A diocesan priest is a Catholic, Anglican, or Eastern Orthodox priest who commits himself to a certain geographical area and is ordained into the service of the citizens of a diocese, a church administrative region. That includes serving the everyday needs of the people in parishes, but their activities are not limited to that of their parish.
At the time of their ordination as deacons (usually about a year before their ordination as priests) they promise respect and obedience to the diocesan bishop and his successors. They also promise to live in chastity, and according to the status of clergy (which includes a comparatively simple life). Diocesan priests do not make vows, technically speaking, and do not promise poverty. Therefore, they may own their own property, such as cars, and handle their own financial affairs.
In his apostolic letter Dies Domini, Pope John Paul II wrote: "Among the many activities of a parish, none is as vital or as community-forming as the Sunday celebration of the Lord's Day and his Eucharist".
A diocesan priest spends much of his time preparing for and celebrating the Sacraments (Eucharist, Reconciliation, Baptism, Marriage, Anointing of the Sick, Confirmation). In the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, the Second Vatican Council teaches that the priest acting in persona Christi celebrates the Sacrifice of the Mass and administers the Sacraments. "Christ is also present through preaching and the guidance of the faithful, tasks to which the priest is personally called."
There are many parishioners whom he visits, those who are ill, those who are dying, and those who are unable to travel outside their homes. Sometimes, he is directly involved in the catechetical work of the parish and teaches catechism classes. He works with parish and finance councils that assist him in overseeing the welfare of the parish. Diocesan priests may serve in myriad different capacities, these services include, but are not limited to, campus ministry, teaching, and chaplain work for hospitals or prisons.
- "Diocesan Priests", Diocese of Helena
- "Occupational Outlook Handbook", U.S. Department of Labor
- Unlike members of a religious order, diocesan priests pay taxes, and may buy their own furniture, invest in stocks, and inherit money from others. They also receive a low annual salary from their diocese (on top of room and board and other benefits) and are generally expected to help manage parish finances. "What is the difference between a diocesan priest and a priest who is a member of a religious order?", St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Pope John Paul II. Dies Domini, Apostolic Letter of the Holy Father John Paul II to the Bishops, Clergy and Faithful of the Catholic Church on Keeping the Lord's Day Holy, (Vatican, 31 May 1998)
- "The Priest, Pastor and Leader of the Parish Community", Address of Pope John Paul II to the Plenary Session of the Congregation for the Clergy, 23 November 2001
- "Vocations", Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina