wine that becomes the Blood of Christ (see “Eucharist” and “Blessed Sacrament”).
Chancellor for Canonical Affairs
Appointed in accord with canon law by the bishop of a diocese, the chancellor serves as an ecclesiastical notary. The chancellor's duties include the supervision of the diocesan archives, the authentication of documents, and the drawing up of written reports on the official government of the diocese.
A term commonly used in some countries (the United States included) for the diocesan administrative offices. The chancery of the Archdiocese of St. Louis is the Cardinal Rigali Center (20 Archbishop May Dr., St. Louis, MO 63119)
Any place of worship that may (but need not) house the relics or mementos of martyrs or saints. Chapels vary in size, some being the size of a small room while others are church buildings. Chapels may be used for liturgical purposes (such as Mass), devotional purposes (such as adoration of the Blessed Sacrament), or as a place for quiet prayer.
There are three chapels in the Archdiocese of St. Louis that function as regular places of worship in church buildings which used to be parish churches: St. John Nepomuk Chapel, St. Mary of Victories Chapel, and Sts. Mary and Joseph Chapel.
In its general sense chastity does not mean abstinence from sexual activity as such, but rather moral sexual conduct. Marital chastity means faithfulness to one's spouse and moral conduct in marital relations. The religious vow of chastity taken by brothers, sisters and priests in religious orders is a religious promise to God to live the virtue of chastity by not marrying and by abstaining from sexual activity. When diocesan priests and unmarried deacons make a promise of celibacy, they are not taking religious vows; their commitment to live chastely in an unmarried state should be described as a promise, not a vow. See celibacy.
From the Latin for "little house," the chasuble is the outer liturgical vestment worn by the celebrant at Mass. Its color changes according to the feast or liturgical season:
Green: Ordinary Time
Red: Passion (Palm) Sunday, Pentecost, and on the feast days of martyrs including the Apostles and Evangelists
White: Christmas and Easter seasons; on the celebrations of Mary, the angels, saints who were not martyrs' the feasts of All Saints, Birth of John the Baptist, Chair of St. Peter, Conversion of Paul, and St. John the Evangelist
Violet: Advent and Lent
Rose: Third Sunday of Advent (Gaudete Sunday) and Fourth Sunday of Lent (Laetare Sunday)
Mixture of olive or other vegetable oil and balsam, consecrated by a bishop, for use in liturgical anointing at Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Orders, the blessing of an altar, or, in former days, the coronation of a king. At the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, a bishop consecrates the holy chrism as well as the oil of the catechumens and the oil of the infirm.
Uppercase when referring to the Catholic Church, lowercase when referring generally to a church building, or in an institutional or general theological sense. (ex. “The church is the people of God”). Do not capitalize it unless it is used as part of the formal name of a building, a congregation or denomination. Include Parish or Church in formal name where they can usually be used interchangeably (Ex.: Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church; St. Norbert Parish; St. Joseph Catholic Parish). See “Catholic Church.”
A vessel used to hold the hosts (i.e., the Blessed Sacrament under the form of bread) which will be used for communion. Some are cup-like and others are bowl- or plate-like. They are also used to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle.
In Catholic usage, a collective term referring to all those ordained—bishops, priests and deacons—who administer the rites of the church. Adj. clerical.
An enclosed space where men and women religious live and pray.
A canonical declaration by the archbishop in conjunction with the priests' council that a parish ceases to exist. In canon law, a closure is officially referred to as a “suppression.” So if a parish is “suppressed,” that means it’s been closed.
Sometimes suppressed parishes merge to form a new parish, using the same church building(s) and location(s) as a the suppressed parish or parishes.
A cluster refers to two or more parishes that share a single pastor and oftentimes a single set of administrative resources and personnel (bookkeeper, grounds keeper, religious education teachers, etc.). Also used as a verb, e.g. “St. Mary and St. Joseph will make plans to cluster in 2014.” Parishes that are “clustered” have independent finances.
See related terms: closure, merger, suppression, twin
Coadjutor Bishop
A bishop assigned by the Holy See to assist the residential bishop. Upon the death, retirement, or removal of the residential bishop, the coadjutor automatically becomes the residential bishop.
Code of Canon Law
Law enacted and promulgated by the Pope for the orderly pastoral administration and government of the Church. The revised Code, effective November 27, 1983, consists of 1,752 Canons in seven books. Also called universal or Church law.
College of Cardinals
A group of men chosen by the pope as his chief advisers. Most are heads of major dioceses around the world or of the major departments of the Vatican, or are retired from such posts. In the interregnum following the death of the pope, the College of Cardinals administers the church, and those under the age of 80 meet in a conclave to elect a new pope.
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.
Persons sharing one same life, an organic unity. Our "communion" as Church flows from and mirrors the Trinitarian communion, the model and source of giving and receiving. Since "communion" can be translated as "sharing gifts," it is an excellent description of our identity and vocation as Church.
Communion is also used to refer to the act of receiving the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, i.e., the Eucharist, under the forms of bread and wine. Communion is reserved for Catholics who are in the state of grace by being free from any serious attachment to sin. Capitalize in this usage as a synonym for Eucharist (e.g. Holy Communion; first Communion).
The priests and bishops who join the main celebrant in celebrating Mass.
The enclosed meeting of the cardinals of the Church for the purpose of electing a Pope. Only cardinals under the age of 80 are allowed into a conclave under current church rules.
In the Catholic context, confession occurs in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (also known as the Sacrament of Penance), in which one reveals one's sins to a priest who, acting in persona Christi (in the person of Christ), grants absolution through the ministry of the Church when there is true repentance on the part of the penitent. The priest may also be called a “confessor.” Following the confession, a penance is given by the priest to the individual.
May be used as a noun (“He went to confession last week” or “Fr. Smith is an excellent confessor”) or as a verb (“John confessed his sins”). In reference to the priest’s role, it is proper to say a priest hears confession(s). The confessional, usually a small room or closet-type space with door or curtain across the entrance and often a screen between the priest and penitent, is the place where the sacrament usually takes place.
(1) A term used for some Vatican departments that are responsible for important areas of church life, such as worship and sacraments, the clergy, and saints' causes. (2) The proper legal term for some institutes of men or women religious, all of which are commonly called religious orders. The difference between a religious congregation and a religious order is technical and rarely of significance in news reporting. (3) Any gathering of Christians for worship.
The Words of Institution in the Eucharistic Prayer, by which bread and wine are transubstantiated into the Body and Blood of Christ.
A meeting of cardinals in Rome. It can be an ordinary consistory, attended only by cardinals in Rome at the time of the meeting, or an extraordinary consistory, to which all cardinals around the world are summoned.
Crosier (or Crozier)
A hooked staff, reminiscent of a shepherd’s crook, carried by a bishop as a symbol of pastoral office and his authority as successor of the Apostles. Never capitalized.
An object is a crucifix only if it depicts Christ on the cross; otherwise, it is a cross. The body of Christ as depicted on a crucifix is called a corpus (Latin for “body”).
The personnel and offices through which (1) the pope administers the affairs of the universal church (the Roman Curia), or (2) a bishop administers the affairs of a diocese (the diocesan curia). The principal officials of a diocesan curia are the vicar general, the chancellor, officials of the diocesan tribunal or court, examiners, consultors, auditors and notaries. When referring to the Roman Curia, Roman Curia and Curia used alone are usually capitalized (like Senate when referring to the U.S. Senate), but curia is not capitalized in reference to a diocesan curia unless it is part of a full proper name.


An ordained member of clergy but not a priest. 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, but only unmarried men committed to lifelong celibacy can be ordained deacons if they are planning to become priests. The permanent diaconate was reestablished in 1967 and is open to single and married men.
In 2018, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson ordained the largest class of permanent deacons (25) for the Archdiocese of St. Louis until that time.
Deacons can perform baptisms, read the Gospel during Mass, distribute communion, and perform other liturgical and devotional functions, but they cannot consecrate the bread and wine during Mass or grant absolution.
Specify if permanent or transitional deacon. Use “Rev. Mr.” for transitional deacons only; Deacon for permanent deacons. Deacon should be used on second reference. In reference to something pertaining to the rank itself, use “diaconate,” not “deaconate.” Can be abbreviated as Dcn.; spelled out is preferred.
Territory within a diocese. The Archdiocese of St. Louis is divided into ten deaneries: North City, South City, North County, West County, South County, St. Charles, Washington, Festus, and Ste. Genevieve. Their primary function is for administrative and organizational purposes.
See “laicization”
A church term for one of the major departments of the Roman Curia—the Secretariat of State, Vatican congregations, tribunals, pontifical councils and a few other departments. The term does not appear with this definition in most English dictionaries, which is part of the reason it is listed here. It ordinarily does not come into play in news coverage of the Vatican, but it may do so in certain limited contexts. Generally, it is more appropriate to refer to a Vatican dicastery by its more specific proper name: congregation, pontifical council, etc.
Diocesan Bishop
Bishop to whom the care of a diocese has been entrusted. The Diocesan Bishop's office has a threefold range -- teaching, sanctifying and governing. (Canon 376-381)
A territorial division of the Church comprised of all the Catholics living in a specific geographic region under the pastoral care and authority of a bishop. The chief diocese of a group of dioceses is called an archdiocese; see that entry.
Director of Religious Education (DRE) or Coordinator of Religious Education (CRE)
Director of Religious Education (DRE) is the person at a parish in charge of faith formation or catechesis. The person is also referred to as a Coordinator of Religious Education (CRE) in some parishes.
The process of arriving at a decision in accord with God's will through prayerful reflection and deliberation. Communal discernment is related to consensus but adds the following dimensions to the consensus process: Prayerful reflection, gathering of evidence, discussion of positive and negative factors of proposed alternative plans of action, and confirmation by the group.
Divine Office
See “Liturgy of the Hours”
Dogmatic Constitution on the Church
The centerpiece of Vatican II. Begins with a view of Church as Mystery, as the communion of men and women called together into participation in the life of the Triune God.


Eastern Catholic Churches
The Catholic Churches with origins in Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa that have their own distinctive liturgical, legal and organizational systems and are identified by the national or ethnic character of their region of origin. Each is considered fully equal to the Latin tradition within the church. In the United States there are 15 Eastern Church dioceses and two Eastern Church archdioceses.
Pertaining to or connected to the Church; refers to what is proper to the Church. Hence, there is ecclesiastical property, ecclesiastical law, ecclesiastical hierarchy, ecclesiastical discipline, and so forth.
The highest form of papal teaching document, generally addressed to all the bishops and/or all the faithful.
Refers to a bishop or groups of bishops, or to the form of church governance in which ordained bishops have authority.
The sacrament of the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ really, truly and substantially present under the appearances of bread and wine. The source and summit of the Christian life. The Holy Eucharist is the primary act of worship of the Catholic Church in which Christ perpetuates the sacrifice of the cross; the Church, in turn, offers herself with Jesus to the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
Always capitalize Eucharist. Not a synonym for Mass. See “Communion.”
The teaching or spreading of the Gospel message and all those activities by which every member of the Church proclaims and presents to the world the saving message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Every Christian is given the responsibility by Christ to evangelize; the archdiocese and many of its parishes have various formal plans, departments and committees dedicated to evangelization.
Lowercase, except when referring to specific evangelization efforts or concepts with a formal name, i.e., the New Evangelization.
A penalty or censure by which a baptized Catholic is excluded from the communion of the faithful for committing and remaining obstinate in certain serious offenses specified in canon law. Even though excommunicated, the person is still responsible for fulfillment of the normal obligations of a Catholic.
Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion
A layperson who may be allowed to distribute Holy Communion in unusual circumstances, or with large congregations attending Mass. Capitalize all words. Do not use Eucharistic Minister.


Church authorization, given by the law itself or by a church superior, to perform certain official church acts. In some rare cases a member of the clergy will be denied certain faculties, such as hearing confessions or preaching during the liturgy, because of public positions or actions taken that are not in accord with church teaching. Plural: faculties.
Faith Formation
Often used interchangeably with "religious education" or "catechesis," it refers to everything that contributes to a person's growth in faith and intimacy with Jesus Christ: evangelization, religious instruction, liturgy, faith sharing, personal prayer, life experiences, etc.
The law of fasting binds persons from the completion of their 18th year to the beginning of their 60th year, i.e., from the day after their 18th birthday to the day after their 59th birthday.
The law of fasting allows only one full meal a day, but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening, observing as far as quantity and quality are concerned, approved local custom. The order of meals is optional; i.e., the full meal may be taken in the evening instead of at midday. Also: 1) The quantity of food taken at the two lighter meals should not exceed the quantity taken at the full meal; 2) The drinking of ordinary liquids does not break the fast.
Catholics are required to fast on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and the Fridays of Lent. In addition, Catholics may choose to fast during other periods throughout the year, as a practice of mortification and penance.
Making the Catholic faith real through prayer, study/reflection/sharing, action, and evaluation.
A member of one of the mendicant (begging) orders founded since the thirteenth century, for example, the Dominicans, Franciscans, Carmelites. Do not use in general reference to a monk or brother.


Ancient hymn of praise in which the Church glorifies God. It is used on all Sundays except for those during Advent and Lent. The text originates from the Christmas narrative in the Gospel of Luke: "Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests." (Luke 2:14)
Typically used in reference to God, the Father and first person of the Trinity, or Jesus Christ, the Son of God and second person of the Trinity. Also proper to use in reference to the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. Capitalize He or His when referring to God.
Good News
Christians refer to the incarnation of Jesus Christ, His teachings, passion, death, and resurrection as told in the Bible as the “Good News” of salvation. Uppercase when referring to the Gospel.
Refers to the incarnation of Jesus Christ, His teachings, passion, death, and resurrection as found in the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.


Hail Mary
Short prayer to Mary, Mother of God, which recalls the words spoken to her by the Archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation. Plural is Hail Marys. Ten Hail Marys comprise a decade of the Rosary.
Refers to eternal life with God; the state of supreme and definitive happiness in communion with the Trinity. Capitalize in all uses.
The state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God. Capitalize in all uses.
In Catholic usage, the term is used most commonly to refer collectively to the bishops of the world or a particular region. In technical uses, however, it may refer to all those who are ordained: deacons and priests as well as bishops. In the canon law of the Eastern Catholic Churches, hierarchs is a term regularly used to describe the bishops of a church when describing their collective authority or function.
Holy Communion
Capitalize both words in all uses. See “Eucharist” and “communion” for more information.
Holy Day of Obligation
Principal feast day on which, in addition to Sundays, Catholics are obliged by Church law to attend Mass.
Holy Orders, Sacrament of
See “ordination”
Holy See
The residence of the Pope and the center of the administrative offices of the Church. The primary official term of reference for the Diocese of Rome, as the chief diocese of Catholic Christendom. The Holy See has its headquarters in Vatican City and is composed of a host of departments. The mission of the Holy See is to carry on the spiritual and moral authority as exercised by the Pontiff. In most news uses, Vatican is synonymous with Holy See: A Holy See representative is a Vatican representative, a congregation of the Holy See is a Vatican congregation, etc. Capitalize in all uses.
Holy Water
Water blessed and used for Baptisms and in the blessing of religious articles, homes, and other items.
A reflection by the celebrant or member of the clergy on the Scripture readings and on the applications of the texts in the daily lives of the assembled community.
Although it can be used to refer to the bread used at Mass before it is consecrated, Host is properly used only after the consecration and in the view of its consummation at Holy Communion.


Immaculate Conception
The dogma proclaimed in Christian Tradition and defined in 1854, that from the first moment of her conception, Mary – by the singular grace of God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ – was preserved immune from original sin. Mary, under her title of the Immaculate Conception, is the patroness of the Americas. The Church celebrates the feast of the Immaculate Conception, also a Holy Day of Obligation, on December 8th. 
Refers to a member of the clergy or other member of a religious order who is under the authority and jurisdiction of a bishop. “Fr. Smith was incardinated in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.”
The fact that the Son of God assumed human nature and became man in order to accomplish our salvation in the same human nature. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity, is both true God and true man, no part God and part man.
The remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sin whose guilt has already been forgiven. A properly disposed member of the Christian faithful can obtain an indulgence under prescribed conditions through the help of the Church. Indulgences are partial if it removes part of the temporal punishment due to sin, or plenary if it removes all punishment. Do not capitalize.
The gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church where-by the pastors of the Church, the pope and bishops in union with Him, can definitively proclaim a doctrine of faith or morals for the belief of the faithful. This gift is related to the inability of the whole body of the faithful to err in matters of faith and morals.
Initiation, Christian
Refers to the Sacraments of Initiation: baptism, confirmation, and communion. The process by which a non-baptized person is prepared to become a full member of the Church.


The eternal Son of God, who was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered crucifixion and death, rose from the dead and ascended into heaven, and will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead. “Jesus,” which means “God saves” in Hebrew, was the name giving to him at the Annunciation; “Christ” is a title which comes from the Greek translations of the Hebrew Messiah and means “anointed.”
Capitalize He or His when referring to Jesus.
A celebration; Beginning in the year 1300, the Catholic Church has regularly celebrated Jubilee Years at intervals of 25 or 50 years. Except for 1625, an Ordinary Jubilee has been called every 25 years. Some popes have declared Extraordinary Jubilee, such as Pope Francis who declared an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy beginning at the end of 2015 through most of 2016.
The gracious action of God which frees us from sin and communicates “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ” (Rom. 3:22). Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man.


The canonical process whereby a cleric is returned to the lay state. It is sometimes used as a penalty for a serious crime or scandal, but more often it comes at the request of the priest. A laicized priest is barred from all priestly ministry with one exception: He may give absolution to someone in immediate danger of death. The pope must approve all requests for laicization. When a priest is laicized without his consent, for a crime such as living in concubinage, committing child sexual abuse or using the confessional to solicit sex, it is sometimes called defrocking or unfrocking. Those terms, which are not used in church law, should be restricted to forcible laicizations, since they connote a penalty.
Men and women who are the people of God through sacramental initiation. In canon law, anyone not ordained a deacon, priest or bishop is a layperson. In this legal sense women religious (sisters) and unordained men religious (brothers) are laity. In their own way, they share in the priestly, prophetic, and pastoral roles of Jesus, and exercise these functions within the Church under the guidance of duly appointed pastors, bishops and/or priests. They also carry on the four-fold mission of Jesus in their daily lives, particularly through their family, the “domestic church.”
In the documents of the Second Vatican Council, however, the laity are those who are neither ordained nor members of a religious order. The Vatican II sense is the one usually intended in most discussions of laypeople and their role in the church.
Derivatives/other uses: layperson, layman, laywoman
The book of Scripture readings used during the Liturgy of the Word in Mass which are proclaimed by a  reader (lector). Should not be capitalized. Not to be confused with “lecture.”
The liturgical season of forty days which begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with the celebration of the Paschal mystery (Easter Triduum: Holy Thursday (evening), Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday). Christians typically commit to some sort of penance throughout the season. Catholics are obliged to abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and Fridays of Lent. Fasting is obligatory on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Capitalize in all uses.
The general term for the Church’s official acts of worship, including the rites and ceremonies of the Mass, sacraments, and the Liturgy of the Hours. See “Mass” and “sacraments”
Liturgy of the Eucharist
The second portion of Mass when the gifts of bread and wine are prepared, the Eucharistic Prayer is proclaimed by the celebrant by which the body and blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ is made present on the altar, and the Blessed Sacrament is distributed to the assembly.
Liturgy of the Hours
The Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office or the Work of God, is the daily prayer of the Church, marking the hours of each day and sanctifying the day with prayer.  The Hours are a meditative dialogue on the mystery of Christ, using scripture and prayer. Clerics (priests, deacons) and anyone who has taken solemn vows is required to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. Laypersons may also participate.
Liturgy of the Word
The first section of the Mass when readings from the Scriptures are proclaimed and reflected upon.
Capitalize when referring to Jesus Christ (Lord Jesus Christ, Our Lord, etc.). See “Jesus.”


Magisterium of the Church
The Church's teaching authority, instituted by Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit, which seeks to safeguard and explain the truths of the faith.
The mother of Jesus Christ; other titles include the Blessed Virgin Mary; Queen of Heaven and Earth; Queen of All Saints (see “Queen”); the Immaculate Conception. 
The common name for the Eucharistic liturgy of the Catholic Church, the principal celebration of the Church's public worship. The Ordinary Form of the Mass is divided into two main parts: The Liturgy of the Word, which includes Scripture readings, a homily, and ends with the general intercessions; and the Liturgy of the Eucharist which begins with the offering of the gifts, followed by consecration of the bread and wine, and the reception of Communion. Catholics believe that in the consecration the bread and wine truly become the body and blood of Christ.
Capitalize it in all usage. The priest celebrates (or con-celebrates if more than one priests are present), offers, or says Mass. He does not read, recite, conduct or perform it. People do not hear or say Mass but celebrate, participate in, or attend Mass. Other terms that may be used: liturgy, Eucharistic liturgy, Eucharistic sacrifice, Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
Two parishes coming together to form a single parish with a single pastor, combining both their finances and parish councils. Oftentimes, when parishes merge, they take on a new name and begin as a new parish. Fewer worship sites may result. The previous parishes are closed, or in canonical terms, suppressed.
Metropolitan, Metropolitan Tribunal
A metropolitan see is an archdiocese that is the chief diocese of an ecclesiastical province. The archbishop who heads that province is called the metropolitan, but usually only in contexts referring to him in his capacity as head of the province. See province.
The Metropolitan Tribunal is established by Church law to assist the archbishop in carrying out his judicial functions. The major portion of the work is directed toward the processing of petitions for annulment of marriages. Other judicial matters are handled at the request of the archbishop.
The structure and operation of the tribunal is determined by the 1983 Code of Canon Law.
Literally, a "service." A broad term in Catholic usage for any activity conducive to the salvation of souls. It can include ordained ministry such as liturgical leadership and administration of the sacraments, or lay ministry such as instructing children in the faith, serving the poor, visiting the sick, or being an altar server, reader or music leader at Mass. Any service publicly designated by the Church to assist in the fulfillment of its mission. Do not capitalize unless part of a formal name (Ex. “the Hispanic Ministry office coordinated the event.”). “Apostolate” may also be used.
Ministry Team Advisors (MTA)
The leadership team of the Archdiocese of St. Louis that assists the archbishop in managing the affairs of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
Mitre (or Miter)
The liturgical headdress proper to all bishops of the Latin Rite, including the Pope.
Moderator of the Curia
An administrative office for the coordination and supervision of offices and personnel of the diocesan curia. The office was introduced after Vatican II.
A man who withdraws from society in order to pursue a life totally dedicated to God in prayer, penance, and solitude. Monks are commonly distinguished from communities of clerics or friars who engage in some form of active ministry.
Monks may be religious brothers (see “brother”) or priests. Priests who are also monks should not be referred to as “brother.” Monk is an acceptable term for any man (priest or brother) who has chosen to engage in this lifestyle, regardless of the religious order.
An honorary ecclesiastical title granted by the pope to some diocesan priests as a sign of recognition of their service to the Church. The title grants some minor privileges in liturgical functions, but carries no additional authority or responsibility.
Priests in religious orders or congregations never receive the title of monsignor. In English, the standard abbreviation as a title before the name is “Msgr.” American publications vary in whether they use the abbreviation or the full word before the name in news reporting. In covering the church internationally, however, it is also important to realize that the Catholic Church and news agencies in many other nations use Msgr. or Mgr. as the religious title before the name of bishops and archbishops, not just before the name of priests who have received that honorary ecclesiastical title from the pope. Before reporting, verify whether the man in question is a bishop or only a priest who has an honorary title from the pope.
The sacred vessel, usually made of brass or some other metal, used for the exposition and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament as well as solemn Benediction. The Host is generally enclosed in a round glass or crystal-covered opening and surrounded by rays or other decorations.


New Cathedral
Formal name is Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis (all words spelled out); may put “known as the New Cathedral” behind formal title. On second reference, Cathedral Basilica is preferred; New Cathedral is acceptable. See “basilica.”
Communities of women religious are formed in a variety of ways. Though the terms “nun” and “sister” have often become interchangeable in common usage, strictly speaking, a member of a religious order of women with solemn vows is a nun. These women religious live a life dedicated to prayer for the Church and the world in a cloistered environment. A “sister” is one who, while also being dedicated to prayer, engages in some form of public ministry.
Some women religious are identified by the particular manner of dress they wear, known as a “habit.” All women religious take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Whether a woman religious is a nun or sister in a strict canonical sense, in news reporting it is appropriate to use the term Sister, or the abbreviation Sr., as the religious title before her name. Same rules apply as “brother” for first reference and second reference. Nuncio (papal nuncio, apostolic nuncio)
The papal representative or ambassador who represents the Holy See to a state or civil government and who also represents the pope to particular churches in that state or nations, in contrast to papal legates who relate only to particular churches.
An apostolic nuncio, also called a papal nuncio, is always an archbishop, and it is his religious title that is capitalized as a title before his name, e.g., Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States, not Apostolic Nuncio Carlo Maria Viganò. See religious titles before names. In a country with which the Vatican does not have diplomatic relations, the official Vatican liaison with the church there is called an apostolic delegate. Papal representatives in the United States were apostolic delegates until 1984, when full diplomatic relations were established. There was a brief period, from 1984 to 1991, when the Vatican ambassador to the United States was called the pro-nuncio because he was not the dean of the world's ambassadors to the United States (a position that under a Vienna convention is automatically given to the Vatican ambassador in many countries but in other countries is given to the senior foreign ambassador, wherever he is from). In 1991 the Vatican quit using pro-nuncio as the title for its ambassadors who were not deans of the ambassadorial corps and began calling all papal representatives with full rank of ambassador nuncio.


Old Cathedral
Formal name is Basilica of Saint Louis, King of France; put “known as the Old Cathedral” behind formal title. On second reference Old Cathedral is acceptable. See “basilica.”
In Church usage, oratory generally signifies a place of prayer. Do not confuse with public speaking or related concepts. Technically, an oratory is a structure other than a parish church, set aside by ecclesiastical authority for prayer and the celebration of Mass. Oratories are typically set up for very particular purposes. Two oratories exist in the Archdiocese of St. Louis: St. Francis de Sales Oratory and the Oratory of Ss. Gregory and Augustine. Both oratories are dedicated to offering the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, also known as the Traditional Latin Mass. Oratories also have a strong focus on community, whether of the priests and brothers who run the oratory, or the lay members. Capitalize as part of a proper name; may be capitalized on second reference when used by itself in reference to a specific oratory. Do not capitalize when using as a general term.
A man who is to be ordained into the clerical state as a priest or deacon (both transitional and permanent; see “deacon”); also known as a “candidate for ordination.” Always lowercase. Plural: ordinands or ordinandi.
A person placed in authority over a particular Church (diocese) or its equivalent: a diocesan bishop or his equivalent, his vicar general and episcopal vicar, or a major superior of a clerical religious order, congregation or society. It refers to someone with ordinary authority in church law over a group of clergy, over certain pastoral concerns in a specific geographical area or over the members of a religious order. The term ordinary was formerly restricted to diocesan bishops and major superiors of religious orders, but it was expanded in the 1983 Code of Canon Law to include vicars general and episcopal vicars.
Ordinary Time
All those parts of the Church's liturgical year that aren't included in the major seasons (Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter). “Ordinary” refers to “ordinal,” as in ordinal numbers, because the Sundays of Ordinary Time are numbered. In this usage, ordinary does not mean lacking in distinctive features, commonplace, or plain.
The rite of the Sacrament of Holy Orders by which the bishop, through the imposition of hands and the prayer of consecration, confers the order of bishop, priest, or deacon to exercise a sacred power which comes from Christ on behalf of the Church.
The laying on of hands by the bishop is a tradition that began with the original Twelve Apostles and has continued in an unbroken line throughout the entire 2,000 year history of the Catholic Church. The new priests receive supernatural graces through the Sacrament of Holy Orders whereby they are able to act in persona Christi (in the person of Christ) when they hear confessions and offer the sacrifice of the Mass, which is a bloodless re-enactment of Christ’s sacrifice on Good Friday.


A circular band of white wool with two hanging pieces (front and back) decorated with six crosses (sometimes red, usually black) worn over the shoulders by all metropolitan archbishops and by the Pope himself.
A community of Catholics served by a pastor who is responsible for providing ministerial service, most commonly worshipping at a single church building. Technically, a parish refers to the Catholics residing within a specific geographical boundary, however Catholics may, and commonly do, cross geographical boundaries to become “parishioners” of the parish not nearest to their residence. Most parishes are formed on a geographic basis, but they may be formed by nationality, ethnicity, or for other distinct and identifiable communities. See “personal parish”
Capitalize as part of a formal name (Ex. St. Simon Parish, St. Simon Catholic Parish). Always lowercase in other uses. 
Parish/Pastoral Council
A group of people, representing all facets of the parish or (arch)diocese, with whom a pastor or (arch)bishop consults concerning the policies, decision making and governance of that parish or (arch)diocese. The people are who are chosen and commissioned to join together in striving to be a communion of faith and to serve the parish in the ministry of leadership. The Parish Pastoral Council works in cooperation with the pastor, Parish Finance Council and entire parish to set policy, and establish goals, objectives and action plans. Such a council's role is consultative and always subject to the final authority of the pastor or bishop. 
Parish Finance Council
A group of people representing the parish with expertise or experience in the areas of finance, administration, or law. They comprise a consultative body of the parish that “assists the pastor in the administration of the goods.” The Parish Finance Council works in cooperation with the pastor and Parish Pastoral Council.
Parish Life Coordinator
A religious or lay person (often a deacon or religious sister) who assumes the administrative duties of a pastor in a parish where a priest is not in residence. A priest must still perform the sacramental services of the parish.
A member of a parish.
Refers to what is proper to the parish. Hence, there is parochial property, parochial discipline, and so forth.
Parochial Administrator
A priest who assumes the administrative duties of a pastor in a parish. An administrator may be assigned by the archbishop to oversee the pastoral care of a parish without a pastor, or while the pastor is unable to fulfill the functions of the office. Priests in the Archdiocese of St. Louis are typically assigned as parochial administrators for a year prior to being officially named pastor. In rare cases, the administrator may be a lay person and a priest is appointed to perform sacramental services in that parish (see “parish life coordinator”)
Particular Law
Refers to those laws outside of the Code of Canon Law that may be created by a local bishop or a country’s conference of bishops. A parish cannot create particular law.
The priest charged with the care of souls of a parish. He is responsible for administering the sacraments, instructing the congregation in the doctrine of the church, and providing other services. Pastor is not ordinarily used as a title before the name of a Catholic priest: He is Father John Smith or Msgr. John Smith or the Rev. John Smith, depending on your publication's style manual. (Ex. “Fr. John Smith, pastor of St. Jude Catholic Church, spoke about his parish.”)
Pertaining to the actual life of the Church, especially at the parish and archdiocesan levels. May also refer generally to the teaching, sanctifying and governing role of bishop or pastor, and the care shown for the salvation of souls.
Pastoral letter
A letter from a parish or (arch)bishop to the faithful under his care. Often encourages them in some aspect of the faith, provides guidelines on certain matters, or expounds on certain Church teachings. Capitalize titles of the letters.
Pastoral Associate
A deacon, religious, or lay person who serves the parish in multiple areas of ministry. This position is similar to that of an associate pastor in that a pastoral associate assists the pastor in fulfilling the entire pastoral ministry of the parish.
Pastoral Planning
The tracking and assessment of data, and the formulation of a plan to sustain and grow the local Catholic Church, focused on best using the personnel and resources at the Church’s disposal. In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, the Department of Pastoral Planning is part of the Office of Communications and Planning.
Pastoral Staff
Typically refers to the parish’s paid staff, this group works in collaboration with the pastor in the pastoral care of the parish and in implementing the policies of the parish. May consist of one or more associate pastors, deacons, men and women religious, directors of religious education, worship and/or Christian service, and lay pastoral ministers. This term typically refers to paid staff, but may also refer to volunteers when appropriate. They serve the parish in cooperation with the Parish Pastoral Council.
A saucer-like plate that holds the bread that becomes the Body of Christ.
Patron Saint
Saints chosen as namesakes, and/or looked to as role models, protectors, and guardians over areas of life. St. Louis IX, King of France, is the primary patron of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. St. Rose Philippine Duchesne and St. Vincent de Paul are also patrons.
May refer to external acts of penance (fasting, prayer, almsgiving, etc.), or interior penance which is a conversion of heart toward God and away from sin. Lowercase unless used in Sacrament of Penance for the formal name of the sacrament. See confession, reconciliation.
Personal Parish
Led by an archdiocesan-assigned priest, a personal parish ministers to parishioners that may be defined by a particular ethnic background, historical affiliation, or ministry preferences rather than a geographic location.
The pope is visible head of the Church, the successor of St. Peter as Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pontiff of the universal Catholic Church. He is the infallible guide of the spiritual welfare of the Church. The pope is commonly referred to as the Holy See of the Catholic Church but never on first reference. Refer to the office, its jurisdiction, and ministry as the papacy.
Capitalize only when used before the name of a specific pope; lowercase on any subsequent uses even when referring back to a specific pope (e.g. Pope John Paul II said … The pope also said …). See “Vatican” and “Holy See.”
Presbyteral Council
The primary consultative body of priests appointed to assist the (arch)bishop in his exercise of governmental authority, concerning (arch)diocesan governance. The Presbyteral Council assists the (arch)bishop in his exercise of governmental authority but does not exercise governance directly. The council is completely consultative in nature without authority to act on its own. (Comm. on Code 500)
May be a synonym for priesthood or may refer to the collective body of priests of a diocese or similar ecclesiastical jurisdiction.
A priest is one who offers sacrifice. In the Catholic context, it refers to one who has received the Sacrament of Holy Orders through ordination into the ministerial priesthood. A priest offers the Sacrifice of the Mass, reconciles sinners to God, preaches the Gospel, anoints the sick, baptizes, and witnesses marriages. Through the ministry of priests, the unique sacrifice of Christ on the cross is made present in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Church.
Priests can usually be identified by their black shirt, pants, and jacket with a white collar. The garb is sometimes referred to as “clerics.” Priests may also wear a cassock. (see “cassock”)
Individual priests are called “Father,” but only as an informal title which recalls for Catholics their spiritual fatherhood. It may be abbreviated as Fr. but only before their name (typically last name). Capitalize Father and Fr. in all uses. Never use the Fr. abbreviation without a name. Never refer to a priest as “being a father” (Ex. “Joe Smith was ordained a father.”)
Catholics may also refer to the “priesthood of the faithful,” which means that we are all called to offer ourselves to God. Christ gave the faithful a share in His priesthood through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation.
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 of the superiors of their order. Diocesan, or secular, priests are under the direction of their local bishop. Most serve in the parishes of the diocese, but they may also be assigned to other diocesan posts and ministries or be released for service outside the diocese.
A grouping of an archdiocese, called the metropolitan see, and the dioceses under it, called suffragan sees. The Code of Canon Law spells out certain limited obligations and authority that the metropolitan archbishop has with respect to the dioceses within his province. (2) A grouping of communities of a religious order under the jurisdiction of a provincial superior.
A state of final purification after death and before entrance into Heaven for those who died in God’s friendship, but were only imperfectly purified; a final cleansing of human imperfection before one is able to enter the joy of Heaven.


The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God under one of her many titles. She may be referred to as Queen of Angels, Queen of All Saints, Queen of Heaven and Earth, Queen of Peace, Queen Conceived Without Original Sin, Queen of Apostles, Queen of Martyrs, Queen of Confessors, Queen of Patriarchs, Queen of Prophets, Queen of Virgins, Queen of the Most Holy Rosary


An achievement, process, and goal in the life of the human communion. It requires the overcoming of sin by means of repentance and forgiveness and ultimately by an inner transformation. See “confession” and “penance.”
Religious Brother
See “Brother”
Religious Order
A religious community of men or women who have professed solemn vows. See “brother” and “nun.”
Religious Sister
In popular speech, any woman religious. Strictly, the title applies to women religious of those institutes, mostly formed during or since the 19th century, whose members do not profess solemn vows. See “nun.”
Religious Titles
Follow your publication's style manual for use of religious titles before names. In general, a title is capitalized only if it is followed by the person’s name, such as: Pope Benedict XVI. In the opposing example, write, Benedict XVI is pope of the Catholic Church.
Catholics refer to nuns as Sister, religious brothers as Brother and priests as Father, and those religious titles take precedence over whatever job titles they might hold, such as pastor, chancellor, vicar general, associate pastor, executive director. (Ex. “Sister Joan Smith, executive director of the food pantry…”)
Other chief religious titles for clerics are Monsignor (usually abbreviated as Msgr. even on first reference), Bishop, Archbishop, Cardinal, Pope and, for the head of a male monastic community, Abbot. For many members of religious orders, the short version of their order's name may precede the religious title: Mercy Sister Mary Smith, Jesuit Father John Smith, Benedictine Brother Peter Smith. In certain cases it may be better to use an appositive phrase or some other approach: Sister Janet Smith, a School Sister of Notre Dame, rather than School Sister of Notre Dame Sister Janet Smith. Orders may be abbreviated after a name, set off by commas and without periods. Only use on first reference. Example: Sr. Mary Johnson, RSM. Note: Not all orders correspond to the English acronym or the common name for their order. For example, the Dominican Order is more properly called the Order of Preachers and is abbreviated OP. Verify the abbreviation with each particular order.
Generally, spell out Father, Sister, Archbishop, Bishop, Cardinal on first reference before a name, except in headlines and under mug shots, then abbreviate Fr., Sr., Abp., Bp., Cdl. May abbreviate Blessed as Bl. in headlines and on second reference. Abbreviate Saint as St. in almost every instance. In a long list of religious with the same title, may use one title throughout (e.g. Saints Patrick and Brigid). Never use Rt. Rev. or Very Rev. for Catholic clergy.
See also archbishop, bishop, deacon, brother, nun, monsignor, and priest.
Ceremonies and traditions surrounding the sacred liturgy and the sacraments in which the Catholic faith is expressed and celebrated, or a particular division within the Catholic Church pertaining to geographical and cultural differences (Latin Rite, Chaldean Rite, etc.). “Rite” and “ritual” are sometimes interchanged, as in “the rite of Baptism” or “the Baptism ritual.”
Rite of Christian Initiation (RCIA)
The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) from the Roman Ritual is the mandatory rite for the initiation of adults and children of catechetical age in the United States. The use of this rite is mandatory in all parishes of the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, the process by which adults are received into full communion with the Catholic Church.
Roman Curia
The official collective name for the administrative agencies and courts and their officials who assist the Pope in governing the Church. Members are appointed and granted authority by the Pope.
A prayer to the Blessed Virgin Mary consisting of five decades of Hail Marys. Each decade is preceded by a Pater Noster (Our Father) and concluded with a Gloria Patri (Glory Be). Pray the Rosary, do not say (e.g., Steve prays the Rosary on his commute each day). Preferably capitalized.


In general, any visible sign of God's invisible presence. Specifically, a sign through which the Church manifests its faith and communicates the saving reality (grace) of God, which is present in the Church and in the signs themselves. In Catholic doctrine the sacraments are baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, penance, marriage, holy orders, and anointing of the sick. The first three are also called the sacraments of Christian initiation, and in the Eastern Catholic and Orthodox traditions they are administered together in infancy. In the Latin rite Church baptism is administered to infants, but the first reception of the Eucharist (first Communion) and Confirmation are typically delayed at least until the child has reached the use of reason, generally regarded as about the age of seven. Eastern Catholics and Orthodox usually refer to Confirmation as chrismation. Penance is also called the Sacrament of Reconciliation. The anointing of the sick used to be called extreme unction when it was only given to those gravely ill or in danger of death. Now it can be administered to anyone who is seriously or chronically ill. Also incorrectly referred to as “last rights.”
Capitalize Eucharist (also Communion); baptism, confirmation, penance, matrimony, holy orders, and sacrament of anointing of the sick are preferably lowercase, unless using the more formal “Sacrament of…” then uppercase is better. Sacraments can be received only by a living person. Baptism, confirmation and holy orders are valid only once and have permanent effects. Eucharist/Communion, penance, matrimony and anointing of the sick can be received multiple times under the right conditions.
Sacramental Minister
A priest assigned to perform sacramental ministry in a parish whose pastoral care has been entrusted to a pastoral administrator.
The English edition of the Roman Missal containing the directives, prayers, and rubrics for the Mass. The Lectionary holds the readings used during the liturgy.
The abbreviation in all cases is “St.” The plural abbreviation in almost all cases is “Sts.” not “SS.” unless it is used in the name of an established church or parish. Two parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Louis use the French abbreviation “Ste.”: Ste. Genevieve in Ste. Genevieve, MO, and Ste. Genevieve DuBois in Warson Woods.
The part of the church where the altar is located; the holiest part of the church, the very place where Heaven and earth meet but are not yet completely united. The word “sanctuary” comes from the word “holy” or “set apart.” In some churches an altar rail separates the sanctuary from the rest of the church.
The word of God contained in the Holy Bible (see “Good News” and “Gospel.”) Capitalize but lowercase scriptural.
Special rites celebrated on the last three Sundays of Lent, in connection with the elect for the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA).
A person who helps the priest during liturgies. Usually wears a white alb over the shoulders to the ankles, or a cassock and a white surplice.
An offense against God, as well as a fault against reason, truth, and right conscience. Sin is a deliberate thought, word, deed, or omission contrary to the eternal law of God. The Church makes a distinction between mortal and venial sins based on the gravity of the offense – these are actual sins. Original sin is the sin by which the first human beings disobeyed the commandment of God, choosing to follow their own will rather than God’s will. Original sin describes the fallen state of human nature which affects every person in the word.
A principle in Catholic social doctrine, which holds that we’re all bound together in communion with God.
The spiritual principle of human beings, which together with a body form one unique human nature. Each human soul is individual, immortal, and created by God. At death, the soul and body are separated, but they will be reunited in the final resurrection.
Giving, typically through the Church, based on the Christian understanding that all of creation belongs to God and people are merely stewards of all their resources – including time, talent, money, property, etc. – and not owners of them.
A principle in Catholic social doctrine, which holds that nothing should be done by a higher agency that can be done as well, or better, by a lower agency. Issues are dealt with and policies are established at the lowest proper level of responsibility and competency.
The head of a religious order or congregation. He or she may be the head of a province or of an individual house.
Church penalty under which a priest, while retaining his clerical status, is no longer permitted to perform priestly functions such as celebrating Mass, preaching or administering the sacraments.


The receptacle in which the Blessed Sacrament is reserved in churches and chapels. Found in the center of the church behind or near the main altar, or in some other prominent location.
Territorial Parish
A designation to describe a congregation whose membership consists of Catholics within the parish’s geographic boundaries. See “parish.”
The substantive changing of bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ through the consecration during Mass, even though the appearances of bread and wine remain.
The mystery of one God in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The mystery of the Trinity is inaccessible to the human mind. Trinitarian refers to believing in the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity. May also be referred to as the Holy Trinity. Triune refers to three persons in one God.


United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
A permanent organization of the Catholic bishops in the United States, who jointly exercise certain pastoral functions on behalf of the Christian faithful of their territory in view of promoting that greater good with the Church, especially through forms and programs of the apostolate which are fittingly adapted to the circumstances of the time and place. On certain matters affecting the Church in a country, the Conference of Bishops can issue complimentary norms that bind the dioceses in that country. Conferences of Bishops exist throughout the world, sometimes made up of Bishops from a number of smaller countries.
Universal Law
Laws that have been enacted by those who have legislative power for the entire Church, such as an Ecumenical Council or the Pope. These laws are primarily intended for the common good of the universal communion, but need not bind everyone. They may be specifically addressed to particular groups, but always in view of the universal good, e.g., laws applying to Bishops. (Comm. on Code 12)


The residence of the Pope, in Vatican State. A descriptive term for the official position of the Catholic Church on matters of religion and other issues. See “Holy See” and “Pope.”
Also called evening prayer, vespers is part of the Liturgy of the Hours, the series of psalms, prayers and readings for different parts of the day that Catholic priests and deacons are obligated to pray daily. Often a new bishop will present his letter of appointment to the priests of the diocese during a vespers service at the cathedral. See “Liturgy of the Hours”
The cleric that represents a particular vicariate, or grouping of parishes within a certain geographic area. The vicar is a pastor from one of the parishes in his vicariate. For example, the dean of a particular deanery is technically a vicar forane (plural: vicars forane). A vicar general (plural vicars general) is priest, auxiliary bishop, or coadjutor bishop who assists the diocesan bishop in the governance of the entire diocese. Also see “deanery.”

The pope is also sometimes referred to as the Vicar of Christ.

Altar servers who hold the bishop’s mitre and crosier during liturgical functions.
The calling God has for an individual. Its common use refers specifically to “priestly vocations” or the calling of men to become priests. The Archdiocese of St. Louis has an Vocations Office which is dedicated to helping men discern whether they have a vocation to the priesthood. The term “vocation” also can refer to “religious vocations” (the calling to become a nun or a brother, for instance) or “lay vocations” (the call to become a wife/husband/parent).
A promise made to God with sufficient knowledge and freedom. Its purpose must be a moral good that, with God's grace, can be achieved. The promises spouses make to each other when they marry are vows. Men and women entering religious life take vows, typically of poverty, chastity and obedience. Celibacy is not a vow; it should be described as a promise.


The small skullcap worn by the Pope (white), cardinals (red), and bishops (purple). Priests may also wear a black zucchetto but rarely do.
Sources: Definitions and styles are gleaned from the Cathechism of the Catholic Church (Second Edition, 1997), the glossary on the website of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (as accessed July 2018), the style guide of the St. Louis Review, and other Catholic resources. Entries have been edited for length and clarity, and may not reflect the exact style or definition of any individual source. Please verify usage before publication. For questions, updates, or clarification, please email [email protected] Additional terms can be found at