“A deacon is ordained to assist the bishop, and work with his priests,
as part of the three fold ancient ministry of the Church.
The deacon’s ministry has a triple focus:
(1) of the Word – proclaiming, preaching and teaching,
(2) of the Altar – in Liturgy, and
(3) of Charity – in care of the poor and needy, the laying on of hands
in activating the Social Teaching of the church, in administration etc.”
(Catechism of the Catholic Church 1571)
There are roughly 100 permanent deacons in the Archdiocese of Birmingham. These are men living the call to serve God and his Church as ministers of the Word, of the Altar and of Charity.
WHO ARE DEACONS?
Permanent deacons are mature men, aged over 35, married or celibate, who by virtue of their ordination are members of the clergy. The word ‘Deacon’ means servant. Their ministry is one of service to the Church, and with the Church to the world, with a special concern for the poor and marginalised. The majority are in secular employment or retired. A few are paid by the Church or employed as chaplains in hospitals and prisons. As well as permanent deacons, there are also seminarians who are ordained as deacons, usually in their final year before priestly ordination; they are referred to as 'transitional deacons.'
THE FIRST DEACONS
The ministry of deacons is best understood by reading Acts 6: 2- 6:
The twelve called together the whole community of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should neglect the word of God in order to wait on tables. Therefore, friends, select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this task, while we, for our part, will devote ourselves to prayer and to serving the word.” What they said pleased the whole community, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, together with Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. They had these men stand before the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
SERVANT TO ALL
Deacons are ordained to the ministry of service, which from the early days of the Church has been characteristically associated with service of the poor, vulnerable and marginalised of society. They proclaim the Gospel, preach, assist at Mass, administer the sacrament of Baptism, and officiate at weddings and funerals. A deacon seeks to be a man of prayer, humility, and kindness, trying to conform himself to Jesus’ teaching, “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43-45)
Deacons may evangelise though helping the sick and needy. They may be school, hospital or prison chaplains. They may help others by managing their activities, assisting with catechesis, parish or community administration or they may evangelise through their secular lives, as St. Francis of Assisi (himself a deacon) is reputed to have said, "preaching the Gospel, using words if necessary". One focus of their ministry is to encourage lay people to become more involved in the life of the parish and the work of evangelisation.
SALT AND LIGHT
However it is not what a deacon does that really matters. It is who a deacon is.They are to be salt and light in the world. Deacons "support the Christian people in a professional framework" as Pope John Paul II said on 26 January 2004. They may be husbands, fathers, employers or employees and active in their local communities. As ordained ministers of the Church they are charged with the responsibility of bringing the Gospel to the secular world in which they live.
DO YOU HAVE A VOCATION TO THE PERMANENT DIACONATE?
If your answer is 'Yes' to these questions, then God may be calling you to serve the Church as a permanent deacon.
THE NEXT STEP
If you feel that God may be calling you to this ministry, then please pray about it. Applying to become a deacon is not the same as applying for a secular job or profession, but involves you and the Church - particularly your bishop - discerning whether or not God is calling you to serve his Church as a deacon. This process of discernment takes time and commitment on both sides. Initially you should discuss your possible calling with your wife (if you are married) and your Parish Priest before moving forward.
As series of three sessions is held at St. Mary's College, Oscott, spread throughout the year. These aim to help men (and their wives) better understand and discern whether God is calling them to serve him as deacons in his Church.
There is a four year course of part-time study at Oscott Seminary designed to give the knowledge, competencies and skills to serve as a deacon. It is also to form, by the grace of God, candidates into an icon of Christ the Servant. Besides study, there are practical internships in their own and another parish, to help men to gain the practical, pastoral and liturgical skills that will be needed once ordained.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Please contact the Director of the Permanent Diaconate:
Fr. Harry Curtis
Phone: 024 76419111