A Ministry of Service in the Church
The Diaconate is...
A ministry rooted deeply in Scriptural accounts of the early church. The word "deacon" comes from the Greek word "diakonia," which means, "to serve." It is grounded in one of the basic messages of the Gospel that says, "unless you serve others, you cannot enter the Kingdom." As Christianity grew, it was necessary to appoint persons as deacons to work alongside the apostles. In Acts 6:1-6, apostles "laid their hands" on deacons "wise and full of the Holy Spirit" to assist them in caring for the needs of the people.
In the years between 100 and 600, deacons grew in numbers and responsibility within the church. They oversaw the pastoral care of the church, administered charities, assisted bishops and had a major role in the church's liturgies. In reality, they were the symbol of the role to serve, responding in a loving way to Jesus' call to all people.
Although the role and office of the diaconate has undergone many changes throughout history, it once again emerged as an important ministry within today's church. The first movement to restore the diaconate as a permanent order began in 1948, in Germany, and reached its fulfillment with approval by bishops in the Vatican document, "Dogmatic Constitution of the Church." The movement to restore the order in the United States began in 1966, when a bishop called attention to the need for a diaconate program in Alaska. In 1968, the National Catholic Conference of Bishops voted to go ahead with a permanent diaconate program for "married and unmarried men of mature years."
Today, the establishment of the diaconate pulls together the dual call of men within the church to both serve and be witness to the fullness of Jesus' love for His people. One of the significant elements of the diaconate is the role of symbol, the symbol of the church's ministry to serve.
Deacons witness to the call to serve in the context of both family and community. In addition to serving the church liturgically, pastorally and charitably, deacons offer support for others in the Church today.
The function of a deacon varies from diocese to diocese, from parish to parish. He is called to be a public symbol of the interconnections between ministry of the Word of God, ministry of the liturgy, and ministry of love and justice.
The Deacon is Called...
to proclaim the Gospel, distribute the Eucharist, care for people's needs and be a part of the parish team. The bishop assigns each deacon to a parish or agency according to church needs within the diocese. The deacon's ministry is limitless, based on his time, energy, family commitments and other personal considerations. For instance, a lawyer-deacon might donate time to offer legal assistance help to people who otherwise could not afford it. Or, a carpenter might offer his services to help repair the homes of the elderly. With the completion of specialized courses, the deacon receives faculties to preach and to witness marriages. He is also a minister of baptism.
The Wife of a Married Deacon is a Team Member...
playing an important role in her husband's ministry. During the training program, the Diocese of Norwich includes spouses in some sessions in recognition that ordination of the deacon impacts the couple and the family. Family support is an essential element in order for the deacon to effectively engage in ministry. The approval of the spouse is required before a married individual may begin the diaconate program.
To be a Deacon...
A candidate must complete a five-year diaconate program, and be at least 35 years old at the time of his ordination. At present, only men are allowed to become ordained permanent deacons within the Catholic Church.
In addition, each person must have a deep commitment to Jesus as witnessed in his lifestyle and everyday relationships with people; if married, have a stable marital relationship and be accepted as a deacon representative within his community.
If you consider the diaconate to be your response to Jesus' call to serve, contact the Vocation Office of the Diocese of Norwich.
Considerations for Admission
- The prayerful desire to grow in the spiritual life
- A demonstrated ability to work with and to serve the needs of others
- An ability to assume serious responsibilities
- Respect for and commitment to the church and it's authority
- A sense of God's call to serve the church in the role of deacon
- Be a man of prayer and good moral character who is prudent and possesses good common sense
- Be at least 35 years old at the time of his ordination
- Be in good health
- Be validly married in the eyes of the church
- If single, be willing to make a commitment to celibacy upon ordination
- Be faithful to the official teachings of the church
- Be willing to deepen his own understanding of our rich Catholic theological traditions
- Be able to dedicate himself to five years of formation
- Have at least a high school diploma (or equivalent)
- Be economically stable
- Be recommended by the pastor of his parish
- Have the approval and support of his wife and family
- Be a resident within the Diocese of Norwich
- Must be a practicing Roman Catholic for at least 5 years