What is the Permanent Diaconate?

What Is The Ministry Of The Deacon?

The call to the Order of Deacon is a call to a  ministry of service.  The service ministry of a deacon may take many forms.  Most deacons serve in parish ministry, primarily working with the pastor and parish staff in facilitating lay ministry.  Like the priest, the deacon should call others to ministry by his witness and his example.  As a facilitator of ministry, his task is to work with the pastor and parish staff in identifying areas of need.  His task then is to train lay men and women to perform the ministry and, when the lay team is ready to take over, the deacon moves on to another area of need to repeat the process.

The diaconate was restored as a permanent ministry by Pope Paul VI, on June 18, 1967, upon the recommendation of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council.  The first deacons in the United States were ordained in 1971 and the first in Dallas in 1973.  The Dallas Diocese Formation program has been in continous operation since 1972 when it was established by retired Bishop Thomas Tschoepe.

Answers To Common Questions

Q: What is the difference between a priest and a deacon?
The call to be deacon is to serve.  The symbol of the ministry of the deacon is the basin and the towel, the items Jesus used when he washed the feet of the apostles, illustrating how we are called to love and serve others.

The deacon brings the needs of the marginalizedthe poor, the imprisoned, the sick and disabledto the altar.  He sees that they are not forgotten or excluded from the liturgical and communal life of the parish.  The deacon can preside at baptisms, weddings and funerals when there is no Mass.

The role of the priest is to help the members of his parish grow spiritually, leading them in ways to better love God and neighbor.  Only the priest can preside at Mass and consecrate the Eucharist, hear confessions, have authority to forgive sins, anoint the sick and the dying, and, with delegation from the Bishop, confirm.

Q: Is there an age requirement?
 A deacon must be between the ages of 35 and 65 at ordination.  The process of becoming a deacon in the Diocese of Dallas currently takes about 5 1/2 years.

Q: Can a deacon get married?
A married man can be ordained a deacon; however if his wife dies, he cannot remarry.  Likewise a single man can be ordained a deacon but cannot marry.

Q: Can women become deacons?
The Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament refers to women deacons, but they were not ordained, and their role is believed to have been different from that of men.  The restoration of the diaconate by Vatican II Council follows the tradition of only ordaining men.

Q: How much do deacons get paid?
The diaconate is not a paid ministry but, rather, is one of service.  A deacon may be hired, however, to fill the role of Director of Faith Formation, Administrator of a parish, or work in some other paid position in a parish or diocese.  In those instances, he is being paid because of the job he is hired to fulfill, and not because of his role as deacon.

Source: Office of Diaconal Ministery & Formation
PO Box 190507
Dallas TX 75219-0507

The Role of the Deacon

Areas of ministries*:

Ministry of Charity - dedicated to works of Charity
  • Feed the hungry
  • Give drink to the thirsty
  • Visit the imprisoned
  • Bury the dead
  • Clothe the Naked 
  • Visit the sick
  • Shelter the homeless
Ministry of the Word
  • Proclaim Scripture to the faithful
  • Instruct and exhort the people
Ministry of Liturgy
  • Administer Baptism solemnly
  • Reserve and distribute the Eucharist
  • Assist and bless Marriages in the name  of the Church
  • Take Viaticum to the dying
  • Preside over the worship and the  prayer of the faithful
  • Administer sacramentals
  • Officiate at funerals and burial services

Jesus taught with authority, and he gave an example of leadership which involved service rather than power.**

*As stated in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Second Vatican Council, Chapter III, Paragraph 29.

**Sacraments Revisited by Liam Kelly

Holy Orders

The diaconate is one of the three levels of the Sacrament of Holy Orders.  The sign of this sacrament  of service is the laying on of hands by the Bishop and the words confessed by the Church:  Almighty God&, you make the Church, Christs body, grow to its full stature as a new and greater temple.  You enrich it with every kind of grace and perfect it with a diversity of members to serve the whole body in a wonderful pattern of unity.  You established a threefold ministry of worship and service, for the glory of your name.  As ministers of your tabernacle you chose the sons of Levi and gave them your blessing as their everlasting inheritance.

(Roman Pontifical, Ordination of Deacons 21, Prayer of Consecration as printed in paragraph 1543 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.)

Scriptural References For Deacons

Acts Ch. 6 begins: The Need for Assistants 1At 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.  2So 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.  3Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, 4whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.  5The 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.  6They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them.  7The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith.

Acts 6 concludes by relating Stephens arrest for blasphemy.  Chapter 7 tells of Stephens response in defense of his faith and of his being stoned to death.  St. Stephen is remembered as the first Christian martyr.

Other scriptural references regarding deacons can be found in Romans 16:1, Philippians 1:1,and 1 Timothy 3:1-13

A Prayer For Deacons

Lord God,
in your loving kindness
you sent your Son to be our
shepherd and guide.
Continue to send workers into your vineyard to serve your people.
Bless the Deacons who serve us.
Renew within them your Spirits seven gifts that they may be strengthened to carry out faithfully their ministry of service.
May they love sincerely,
show genuine concern for the
sick and the poor,
and live holy lives.
May they always be faithful
in believing what they read,
teaching what they believe,
and practicing what they teach.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.


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