What is a Deacon?
A deacon is an ordained minister of Christ. A deacon is ordained, not for the sacrifice, but for ministry. He is configured to Christ by the grace of the sacrament of Holy Orders, to become the “herald of Christ” for the proclamation of the Gospel in word and deed.
Applications are accepted at any time. Information and application forms are available from Deacon David A. Lopez, Ph.D., Director of Diaconate Formation.
The basic Qualifications for being ordained a Permanent Deacon:
- be at least 35 years of age at ordination – 30 to enter the formation program
- not be over the age of 61 to enter formation classes
- be baptized and confirmed, and a practicing Catholic in good standing
- have the support and permission of your wife, if married
- have the support of the pastor of your parish
- have the prayerful support of the people of the parish
- have the experience, willingness, and desire to serve others as Christ
- show common diaconal characteristics, such as humility, compassion, simplicity, zeal, love for Christ, love for the Church, and desire to grow in holiness
What do Deacons do?
Every deacon serves in all three areas of ministry (Word, Sacrament, and Charity). Each of these areas includes a liturgical and a ministerial aspect. There is quite a variety of possible roles or charisms within this general uniformity.
The ministry of the Word means the distinctive role of proclaiming the Gospel, both during the public liturgies of the Church (Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, and other instances of the Liturgy of the Word), and as a catechist (teaching the faith to children and adults, preparing others to receive sacraments, leading retreats and renewal programs, etc.) He may also preach homilies, either in the absence of a priest or as agreed upon with his pastor.
The ministry of Sacraments includes assisting the priest at the altar of sacrifice, and certain other roles during Mass, such as leading the Penitential Rite, or elevating the Chalice during the Consecration. Deacons are ordinary ministers of Holy Eucharist, for the distribution within Mass, and for bringing the Eucharist and Viaticum to the sick, elderly, imprisoned, etc. Deacons may lead communal prayer, such as Eucharistic Adoration with Benediction, or the Liturgy of the Hours. Deacons may also officiate or assist at baptisms, weddings, and funerals.
The ministry of Charity includes other roles during liturgies, such as inviting the people to the sign of peace, leading the prayers of the faithful, and dismissing the people. Outside the liturgy, it includes the gamut of ways to help the poor and the needy of all kinds (for example, the “spiritual and corporal works of mercy”). This aspect of deacons’ leadership can sometimes be most influential in the community, as they carry the mission of the Church and the content of the Gospel into the world.
Deacons also evangelize by their presence and example in secular careers. They can be involved in foreign missions (e.g., a sister parish in another country; school or parish mission trips), promote priestly vocations (e.g., Serra Club), serve on parish councils or committees, serve in prison ministry, and so on. Wherever there is a need for the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ, there is a possible role for deacons.
Deacon formation includes prayer, class work, and several practicum experiences, over a five year period.
Formation classes meet on Saturdays, at Sacred Heart Parish in Early, Iowa. There are 15 class meetings each academic year (August to May).
- 8:30 am – Morning Prayer in the church
- 9:00 am – Noon – Intellectual formation
- Noon – 12:45 – Lunch
- 12:45 – 2:15 – Human or pastoral formation
- 2:30 – 3:30 – Spiritual formation
Intellectual formation teaches the content of faith for catechesis and basic theology. It starts with Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and progresses to specific areas of theology (e.g. ecclesiology, moral theology, sacraments), and culminates with Christology, Liturgy, and Homiletics.
Human formation deepens Christ-like virtue, leadership, and relationships. The interaction of the vocation to marriage and the diaconal vocation is carefully covered.
Pastoral formation builds on parish experience and prepares a future deacon to serve in the common deacon roles at the parish and diocesan level (e.g., catechesis, sacramental preparation, hospital and nursing home visits, and many others). Good pastoral practice is taught, and new pastoral experiences are attempted in a variety of practical situations.
Spiritual formation deepens faith and intimacy with God. Different kinds of devotional and contemplative prayer are taught. General aspects of spiritual life are covered. Discernment of diaconal vocation, and of different charisms of prayer and service, is always close to the surface.
Deacon Formation Handbook