I am a permanent Deacon for the Catholic Diocese of Memphis in Tennessee.
Our class completed six months of discernment, three academic years of formation, and a six-month practicum. We were ordained on March 4, 2000. After we had been ordained about a year, we were given an additional six months of instruction in homiletics before we were given faculties to preach.
The work of the Diaconate is very important to me. I believe that faith in God and service to other people gives meaning and purpose to human life, and that's what I want my life to be about.
Some men are ordained Deacons on the way to becoming priests. In the "Olden Days," there were several minor orders; men became acolytes, lectors, porters, exorcists, then subdeacons and finally deacons before they were ordained priests.
But I'm a permanent Deacon. That means I don't plan to become a priest. I'll always be a Deacon. Now, that doesn't mean I'll be "just" a Deacon -- but I'll be a "permanent" Deacon.
In the Catholic tradition, the Diaconate is an ordained ministry -- the Deacon is a member of the clergy. The Diaconate can be traced to the selection of Stephen and six others (Acts of the Apostles, 6:1-6) to engage in what would today be called "ministries of service." Stephen and the others were chosen by the Apostles to distribute food to the poor. The Apostles prayed over them and "laid hands" on them, just as our Bishop did when he ordained me. Although they may not have been "odained deacons" in the same sense that I was, we still believe in the concept of apostolic succession -- there was a Bishop who ordained our Bishop, and another Bishop who ordained him, and so on all the way back to the Apostles who ordained Stephen.
Stephen later became the first martyr of the Church. He was stoned to death in about the year 35 AD. So Deacons have been around a long time. In fact, there were Deacons before there were Priests.
A permanent Deacon is not an assistant priest or a junior priest or an apprentice priest. Deacons are ministers of service. Most permanent Deacons don't want to be priests and most won't ever be priests.
Deacons could be pastors of churches and even Cardinals as late as 1917. In fact, there was a Deacon who was a Cardinal as recently as 1876 -- Cardinal Giacomo Antonelli served as Secretary of State for Pope Pius IX. He was a "Cardinal Deacon" -- in his case, a Cardinal, but a deacon and not a priest. Deacons even used to get elected Pope sometimes, but that doesn't happen any more.
WHAT DEACONS DO
Like priests, Deacons do some things that lay people normally cannot do. We proclaim the Gospel at Mass and sometimes preach the homily. We bless the congregation with the monstrance at solemn exposition of the Blessed Sacrament. We administer two of the Seven Sacraments; we can baptize babies (and adults too), and officiate at weddings. We also officiate at funerals and other liturgies. Baptisms, weddings, funerals . . . we're the "Hatch-Match-Dispatch" clergy.
There are also some things priests can do that Deacons can't do. Deacons can't say Mass or consecrate the Eucharist. They can't hear confessions or anoint the sick.
Deacons do a lot of those liturgical things, but are primarily ministers of service to others -- just like Stephen and the other men who distributed food to the poor. Just about all Deacons work in service ministries of one kind or another -- visiting the sick and the imprisoned, working with the poor, with those in need.
Deacons may be married or unmarried. Deacons who are unmarried at the time of their ordination make a promise of celibacy, as do priests. A married deacon ordinarily may not remarry if his wife should die.
WHAT I DO
In my parish (Church of the Holy Spirit), I help teach RCIA and teach a portion of the classes for Lectors and Eucharistic Ministers. I teach classes for P.R.E. (Parish Religious Education) and for the Confirmation classes. I preside at regular communion services at retirement community in the area, and visit parishioners who are in the hospital. At Holy Spirit, the deacons preach the Sunday homily about once a month.
I ask your prayers for me, and for my wife Christine, who has encouraged and nurtured whatever good is in me. Pray that we may be worthy of what we do and worthy of those we serve. Pray that we may serve our parish, our Diocese and our Church well.
Educational and Formation Material
Some of my class notes and other study material may be posted here later. There is a Chronology of the Old and New Testament that you may find interesting. There is also a brief discussion of the "Four-Source Theory" of the origin of the Torah (Pentateuch).
A couple of useful documents are available for download here.
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