As One Who Serves
The first responsibility of the deacon is to be an effective visible sign of Christ who came to serve rather than to be served. Although the ministry of the deacon may be exercised on a part-time basis, he remains at all times a deacon and he is called in his life-style, to reflect this.
The ministry of the deacon is an expression of his being, as the documents say, an icon of Christ the servant. The areas of ministry which may be entrusted to deacons fall under three general headings: Altar, Word and Charity. They include:
• Assisting the priest at the celebration of the Eucharist
• Bringing the Eucharist to the sick at home and in hospitals
• The formation of altar servers and of acolytes
• Presiding at Exposition and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament
• The celebration of Baptism
• Celebrating marriages (with the appropriate delegation)
• Presiding at funerals
• Proclaiming the Gospel at the Liturgy
• Preaching the homily
• Participating in sacramental preparation programmes
• The formation of readers and ExtraOrdinary Ministers of Eucharist
• Facilitating study of and prayer with the scriptures
• Facilitating the development of lay ministry
• Visiting the sick
• Visiting prisoners
• Visiting the bereaved
• Youth ministry, and the facilitation of peer-ministry among young people
• Promoting awareness of the social teaching of the Church
• The promotion of justice and human rights
• The administration of Church property
Frequently Asked Questions about Deacons
Deacons have been members of ordained ministry since the earliest beginnings of the Church. Coming from the Greek word diakonos, meaning servant, deacons are called to serve the people of God through the ministries of liturgy, word, and charity.
There are two types of deacon: permanent and transitional. Permanent deacons are ordained into the diaconate with the intention of remaining in that role, whilst transitional deacons are usually seminarians in the last stage of training before being ordained into the priesthood.
While priests are called to reflect the work of Christ the High Priest, deacons are called to reflect Christ the servant. Both are ordained ministries and have some of the same liturgical functions, but their roles are very distinct. Only priests can consecrate the Eucharist in the celebration of the Mass, offer absolution in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and anoint the sick.
A deacon also leads a very different life outside his vocation. A deacon can be married and have a family, as well as having a separate job outside the Church.
A deacon performs a number of liturgical duties within a parish. Deacons assist priests at Mass by proclaiming the Gospel, preaching the homily, and serving as ordinary ministers of the Eucharist.
Deacons can also baptise, witness marriages, and preside at funerals or burial services. They may also be called upon to lead the celebration of the Liturgy of Hours, Eucharistic Adoration, and benedictions, and offer blessings in the name of the Church.
Deacons can be either married or unmarried, but an unmarried man may not get married after being ordained.
A married man looking to become a deacon must be able to demonstrate a stable marriage and family life. A man’s wife must give her consent and support for him to take on the ministry. It is also important that children should not be negatively impacted by their father’s commitment to the ministry.
Just like priests, deacons are assigned to parishes and tasks by the bishop, according to the needs of the diocese. Usually, a deacon will be assigned to a parish close to his home. However, he may also be required to take on ministry – such as providing pastoral services in hospitals, prisons, nursing home etc. – outside that parish.
Although there are some shared duties between priests and deacons, the unique calling of each is very different. The role of deacons could help alleviate some of the heavy workload of priests, but healthy numbers of each are crucial to the life of the Church.