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 6:2-6
Have you prayed about a possible vocation to serve Jesus as a deacon?
Deacons Bring Gifts to the Diocese. (Used with permission from “The Evangelist")
By Bishop Howard J. Hubbard
Bishop’s Column, the Evangelist 6/1/2006
Restoration of the Diaconate.
Since around the middle of the Fourth Century, the diaconate, which was originally a ministry of service, gradually became a traditional stepping stone toward the priesthood. In the mid 1960's the Diaconate, as a permanent order of ministry in the Roman Catholic Church, was reestablished to it’s fullness as a result of the Second Vatican Council. Pope Paul VI restored the Order of Deacon as a permanent ministry on June 18, 1967 on the feast of St. Ephrem, the Deacon (died June, 373). The new norms for the Diaconate were published in Pope Paul VI’s Apostolic Letter, “Ad Pascendun.” He described the deacon as “the interpreter of the needs and desires of the Christian communities, and the sign or sacrament of Christ the Lord himself who came not to be served but to serve.”
On April 23, 1968, the American Bishops petitioned for the restoration of the diaconate in the United States: “both to complete the hierarchy of sacred orders and to enrich and strengthen the various diaconal ministries at work in the United States with the sacramental grace of the diaconate.” The request was granted in August of the same year. Finally, on June 19, 1976, a group of twenty-four men were the first to be ordained as permanent deacons in the Diocese of Albany by Bishop Edwin B. Broderick (1969 to 1976) after completing three years of study and formation.
What is a Deacon?
The English word “deacon” is derived from the Greek diakonos which means “servant” and “helper.” Today, permanent deacons are ordained ministers who complete the Church hierarchy with priests and bishops. They are leaders and servants in the Christian community, although they usually live and work in the secular world. Deacons can be single (and must remain celebate after ordination) or married (but normally join the celebate state should their wife die). They are called by Jesus Christ to this lifestyle because of their deep faith, solid prayer life, experience, talents, and their strong desire to serve Jesus and his people.
Deacons live in two worlds: the world of the ordained and the world of lay persons, and through their ministry, bridge the gap between the two. It is an episcopal ministry (deacons report directly to the bishop) and they serve as the eyes and ears of the bishop in the local community. They embrace a variety of service ministries in hospitals, nursing homes, local food pantries, jails and prisons, and serve in association with groups like Catholic Charities, the Peace and Justice Commission, to name a few. The bishop usually assigns deacons a liturgical ministry in a parish to help the bishop and his priests, but their primary role is pastoral.
What is Diaconal Ministry?
Diaconal ministry has several unique but integrated components as follows:
Ministry of Charity or Service
The deacon is ordained by the local bishop for the service of the diocesan Church. In communion with the bishop and priests, deacons are ordained for service ministry, which is indicated by their title “deacon,” translated from the Greek word “diakonia,” which means to serve. A deacon in the Diocese of Albany is given assignments for both service and liturgy. The later is usually in a parish. Ministries of charity or service may be in the parish, diocese and other areas of need in the secular world, such as hospitals, prisons, homeless shelters, food pantries, etc. Deacons also have a variety of service ministries to the aged, battered women, abused children, the bereaved, people with a variety of physical and mental disabilities, the divorced, drug addicts, the poor and any other area where the human condition cries out for the love of Jesus. Deacons do all this in the name of the Church while representing Jesus who came not to be served but to serve.
Ministry of the Word
The deacon’s role includes the proclamation of the Gospel during liturgy and the Easter Proclamation ( Exsultet) at the Easter Vigil, preaching, catechetical instruction, and sacramental preparation. Other forms of this ministry may include formal teaching, counseling, Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA), evangelization and outreach to alienated Catholics to name a few.
The deacon solemnly administer the Sacrament of Baptism, witness marriages, and preside at wakes, funerals, Sunday Liturgy in the Absence of a Priest, Eucharistic adoration and benediction, Liturgy of the Hours, and other formal prayer sessions both as a planner and presider. During the mass, the deacon carries the Book of the Gospel in procession and is the Ordinary Minister of the Cup. He prepares the altar for the reception of the gifts and is responsible to assist the priest during mass especially with instructions to the congregation.
Deacons may also use their talents, training and experience in performing various administrative duties at the diocesan or parish level and other church-related offices. Of particular importance is the responsibility to enable and encourage others by example and action so they can become effective ecclesial lay ministers. By their lifestyle, deacons bear witness to the Gospel to all they meet at work and at play. They give definition to the meaning of the Body of Christ!