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Absolution: Act by which a priest, acting as the agent of Christ, grants forgiveness of sins in the Sacrament of Penance.

ACBC: The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference, of which membership is comprised of diocesan bishops and their auxiliary bishops. The conference decides matters of ecclesiastical law and issues policy statements on political and social issues.

Acolytes: One who assists in the celebration (i.e. carrying candles, holding the Bishop’s staff/crozier, mitre, etc.).

Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament: Prayer to Christ, who is recognised as being truly present in the Blessed Sacrament, which is displayed for the people.

Alb: The white garment covering one's street dress.

Alleluia Acclamation: This acclamation of praise to God follows the second reading in the Mass and serves to prepare people for the proclamation of the Gospel.

Altar: A table on which the sacrifice of the Mass is offered. It is the centre of importance in the place where the Mass is celebrated. Also called The Table of the Lord.

Ambo: The place where the Scriptures are proclaimed.

Amen: 1) Hebrew word meaning “truly, it is true”. As concluding word of prayers, it expressed assent to and acceptance of God's will; 2) called the great Amen, it is the acclamation by the people expressing their agreement with all that has been said and done in the Eucharistic prayer.

Annul: Properly called the Degree of Nullity, this is the declaration by authorities that a marriage is null and void, because it was never valid.

Apostle, Apostolic, Disciple: Literally "one sent". Normally, this refers to the 12 men chosen by Christ to be the bearers of His teachings to the world. The term apostolic generally refers back to the 12 apostles. In the Church, it characterises certain documents, appointments or structures initiated by the Pope or the Holy See. A disciple is one who follows the teachings of Jesus.

Apostolate: The ministry or work of an apostle. In Catholic usage, a term covering all kinds and areas of work and endeavor for the service of God and the Church and the good of people.

Apostolic Nunciature: The offices of the Pope’s representative to a country or to the Church in that country.

Archbishop: Title given automatically to bishops who govern archdioceses.

Archdiocese: The chief diocese of an ecclesiastical province.

Aspergillum: A vessel or device used for sprinkling holy water. The ordinary type is a metallic rod with a bulbous tip which absorbs the water and discharges it at the motion of the user's hand.

Assembly: Those present to celebrate the liturgy. Other terms to use: "the Community", "the Church (as people not building)", "the Worshippers", "the Faithful" or "the congregation".

Auxiliary Bishop: A bishop assigned to a Catholic diocese or archdiocese to assist a residential bishop.


Basilica: A church to which special privileges are attached. It is a title of honour given to various kinds of churches.

Beatification: Final step towards the canonisation of a saint.

Bishop: The chief priest of a diocese. Bishops are responsible for the pastoral care of their dioceses. In addition, bishops have a responsibility to act in council with other bishops to guide the Church.

Blessed Sacrament: The Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Christ, whether at the Mass or reserved in a special place in the church.

Book of Gospels: The book which contains the Gospel texts, from which the priest or deacon proclaims the Gospel of the day.

Bread and Wine: The elements used in the celebration of the Eucharist (unleavened bread and natural pure wine). NOTE: After the Eucharistic Prayer, the bread and wine is referred to as the consecrated bread and wine or the Body and Blood of Christ.

Breaking of the Bread: The celebrant recreates gestures of Christ at the Last Supper when He broke the bread to give to His disciples. The action signifies that, in communion, we who are many are made one in the one Bread of Life which is Christ.

Brother: A man who is a member of a religious order, but is not ordained or studying for the priesthood.


Canon Law: The codified body of general laws governing the Church.

Canon: Greek for rule, norm, standard, measure. Designates the Canon of Sacred Scripture, the list of books recognised by the Church as inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Canonisation: A declaration by the Pope that a person who died a martyr or practised Christian virtue to a heroic degree is in heaven and is worthy of honour and imitation by the faithful. Verification of miracles is required for canonisation (except for martyrs).

Cantor: One who sings during the liturgy (i.e. the responsorial psalm).

Cardinal: Cardinals are appointed by the Pope and constitute a kind of senate of the Church, and aid the Pope as his chief counsellors.

Cassock: A non-liturgical, full-length, close-fitting robe for use by priests and other clerics under liturgical vestments; usually black for priests, purple for bishops and other prelates, red for cardinals, white for the Pope.

Catechesis: Religious instruction and formation for persons preparing for Baptism (catechumens) and for the faithful in various stages of spiritual development.

Catechetical: Referring to catechesis.

Catechetics: From the Greek meaning "to sound forth": it is the procedure for teaching religion.

Catenians: An international body of Catholic laymen who meet at least once a month in local units called Circles, to enjoy each other's company and to strengthen family life through friendship and faith.

Cathedral: The major church in an archdiocese or diocese. It is the seat of the local Ordinary.

Catholic: Greek word for universal. First used in the title Catholic Church in a letter written by St Ignatius of Antioch to the Christians of Smyrna about 107 AD.

Celebrant: The one who presides at the celebration of the Eucharist.

Celebrant's Chair: The place where the celebrant sits. It expresses his office of presiding over the assembly and of leading the prayer of those present.

Chalice: The cup used to hold the wine which becomes the Blood of Christ.

Chancellor: The chief archivist of a diocese's official records; also a notary and secretary of the diocesan curia.

Charismatic: Believing in and practising the use of the gifts given by the Holy Spirit.

Charisms: Gifts or graces given by God to persons for the good of others and the Church.

Chasuble: The vestment worn over the alb by priests, bishops and Pope when celebrating the Mass.

Christ: The title of Jesus, derived from the Greek translation of the Hebrew term Messiah, meaning the Anointed of God.

Church: The universal Church that is spread throughout the world; the local Church is that of a particular locality, such as a diocese. The Church embraces all its members - on earth, in heaven, in purgatory.

Ciborium: A vessel used to hold the consecrated bread or Body of Christ for the distribution of Communion.

Clergy: Collective term referring to male persons who administer the rites of the Church through Holy Orders.

Cloister: Part of a convent or monastery reserved for use by members of the institute.

College of Cardinals: The College of Cardinals is made up of the cardinals of the Church, who advise the Pope, assist in the central administration of the Church, head the various curial offices and congregations, administer the Holy See during a vacancy, and elect a new Pope.

Collegiality: 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.

Communion Song: The music that is used as the consecrated bread and wine is distributed to the faithful.

Concelebrants: Those priests and bishops who join the celebrant in celebrating the Mass.

Concluding Rite: The brief rite which consists of the celebrant's greeting to all present, final blessing and dismissal.

Conference of Religious: Organisation of major superiors representing religious communities of women and men in Australia.

Confession: Only part of the Sacrament of Penance or reconciliation, not a term for the Sacrament.

Confirmation: One of the three Sacraments of Initiation, along with Baptism and Eucharist.

Contemplative nun: A religious woman who devotes her entire life in the cloister to prayer and reflection.

Convent: In common usage, the term refers to a house of women religious.

Crozier (pastoral staff): The staff which a(n) (arch)bishop carries when he presides at the liturgy.

Cross bearer: The one who carries the cross in the procession (entrance and recessional).

Cross, crucifix: An object is a crucifix only if it depicts Christ on a cross; otherwise it is a cross.

Cursillo: Conducted by priests and laypersons, it consists of a three-day weekend focused on prayer, study, and Christian action, and follow-up program known as the post-cursillo.


Dalmatic: The vestment the deacon wears over the alb on solemn occasions.

Deacon: An ordained minister who assists the Celebrant at the Liturgy of the Word and at the altar for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Deacons, diaconate: The diaconate is the first order or grade in ordained ministry. Any man who is to be ordained to the priesthood must first be ordained as a transitional deacon. Deacons serve in the ministry of liturgy, of the word, and of charity. The Permanent Diaconate is for men who do not plan to become ordained priests. The program is open to both married and unmarried men.

Dean, Vicar: The title of a priest appointed by the bishop to aid him in administering the parishes in a certain vicinity, called a "deanery". The function of a dean involves promotion, coordination, and supervision of the common pastoral activity within the deanery or vicariate. It is also the title often given to the most senior priest at a cathedral.

Diocesan Curia: The personnel and offices assisting the bishop in directing the pastoral activity, administration and exercise of judicial power of the diocese.

Diocese: A particular church; a fully organised ecclesiastical jurisdiction under the pastoral direction of a bishop as local Ordinary.

Dispensation: An exemption from Church law.

Doxology: The response of the people acclaiming the sovereignty of God.


Eastern-rite (Oriental) Church: Term used to describe the Catholic churches which developed in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa. They have their own distinctive liturgical and organisational systems. Each is considered equal to the Latin rite within the Church.

Ecclesial: Having to do with the Church in general or the life of the Church

Ecclesiastical: Refers to official structures or legal and organisational aspects of the Church.

Ecumenism , interdenominational, Ecumenical Movement: A movement for spiritual understanding and unity among Christians and their Churches. The term is also extended to apply to efforts toward greater understanding and cooperation between Christians and members of other faiths.

Encyclical: A pastoral letter addressed by the Pope to the whole Church.

Entrance procession: Priest, deacon, altar servers, lectors, enter the church or designated place for celebration of the liturgy.

Entrance song, music: The song/music which takes place during the entrance procession.

Episcopal: Refers to a bishop or groups of bishops as a form of Church government, in which bishops have authority.

Eschatology: Doctrine concerning the last things: death, judgement, heaven and hell, and the final state of perfection of the people and the kingdom of God at the end of the world.

Eucharistic Prayer: The prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification. It is the centre and high point for the entire celebration.

Evangelical: Refers to Christians who emphasise the need for a definite commitment to faith in Christ and a duty by believers to persuade others to accept Christ.

Evangelist: A preacher or revivalist who seeks conversions by preaching to groups.

Exarch, Exarchy: A Church jurisdiction, similar to a diocese, established for Eastern-rite Catholics living outside their native land. The head of an exarchy, usually a bishop, is an exarch.

Excommunication: A penalty of censure by which a baptised person is excluded from the communion of the faithful for committing and remaining obstinate in certain serious offences specified in canon law. Even though excommunicated, a person still is responsible for fulfilment of the normal obligations of a Catholic.


Feast Day: a special day of celebration with particular significance in the Church’s calendar.

Final Doxology: A final prayer of praise of God.

Focolare: A lay movement started in Trent, Italy by Chiara Lubich in 1943, now claiming more than a million followers. Its aim is world unity through the living witness of Christian love and holiness in the family and small communities.

Free will: The faculty or capability of making a reasonable choice among several alternatives.


General Intercessions: A prayer of intercession for all of humankind; for the Church, civil authorities, those in various needs, for all peoples, and for the salvation of the world. The celebrant invites all to pray, another minister announces the petitions and the community responds.

Gloria: Ancient hymn of praise in which the Church prays to the Father. It is used on all Sundays (outside of Advent and Lent), and at solemn celebrations.

God: The infinitely perfect Supreme Being, uncaused and absolutely self-sufficient, eternal, the Creator and final end of all things. The one God subsists in three equal Persons, the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Grace: A free gift of God to human beings, grace is a created sharing in the life of God. It is given through the merits of Christ and is communicated by the Holy Spirit. It is necessary for salvation.

Greeting: The celebrant greets all present at the liturgy, expressing the presence of the Lord to the assembled community.


Hierarchy: In general, the term refers to the ordered body of clergy, divided into bishops, priests, and deacons. In Catholic practice, the term refers to the bishops of the world or of a particular region.

Holidays/Holy Days of Obligation: Feasts in Latin-rite Churches on which Catholics are required to assist at Mass. In Australia, these are:
25 December (Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ); and 15 August, (Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary).

Holy, Holy, Holy: The response of the community to the preface and a continuation of the general theme of praise and thanks. Sometimes referred to as the Sanctus.

Holy See: 1) The diocese of the Pope, Rome. 2) The Pope himself or the various officials and bodies of the Church's central administration - the Roman Curia - which act in the name and by authority of the Pope.

Holy Communion: After saying a preparatory prayer, the celebrant (or other designated ministers) gives Communion (the consecrated bread and wine, or Body and Blood of Christ) to himself and the other ministers at the altar, and then Communion is distributed to the congregation.

Homily: The homily (sermon) is a reflection by the celebrant or other ministers on the Scripture readings and the application of the texts to the assembled community.

Host, The Sacred: The bread under whose appearances Christ is and remains present in a unique manner after the consecration of the Mass.

Humanae Vitae: The 1968 encyclical by Pope Paul VI on married love and procreation.


IHS: In Greek, the first three letters of the name of Jesus.

Immaculate Conception: Catholic dogma concerning Mary and the name of a feast in her honour celebrated 8 December. It refers to the Catholic belief that Mary was without sin from the moment she was conceived.

Incense: Incense (material used to produce a fragrant odour when burned) is used as a symbol of the Church's offering and prayer going up to God.

Indulgence: The remission before God of the temporal punishment due for sins already forgiven.

Intercessions: A series of prayers for the Church, the world, the Pope, clergy and laity, and the dead.

Intercommunion: The agreement or practice of two Ecclesial communities by which each admits members of the other communion to its Sacraments.


Jesus: The name of Jesus, meaning Savior in Christian usage, derived from the Aramaic and Hebrew Yeshua and Joshua, meaning Yahweh is salvation.


Keys, Power of the: Spiritual authority and jurisdiction in the Church, symbolised by the keys of the kingdom of heaven; Christ promised the keys to St Peter and head-to-be of the Church.

Knights of the Southern Cross: Fraternal organisation for Catholic men. Knights of the Southern Cross engage in religious and charitable projects across Australia.


Laicisation: The process by which a man ordained is relieved of his obligations and is returned to the status of a lay person.

Lamb of God: An invocation during the breaking of the bread in which the assembly petitions for mercy and peace. Sometimes referred to as the Agnus Dei.

Lay ministries: These are ministries within the Church that are carried out by laypersons. Included are altar servers, Eucharistic minister and lectors.

Layman, woman, person: Any Church member who is neither ordained nor a member of a Religious Order. When the Second Vatican Council spoke of the laity, it used the term in this more common meaning.

Lectionary: The book that contains all the readings from the Scriptures for use in the celebration of the liturgy.

Liturgical colours: Colours used in vestments and altar coverings to denote special times in the Church. Green is used in ordinary times, red denotes feasts of martyrs or the Holy Spirit, purple denotes penitential times and white is used for joyful occasions including Christmas, Easter and some saints' days.

Liturgy: The public prayer of the Church.

Liturgy of the Word: That section of the celebration where the Scriptures are proclaimed and reflected upon. On Sundays and major feasts, there are three readings: Old Testament selection, New Testament selection (from the Epistles) and the Gospel reading.

Liturgy of the Hours: This is the preferred term in the Latin rite for the official liturgical prayers sanctifying the parts of each day.

Liturgy of the Eucharist: The section of the celebration when the gifts are prepared and the Eucharistic Prayer is proclaimed by the celebrant.

Lord's Prayer, The: The prayer of petition for both daily food (which for Christians means also the Eucharistic bread) and the forgiveness of sins.


Magisterium: The official Teaching office of the Church.

Mary: The central point of the theology of Mary is that she is the Mother of God. From apostolic times, Tradition, the Church and the faithful have accorded to Mary the highest forms of veneration. She is celebrated in feasts throughout the year, and in devotions such as the Rosary and litany and is hailed the patroness of many countries, including the United States.

Mass: The common name for the Eucharistic liturgy of the Catholic Church. Synonyms: Eucharist, Celebration of the Liturgy, Eucharistic celebration, Sacrifice of the Mass, Lord's Supper.

Master of Ceremonies: One who assists in the preparation of the celebration and is present during it to facilitate the movement of the entire rite.

Matrimony: The Roman, Orthodox and Old Catholic Churches consider matrimony a Sacrament, referred to as the Sacrament of Matrimony. This is a marriage contract between baptised persons.

Metropolitan: The archbishop of an archdiocese in a province. He has limited supervisory powers and influence over the other dioceses and bishops in the province.

Military Ordinariate (Diocese of the Australian Defence Force): Non-territorial diocese for Australian Catholics and their dependents who are in the military or affiliated with the armed forces.

Minister: From the Latin word for "servant": in the ecclesiastical sense, a minister is (1) an ordained cleric or (2) one who has the authority to minister to others.

Ministers of Communion: Those who assist in the distribution of Communion.

Miracles, apparitions: Generally, miracle is used to refer to physical phenomena that defy natural explanation, such as medically unexplainable cures. An apparition is a supernatural manifestation of God, an angel or a saint to an individual or a group of individuals.

Mitre: A headdress worn at some liturgical functions by bishops, abbots and, in certain cases, other ecclesiastics.

Monastery: An autonomous community house of a Religious Order, which may or may not be a monastic order. The term is used more specifically to refer to a community house of men or women religious in which they lead a contemplative life separate from the world.

Monk, Friar: A man who belongs to one of the monastic orders in the Church, such as Benedictines, Cistercians and Carthusians.

Monsignor: An honorary ecclesiastical title granted by the Pope to some diocesan priests. In the United States, the title is given to the vicar general of a diocese. In Europe, the title is also given to bishops.

Mortification: Acts of self-discipline, including prayer, hardship, austerities and penances undertaken for the sake of progress in virtue.


Neocatechumenal Way: An organisation dedicated to the Christian formation of adults taking its inspiration from the catechumenate of the early Catholic Church, by which converts from paganism were prepared for Baptism. It provides post-baptismal formation to adults who are already members of the Church.

Nun: 1) Strictly, a member of a Religious Order of women with solemn vows; 2) in general, all women religious, even those in simple vows who are more properly called sisters.

Nuncio (or Apostolic Nuncio): The Pope’s diplomat to a country or to the Church in that country.


Offertory Song: Music used during the procession of gifts to the celebrant and as the altar is prepared.

Opening prayer: This prayer by the celebrant expresses the general theme of the celebration.

Opus Dei: A personal prelature dedicated to spreading through society an awareness of the call to Christian virtue, awareness, and witness in one's life and work. Members are not of a Religious Order, do not take vows, but sometimes live in community.

Ordain, Ordination: The proper terms in Catholic usage for references to the conferral of the Sacrament of Holy Orders on a deacon, priest or bishop.

Order, Society, Congregation: Religious Orders is a title loosely applied to all religious groups of men and women. A society is a body of clerics, regular or secular, organised for the purpose of performing an apostolic work. Congregation is any group bound together by common rules.

Ordinary: Diocesan bishops, religious superiors, and certain other diocesan authorities with jurisdiction over the clergy in a specific geographical area, or the members of a religious order.

Ordination/Ordain: The sacramental rite by which a "sacred order" is conferred (diaconate, priesthood, episcopacy).


Pallium: Special stole made of lamb's wool worn over the chasuble by the Pope and archbishops; it signifies communion of archbishops with the Holy See.

Papal Infallibility: The end result of divine assistance given the Pope, wherefore he is prevented from the possibility and liability of error in teachings on faith or morals.

Papal Representatives: The three types of representative of the Roman Pontiff are:
1. Legatee - An individual appointed by the Pope to be his personal representative to a nation, international conference, or local Church. The legate may be chosen from the local clergy of a country.
2. Apostolic Pro-Nuncio - In the United States, the papal representative is sent by the Pope to both the local Church and to the government. His title is Apostolic Pro-Nuncio. Although he holds the title of ambassador, in U.S., law he is not accorded the special privilege of being the dean of the diplomatic corps. In countries where he is dean of the diplomatic corps, his title is Apostolic Nuncio.
3. Permanent Observer to the United Nations - The Apostolic See maintains permanent legates below the ambassadorial level to several world organisations. Since the Papal Legate does not enjoy the right to vote within the organisation, his title at the United Nations is that of Observer.

Parish Coordinator: A deacon, religious, or lay person who is responsible for the pastoral care of a parish. The parish coordinator is in charge of the day-to-day life of the parish in the areas of worship, education, pastoral service and administration.

Parish: A specific community of the Christian faithful within a diocese, which has its own church building, under the authority of a pastor who is responsible for providing them with ministerial service. Most parishes are formed on a geographic basis, but they may be formed along national or ethnic lines.

Pastor: A priest in charge of a parish or congregation. He is responsible for administering the Sacraments, instructing the congregation in the doctrine of the Church, and other services to the people of the parish.

Pastoral Associate: A member of the laity who is part of a parish ministry team.

Pastoral Council: A group of members of the parish who advise the pastor on parish matters.

Paten: The plate used to hold the bread.

Pectoral Cross: A cross worn on a chain about the neck of (arch)bishops and abbots as a mark of office.

Penitential Rite: A general acknowledgement by the entire assembly of sinfulness and the need for God's mercy.

Pontiff, Pontifical: is used as an alternative form of reference to the Pope. Pontifical has to do with the Pope.

Prayer after Communion: The final prayer by the celebrant in which he petitions that the Sacrament be beneficial for all.

Prayer over the Gifts: The prayer by the celebrant asking that the gifts to be offered be made holy and acceptable.

Prayer: The raising of the mind and heart to God in adoration, thanksgiving, reparation and petition. The official prayer of the Church as a worshipping community is called liturgy.

Preface dialogue: The introductory dialogue between the celebrant and assembly in which all are invited to join in prayer and thanksgiving to God.

Preparation of the Gifts: The time in the Mass when the bread and wine to be used in the celebration are brought to the celebrant, usually by representatives of the faithful.

Presbyterial Council: Also known as the priests' council, this is the principal consultative body mandated by the Code of Canon Law to advise the diocesan bishop in matters of pastoral governance. It consists of bishops and priests serving the diocese.

Primacy: Papal primacy refers to the Pope's authority over the whole Church.

Processional Cross: The cross carried in the processions.

Profession of Faith: The people together recall and proclaim the fundamental teachings of the faith. The Profession of Faith is used on all Sundays, and solemnities. Also called the Creed.

Province: 1) A territory comprising one archdiocese called the metropolitan see and one or more dioceses called suffragan sees. The head of an archdiocese, an archbishop, has metropolitan rights and responsibilities over the province. 2) A division of a Religious Order under the jurisdiction of a provincial superior.

Purgatory: The state or condition in which those who have died in the state of grace, but with some attachment to sin, suffer for a time as they are being purified before they are admitted to the glory and happiness of heaven.


Reader: One who is called upon to proclaim the scriptures during the Liturgy of the Word.

Relics: The physical remains and effects of saints, which are considered worthy of veneration inasmuch as they are representative of persons in glory with God.

Religion: The adoration and service of God as expressed in divine worship and in daily life.

Religious movements: Groups of people, both lay and clerical, who band together to promote a certain belief or activity.

Religious priest/Diocesan priest: 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 the superiors of their Order. Diocesan, or secular, priests are under the direction of their local bishop. They commit to serving their congregations and other institutions.

Responsorial Psalm: After the first reading, there is a psalm as a response to the reading. The response, repeated after verses, is sung by the assembly, while a cantor or choir sings the verses of the psalm.

Retreat: A period of time spent in meditation and religious exercise. Retreats may take various forms, from traditional closed forms, to open retreats which do not disengage the participants from day-to-day life. Both clergy and lay people of all ages participate in retreats. Houses and centres providing facilities for retreats are retreat houses.

Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA): The norms and rituals of the Catholic Church for people who wish to join the Church. Part of the book is intended for baptised Christians who wish to become Catholics. The term is used in a general sense to refer to the process of entering 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.

Rome - Diocese of: The City of Rome is the diocese of the Pope, as the bishop of Rome.

Rosary: A prayer of meditation primarily on events in the lives of Mary and Jesus, repeating the Our Father and Hail Mary. It is generally said on a physical circlet of beads.


Sacramentary: The book used by the celebrant, containing all the prayers for the liturgy of the Mass.

Sanctuary: That part of the church where the altar is located.

Second Vatican Council: A major meeting of the bishops of the world convened by Pope John XXIII to bring about a renewal of the Church for the second half of the 20th century. It ran from 1962 to 1965 and produced important documents in liturgy, ecumenism, communications and other areas.

Secular institutes: Societies of men and women living in the world who dedicate themselves to observe the evangelical counsels and to carry on apostolic works suitable to their talents and opportunities in everyday life.

See: Another name rarely used for a diocese or archdiocese.

Seminary: An educational institutional for men preparing for Holy Orders.

Shrine: Erected to encourage private devotions to a saint, it usually contains a picture, statue or other religious feature capable of inspiring devotions.

Sign of Peace: Before sharing the body of Christ, the members of the community are invited to express their love and peace with one another.

Sign of the Cross: A sign, ceremonial gesture or movement in the form of a cross by which a person confesses faith in the Holy Trinity and Christ, and intercedes for the blessing of himself, other persons, and things.

Sister: Any woman religious. In popular speech, strictly, the title applies to those women Religious belonging to institutes whose members never professed solemn vows, most of which institutes were established during and since the 19th century.

St Vincent de Paul Society: An organisation of lay persons who serve the poor through spiritual and material works of mercy. The society operates stores, rehabilitation workshops, food centres, shelters, criminal justice and other programs.

Stations of the Cross: Also known as The Way of the Cross, this devotion to the suffering of Christ consist of prayers and meditations on fourteen occurences experienced by Christ on His way to His crucifixion. Each of these occurences is represented by a cross. This can be done individually, or in groups, with one person leading the prayers and moving from cross to cross.

Stole: The vestment worn around the neck by all ordained ministers. For priests, bishops and the Pope, it hangs down in front (under the chasuble); the deacons wear it over their left shoulder, crossed and fastened at the right side.

Superior: The head of a Religious Order or congregation. He or she may be the head of a province, or an individual house.

Surplice: A loose, flowing vestment of white fabric with wide sleeves. For some functions, it is interchangeable with an alb.


Tabernacle: Place in the church where the Eucharist or sacred species is reserved.

Theologate: An institution which provides the last four years of study for candidates for priesthood.

Theology: The study of God and religion, deriving from and based on the data of divine Revelation, organised and systematised according to some kind of scientific method.

Titular Sees: Dioceses where the Church once flourished but which later died out. Bishops without a territorial or residential diocese of their own, e.g. auxiliary bishops, are given titular sees.

Tribunal: A tribunal (court) is the name given to the person or persons who exercise the Church's judicial powers.


Vatican Councils: Councils called by the Pope of all bishops of the Church. These councils are usually called to discuss specific matters of interest to the Church.

Vatican Congregation: A Vatican body which is responsible for an important area in the life of the Church, such as worship and Sacraments, the clergy, and saints causes.

Veneration of the altar: The reverencing of the altar with a kiss and the optional use of incense.

Vespers: A portion of the Church's divine office recited each day by priests; also called Evening Prayer.

Vestment: The vesture the ministers wear.

Vow: A promise made to God with sufficient knowledge and freedom, which has as its object a moral good that is possible and better than its voluntary omission.


Washing of hands: An expression of the desire for inward purification.

Witness, Christian: Practical testimony or evidence given by Christians of their faith in all circumstances of life, by prayer and general conduct, through good example and good works, etc. being and acting in accordance with Christian belief, actual practice of the Christian faith.


Zucchetto: Skull cap worn by the Pope (white) and bishops (purple) and Cardinals (red).