What We Do
Deacons care for the disenfranchised, the bereaved, the divorced and the imprisoned, all those members of the community isolated from society by sickness and poverty, crime or age. Deacons may prepare the faithful to receive the sacraments. With proper authorization they are to preach, teach, and give spiritual guidance. They baptize, witness marriages and preside at funerals. Whatever they do, deacons are acting on behalf of the servant Christ.
Community and Family
Some permanent deacons are single, however, MOST are married and share their dedication to ministry with their wives and families. Thus the typical deacon attempts to balance three priorities in his life. They are: the responsibility of husband and father; his secular job or profession by which he earns a living or supplements retirement income; and his ministry as an ordained deacon. While there are some deacons engaged in full time positions within the diocese and receive a salary, normally deacons receive no salary for their ministry.
PROMISES MADE BY PERMANENT DEACONS
The deacon has a number of responsibilities. First, he is an ordained minister. He is not merely a kind of "super volunteer" By accepting ordination, he is accepting certain responsibilities that take the form of promises. Second, he promises obedience to the local bishop and his successors. This means the deacon must accept assignments to work in various places in the diocese without question. Of course, bishops take into account the circumstances of a man's family and work. Third, the deacon promises to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, the special prayer of the Church, in which the deacon joins priests, deacons and religious in praying a series of common daily prayers in union with the Church throughout the world. Fourth, the deacon promises to work diligently for the Church, to believe what he reads, teach what he believes, and practice what he teaches. The deacon is an example of Christian living for the whole Church, and his life must set a good example of this.
A wife is an equal partner in the sacrament of matrimony and an individual person with her own gifts, talents and call from God. The decision to live the diaconal vocation must be one of mutual commitment and love. Participating with her husband in the formation program provides the wife an opportunity to discern further her own call from God in becoming more aware of her gifts, to grow in her knowledge of doctrine, scripture, spirituality and ministry and to deepen her prayer and spiritual life. Church authority has determined that a married man cannot be considered for the diaconate without the consent of his wife. After ordination, a wife also needs to be duly informed of her husband's activities in order to arrive at a harmonious balance between family, profession and ecclesial responsibilities. As wives of candidates discern their call to participation in diaconal ministry, this formation program provides a variety of opportunities that nurture and enhance their spiritual and personal lives while they become more aware of the future ministry of their deacon husband. The program includes prayer, teaching, sharing and social gatherings. It is through the on-going conversations with others, being with others who share similar experiences, that the wife of a deacon becomes more aware of the ministry of the permanent diaconate and how this way of life will affect her spirituality, personally and relationally.
If you are interested in possibly becoming a permanent deacon, and are able to devote yourself to the necessary formation and study, then first consider the following questions: (You may even want to discuss them with your wife and family; and perhaps with your pastor)
- Do I feel that God is calling me to drawcloser to him in a life of more dedicated prayer and service to the Church? All of us are called to serve the Church, but permanent deacons are called in a more focused way and one that is under the authority of the bishop. They are ordained ministers who make certain promises,highlighted above.
- Can I see myself doing the things that the permanent deacon does? Attending to the service needs of the Church, assisting at Mass, preaching, becoming more involved in the parish.
- How will this affect my family and my job? Formation to be a permanent deacon requires a great deal of energy and commitment, as does the ministry itself. A man's wife and family have to be on board with his decision, as everyone will be affected. In most dioceses, diaconal ministry is not a job, as such, but is something the deacon does in addition to his full-time career.
- Do others recognize in me the qualities of being a good deacon? Do I present myself as a man of faith, aleader, and a man devoted to service?
TAKING THE NEXT STEP
If the vocation of permanent deacon seems right for you, if you haven't already, ask your pastor about the program in the Peoria Diocese, and discuss some of the questions asked above. He may suggest you read some additional material, pray about the matter, and enter into a time of personal discernment by which you will seek to know God's will. During your time of discernment, if you haven't to this point, you should get involved with one or more of the lay ministries within your parish. Remember that service and charity are the hallmarks of diaconate ministry. You may also consider attending retreats and renewal programs, such as Cursillo. All of these steps are beneficial and will better prepare you for your vocation. Finally, you should determine when the next orientation for formation will be held and when the next Diaconate Class will begin. This will give you a timeline for personal discernment and application.
Formation classes begin every 5 years in the Peoria Diocese.