Questions about Permanent Diaconate

Vocation to the Permanent Diaconate

Q What are the signs that God might be calling me to the Permanent Diaconate?

A The permanent diaconate is open to both single and married men. If a married man is thinking about the permanent diaconate it is essential that he discerns this vocation with his wife, so that it is a decision made within the unity of one’s marriage. For the married man ordination to the diaconate is meant to grow out of and complement his marriage. These are just some signs that God might be calling you to the permanent diaconate, some of the ways that God might be guiding you in your life. It is the overall pattern that is important. The paragraphs about marriage obviously apply only to those who are married. If you are interested in finding out more about the permanent diaconate then talk to your parish priest or get in touch with the Director for Permanent Deacons in your home diocese.
A stable and supportive marriage. No marriage is perfect, but you and your wife must have a solid and supportive relationship. There are no major issues in your marriage that make it hard for you to communicate with each other or live your Catholic faith with integrity. You are able to make this decision about ordination together in a mature way. You both believe that the commitment to the diaconate, in the time of formation and in the ministry itself, will not be an unnecessary burden for your marriage and family, but rather an enrichment.
A commitment to your Catholic faith and to your prayer life. You love your faith and it has been an important part of your life for a long time. You treasure it for yourself, you have made time to grow in your understanding of the faith, and you long to share it with others. You try to pray within the circumstances of your working life. You value prayer. You appreciate in a personal way the importance of the sacraments, especially of the Mass.
A commitment to family and work. You love and care for your wife and family, despite the inevitable struggles. You are faithful to your responsibilities at work and you are able to give generously of your time and yourself whenever there is need.
A desire to serve. You have already shown a commitment to serve others in different ways, in the parish or in other voluntary situations. You have the time and energy and proven capacity to work for others and to work willingly. You have a desire to serve others more wholeheartedly, as a vocation. You are drawn especially to the service you see in the lives of deacons: assisting at the altar in the sacramental celebrations, preaching and teaching God’s Word, leading people in prayer, and serving others in the ministry of charity. This will extend especially to the poor and the marginalized; and one of your particular responsibilities as a deacon will be to bring their needs to the notice of your parish and the wider church.
Human qualities. You have all the human qualities that will allow you to be a worthy minister in God’s Church. You have the emotional and psychological maturity to take on a new and demanding role. You are able to take the lead, and you have experience in different leadership roles. You can work well with others and win their respect.
The encouragement of others. Other people in the parish encourage you to think about the diaconate, or support you when you discuss the idea. They can see you in this ministry; they can imagine that you would do it well and that you would find happiness in it.
The encouragement of your parish priest. A key person in your discernment and in supporting you will be your parish priest. If he believes that you are being called to the permanent diaconate, and if he supports you in your application, then this is a very positive sign.
The place of celibacy. A single man commits himself to lifelong celibacy from the moment of his ordination as a permanent deacon. A married man does not - he continues to live the fullness of his marriage - but he makes a promise that if his wife dies before him he will remain celibate and will not remarry. This is a very serious commitment, especially if there are young children in the family and there is an anxiety about how they might be brought up or cared for should their mother die.
Fr Stephen Wang, How to Discover your Vocation, CTS

Q What is the Permanent Diaconate?

A The diaconate is also a sacrament of ordination. The permanent deacon, who may be single or married, dedicates his life to serving others. His ministry of service focuses on three areas: assisting at the altar in the celebration of the sacraments; preaching the Word of God and leading people in prayer; and reaching out in loving service to the practical and spiritual needs of others, especially of the poor and those outside the normal confines of the Church. Traditionally the permanent deacon works closely with his diocesan bishop. Most permanent deacons, in practice, serve the greater part of their time within their home parish. But there are many who work as chaplains in schools, prisons, hospitals, etc. Others are in full-time employment where their work is itself ‘diaconal’: teachers, social workers, nurses, doctors, etc. Their ordination brings a specific grace that allows their life of service to be consecrated in a special way.

Fr Stephen Wang, How to Discover your Vocation, CTS

Q How long does the study last?

A The study, which is also a time of discernment, will usually last 3-4 years on a part-time basis, with teaching sessions mainly at weekends.

Q Has the Church always had Deacons?

A Right from New Testament times it was so. The Acts of the Apostles 6: 2-4 tell us about the selection of St Stephen and six others:

The twelve summoned the disciples and said; ‘It is not right that we should give up preaching the Word of God to serve tables Therefore brothers, pick out seven men of good repute full of the spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty.”

Some Deacons are transitory – that is, they are ordained for a relatively short time as part of their journey to Ordination as a Priest. Indeed over time this became the norm in the Church until the Second Vatican Council.

Some Deacons are Permanent. They remain in this calling for the rest of their lives. They can be single or married. This is how it was in the early Church.

If single, they take a promise of celibacy when they are ordained and they live from then on as celibates.

If married, they may not remarry should their spouse predecease them.

In 1964 the Church recognised a need in the modern world for the diaconal role. So she decided to return to the practise of the first Christian communities and ordain deacons for life-long service.

In 1972 Pope Paul VI stated that the permanent diaconate should be a driving force for the Church’s service towards the local Christian communities as well as a sign or sacrament of the Lord Jesus himself who came not to be served but to serve.
Taken from

Q Who can apply in this diocese?
A Single men over 35 who feel a call to service of the Church and the World who also feel called to a celibate life.

Married men over 40. Most of these candidates will be in the world of work and will continue there after ordination.
Indeed it is the role of the permanent deacon to have one foot in the sanctuary and the other in the workplace.

The men will have demonstrated the necessary maturity for a life-long commitment.

They will be prepared to embark on a 3 year course of formation.

They will be already working collaboratively with priests and lay-people in the local church in works of service and exercising some leadership roles.

Above all, they will be men of faith and prayer with a desire to serve others for the sake of God’s Kingdom.

* Grateful acknowledgement to Fr. Stephen Wang, author of “How to Discover your Vocation”, CTS