From the desk of the Deacon:
The word “Deacon” comes from the Greek word “diakonia” which means servant and hearkens back to the original purpose of the diaconate, to serve the Apostles (later the Bishop) by ministering to the poor and performing the administrative duties of the community. (Please note that the word “deacon” is spelled with “a”. Decon is rat poison! Deacons are called upon to do many things, but so far killing rats has not been one of them for me!)
The story of the founding of the Order of Diaconate may be found in the book of Acts, Chapter 6, verses 1-7. Deacons were very important in the early years of the Church with Deacon Stephen being the first martyr of the Church and Philip being among the first to carry the Gospel outside of Jerusalem (Samaria and Ethiopia). For many years, deacons served the Bishop hand-in-hand with the priest, but abuse of power and jealousy reduced the diaconate to a stage of priestly development, the transi- tional diaconate. The Eastern Church, however, retained the Permanent Diaconate as an integral part of the faith community. Following the Second Vatican Council, Saint Pope Paul VI reinstated the Permanent Diaconate to the Roman Rite of the Church.
So, what does a Deacon do? Short answer, whatever needs to be done that he is authorized to do. While we cannot give absolution, administer the Anointing of the Sick, or consecrate the Eucharist, we are expected to assist the priest whenever we attend Mass. We are first and foremost heralds of the Gospel! It is our responsibility and duty to proclaim the Gospel at Mass and from time to time preach the homily. We also assist the priest by preparing the alter and the gifts, elevating the chalice of Christ’s precious blood during the Great Amen, calling for the sign of peace, helping distribute holy communion, purifying the sacred vessels used at Mass, and dismissing the people so that they may go forth and serve God. We are also authorized to baptize, witness weddings outside of Mass, preside at funerals outside Mass, bring viaticum to the dying, and preside at Benediction.
Deacons form a bridge between the Church and the world by functioning in both the clerical state as well as the secular world. We are ordained by the bishop of our diocese to serve him, the parish, and the poor of our community, while juggling our secular jobs and living up to our family commitments.
If any man between the ages of 35 and 60 feels called to the diaconate, please feel free to see me, Fr. Barry, or contact Christopher Ruff in the Diocesan Office. Also, have your wife talk to my wife, Rita, our wives are of paramount importance to our ministry! Formation is a five-year program (one weekend a month, nine months of the year, plus homework) and is essentially Masters level work. It is a challenge, but is well worth the effort.
Your faithful servant in Christ,