Who we are
“At that time, as the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the Holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them.” Acts: 6:1-6, NAB
In the early days of the Church, deacons were valuable assistants to the bishops. But as the number of priests grew over the next millennium, the order of deacons became much more of a stepping stone for seminarians to the priesthood, hence the name, “Transitional Deacons”.
Following the model of the early deacons of the Church, The Permanent Diaconate was restored to the Latin Church following Vatican II by Pope Paul VI. Since 1970, the number of deacons has grown from 0 to over 18,000, About 3,000 having already reached retirement.
The vast majority are married and of a mature age. Sixty percent report having a professional or managerial career that usually followed at least a college education. Most deacons insist that the reason that they became a deacon was the need to deepen their commitment to the services they were already giving to the Church.
What we do
Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, said it best when it proclaimed that deacons are to be ordained “not unto the priesthood, but unto a ministry of service” and more specifically into the threefold ministries of service at the altar, service to the word of God, and service toward charity to the people of God. It went on further to describe certain duties of deacons:
- to administer baptism solemnly
- to be custodian and dispenser of the Eucharist,
- to assist at and bless marriages in the name of the Church,
- to bring Viaticum (Holy Communion for the journey) to the dying,
- to read the Sacred Scripture to the faithful,
- to instruct and exhort the people,
- to preside over the worship and prayer of the faithful,
- to administer sacramentals,
- to officiate at funeral and burial services.
The deacon always performs these duties in communion with the priests of the diocese under the authority of the Bishop. While this list of duties provides a broad brush picture of the life of a deacon with regard to his ministries of service at the altar and service to the word of God, the heart of a Deacon can be found in his ministries of charity. These ministries are as vast as human experience and often include ministries to the poor, the sick, the aged, the marginalized. They include work in hospitals, retirement homes, hospice, jails and prisons, virtually anywhere that the people of God are in need.