In simple terms, a Deacon is a man who is called to a ministry of service. Like Priests, and
Bishops, he receives the Sacrament of Holy Orders. At the same time, he is “one among
us,” a man who has been called forth to live the Christian life visibly in the community. He
is an ordained person living in the lifestyle of the laity.
The Deacon’s service is threefold; service of the Word, service of the altar and service of
charity. He usually serves the community in which he lives. Like Bishops and Priests, the
Deacon is a member of the clergy, but he has a distinct role in service to the People of
God, proclaiming by his very life the Church’s call to serve the needs of others.
Note: The following is from http://www.usccb.org/beliefs-and-teachings/vocations/diaconate/faqs.cfm
A deacon is an ordained minister of the Catholic Church. There are three groups, or
“orders,” of ordained ministers in the Church: bishops, presbyters and deacons. Deacons
are ordained as a sacramental sign to the Church and to the world of Christ, who came “to
serve and not to be served.” The entire Church is called by Christ to serve, and the
deacon, in virtue of his sacramental ordination and through his various ministries, is to be
a servant in a servant-Church.
What are these “various ministries” of the Deacon?
All ordained ministers in the Church are called to functions of Word, Sacrament, and
Charity, but bishops, presbyters and deacons exercise these functions in various ways. As
ministers of Word, deacons proclaim the Gospel, preach, and teach in the name of the
Church. As ministers of Sacraments, deacons baptize, lead the faithful in prayer, witness
marriages, and conduct wake and funeral services. As ministers of Charity, deacons are
leaders in identifying the needs of others, then marshaling the Church’s resources to meet
those needs. Deacons are also dedicated to eliminating the injustices or inequities that
cause such needs. But no matter what specific functions a deacon performs, they flow
from his sacramental identity. In other words, it is not only WHAT a deacon does, but
WHO a deacon is, that is important.
Why do some deacons become priests?
For many years, ordained ministers “ascended” from one office to another, culminating in
ordination to the presbyterate, or priesthood. The Second Vatican Council (1962 – 1965),
however, authorized the restoration of the diaconate as a PERMANENT order of ministry.
So, while students for the priesthood are still ordained deacons prior to their ordination as
priests, there are more than 13,000 deacons in the United States alone who minister in
this Order permanently. There is no difference in the sacramental sign or the functions
between these so-called “transitional” and “permanent deacons.”
May married men be ordained deacons?
Yes. The Second Vatican Council decreed that the diaconate, when it was restored as a
permanent order in the hierarchy, could be opened to “mature married men,” later clarified
to mean men over the age of 35. This is in keeping with the ancient tradition of the
Church, in which married men were ordained into ministry. Also in keeping with ancient
practice is the expectation that while a married man may be ordained, an ordained man, if
his wife should die, may not marry again without special permission.