The Diaconate is a distinct order within the ordained ministry of the Church (bishop, priests, deacons). The Diaconate as a permanent order was restored by the Second Vatican Council. Previous to this and for many centuries, the Diaconate was only a temporary "stepping stone" to the priesthood. This has changed, and now the Diaconate is one order.
The essential role of the deacon is the same as that of a bishop and priest, and that is to lead the Church in carrying out its mission by coordinating all its other ministries and services. A deacon assists the bishop and priest and proclaims by his life the Church's call to serve the needs of others in the diocese.
A deacon participates in the Service of the Word, Service of the Altar, and Service of Charity which are all linked to serving the People of God.
The Service of the Word is quite far-ranging and may include, besides proclaiming the Gospel and articulating the Church's need in the general intercessions at the Liturgy, preaching, offering catechetical instruction, counseling, instructing catechumens, giving retreats, conducting parish renewal programs, and reaching out to alienated Catholics. There is also an informal dimension to this ministry of the Word. Deacons have many opportunities to speak about Jesus and His Gospel as they carry out their ministry while at home, work in the marketplace and participate in civic life.
The Service of the Altar centers, above all, on the Eucharist, but includes other sacraments as well. The deacons' role in the Eucharist-in addition to proclaiming the Gospel, articulating the Church's need is the General Intercessions-is to prepare the gifts and distribute communion at the Lord's table. Moreover, the deacon may solemnly baptize children and adults, witness marriages in the name of the Church, bring Viaticum to the dying, and preside over wakes, funerals, and burial services. He may also preside over liturgies of the Word, the Liturgy of the Hours and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. He may lead non sacramental reconciliation services, conduct prayer services for the sick and dying, and administer certain of the Church's sacramentals.
The Service of Charity is as extensive as are human needs. Deacons minister in hospitals and prisons serving the sick and prisoners. They visit the homebound and people in nursing homes. They serve the mentally ill, the chemically dependent, the abused and the battered, the old and the young, the abandoned, the dying, and the bereaved, immigrants, and refugees and the victims of racial and ethnic discrimination.
No. All deacons are ordained clerics.
A deacon can do the following which the lay person cannot:
No. As Pope Paul stated in his encyclical Lumen Gentium the deacon is "ordained not unto the ministerial priesthood, but unto a ministry of service." So, while the deacon carries out a sacramental ministry in which he collaborates in the discharge of priestly functions (e.g., baptize, preach, witness and validate marriages), his ministry is not priestly, but properly diaconal.
Not always. Constant evaluation of the academic and spiritual formation portions of the program are always ongoing. At times, appropriate restructuring takes place in order to best serve the candidates before ordination, the deacon after ordination and the people to whom he ministers. The Bishop identifies ministries where a deacon would be vital to his diocese. As the bishop continues to identify new areas of need, the deacon who has committed himself to a range of services within the diocese, must also commit himself to integrating his gifts and skills into those changing needs.
The classes vary from 5-15.
The program will involve academic, spiritual, pastoral and personal formation. If a candidate is married and has children, they will also be involved in some aspects of the program to enable them to fully understand the role of a deacon in service to the diocese. Online education requires modifications to the curriculum.
Classes usually meet from 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. for spiritual formation followed by the academic time frame of 7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. This occurs on weekday evenings.
Your phone call or letter will begin a process of dialogue and communication between you and the Office of the Diaconate and its staff. You will be guided along the necessary steps to eventually discern if the Diaconate is actually a calling to which you think you must respond.