This paper considers the teaching of Vatican II on the presbyterate in relation to the episcopate, against the background of the history of these ministries. The Council used Ignatius of Antioch and the Apostolic Tradition in its renewed teaching that presbyters form a college in union with the bishop, who is high priest of his local church. Since the fourth century, however, presbyters have been dispersed to act as individual parish priests. Tensions between this model and the earlier one are explored, as is the liturgical and theological renewal that led to Vatican II’s teaching. It is finally proposed that the Council offers valuable resources, not yet fully realized, for pastoral planning in a time of priestly shortage.