The Role of a Deacon
We have nine Permanent Deacons serving in Cluster 14. They are members of the Order of Deacon which is one order of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. The Order of Deacon is first seen in the Bible in the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 6, verse 1 and following. The Apostles ordained seven men to help them in the administration of the early church in Jerusalem. St. Stephen, a deacon, was the first Martyr. Read Acts, Chapter 6,7,8. St. Francis of Assisi was a deacon as one example.
Many people do not understand that these men are ordained by the bishop to serve the Church. We always say the "Sacrament of Holy Orders." Let us not fail to see that the word, Orders, is plural. There are three parts to this sacrament, namely: Bishop, Priest and Deacon. Holy Orders is the sacrament of "Apostolic Ministry." Diakonia is a Greek word that means ministry.
The deacons wear very distinctive vestments in any liturgy in which they function as Deacons. The Deacons, Priests and Bishops all wear a long white robe called an Alb. The deacon wears a stole, which runs diagonally across the chest, where as the stole, which is worn by a priest, hangs straight down. For most ordinary Masses, Baptism, Liturgy of the Hours, wakes etc., the deacon wears only the Alb and stole but on special occasions, the Deacon will also wear a vestment called a Dalamatic. A Dalamatic look very similar to the Chasuble worn by the priest except that the Dalamatic has sleeves where as the Chasuble does not have any sleeves. A very common design feature is what looks like a large "H" on the front and back of the Dalamatic.
Within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, deacons can perform many tasks including wakes, funeral service, interments, baptisms, benedictions, blessings, distribute communion at church and elsewhere. When deacons perform funeral services and communion services, they do so outside of the Mass, which, of course is reserved to the priest. The Eucharist prayer is not said during the Communion or Funeral services and the bread and wine are not changed into the Body and Blood of Christ as the deacon does not received that power at ordination. Such services are typically are only done when there is no priest available which is very common in many sections of the country. In addition, the deacon can not administer the sacraments of Reconciliation and the sacrament of the Sick.. At Mass, the deacon assists at Eucharist, read the Gospel and intercessions and the deacon can prepare and deliver homilies. Deacons as well as priests and bishops are Ordinary Ministers of the Eucharist as compared to the Extraordinary Ministers which are people from the parish who are selected to assist in giving out Communion when there are not enough Ordinary Ministers present.
The men, currently serving in Cluster 14, have completed a two-year course in Church Ministry and then a three-year formation program at St. Charles Seminary to become Permanent Deacons. This program includes training in Theology, Sacraments, Canon Law, Scripture, Pastoral care and homiletics. Men who enter the program now enter directly in a six-year diaconate formation program without going through the Church Ministry program.
A very high percentage of Permanent Deacons are married with families. They work at regular secular jobs in industry. The deacons do not received a salary from the parish.
The following is an excerpt from "Catechism of the Catholic Church:"
The Permanent Deacon is not a half-priest. He is ordained by the bishop through a "Laying on of Hands" to serve the Church in this special ministry. The Deacon can do everything a priest can except say Mass, hear confession and Anointing of the Sick! THESE ARE PRIESTLY POWERS. The bishop has the fullness of Orders and also the power of Jurisdiction (to govern) in his diocese.
Other citations from the Catechism includes:
1570 Deacons share in Christs mission and grace in a special way. The sacrament of Holy Orders marks them with an imprint ("character") which cannot be removed and which configures them to Christ, who made himself the "deacon" or servant of all. Among other tasks, it is the task of deacons to assist the bishop and priests in the celebration of the divine mysteries, above all the Eucharist, in the distribution of Holy Communion, in assisting at and blessing marriages, in the proclamation of the Gospel and preaching, in presiding over funerals, and in dedicating themselves to the various ministries of charity.
1571 A proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy," while the Churches of the East had always maintained it. This permanent diaconate, which can be conferred on married men, constitutes an important enrichment for the Churchs mission. Indeed it is appropriate and useful that men who carry out a truly diaconal ministry in the church, whether in its liturgical and pastoral life or whether in its social and charitable works, should "be strengthened by the imposition of hands which has come down from the apostles. They would be more closely bound to the altar and their ministry would be made more fruitful through the sacramental grace of the diaconate."
1256. "The ordinary ministers of Baptism are the bishop and priest and, in the Latin Church, also the DEACON. In case of necessity, any person, even someone not baptized, can baptize, if he has the required intention. The intention required is to will to do what the Church does when she baptizes, and to apply the Trinitarian baptismal formula. The Church finds the reason for this possibility in the universal saving will of God and the necessity of Baptism for salvation.[Cf. 1 Tim 2:4 .] "
1569. "'At a lower level of the hierarchy are to be found deacons, who receive the imposition of hands 'not unto the priesthood, but unto the ministry.'' At an ordination to the diaconate only the bishop lays hands on the candidate, thus signifying the DEACON's special attachment to the bishop in the tasks of his 'diakonia.
1574. "As in all the sacraments additional rites surround the celebration. Varying greatly among the different liturgical traditions, these rites have in common the expression of the multiple aspects of sacramental grace. Thus in the Latin Church, the initial rites - presentation and election of the ordinand, instruction by the bishop, examination of the candidate, litany of the saints - attest that the choice of the candidate is made in keeping with the practice of the Church and prepare for the solemn act of consecration, after which several rites symbolically express and complete the mystery accomplished: for bishop and priest, an anointing with holy chrism, a sign of the special anointing of the Holy Spirit who makes their ministry fruitful; giving the book of the Gospels, the ring, the miter, and the crosier to the bishop as the sign of his apostolic mission to proclaim the Word of God, of his fidelity to the Church, the bride of Christ, and his office as shepherd of the Lord's flock; presentation to the priest of the paten and chalice, 'the offering of the holy people' which he is called to present to God; giving the book of the Gospels to the DEACON who has just received the mission to proclaim the Gospel of Christ."
It is really Gods providence to us at this time to have deacons. The diaconate was restored to complete the hierarchy, and for its own ministry. God is giving us deacons for the service of the church in this age. You must be willing to recognize and accept the Ministry of our Deacons! They are ordained to the sacrament of Holy Orders to serve you, the Church.
The Deacons in Cluster 14 are also involved in the following activities:
They are members of the Parish Finance committee and the parish Pastoral Council.
They are leaders and instructors in the RCIA program, Pre Cana and Pre Jordan programs.
They work with the Marriage Tribunal of the Archdiocese which among other things processes requests of those petitioning the Church for annulments.
They are active with St. Vincent de Paul association and other work assisting the poor. They visit hospitals, nursing homes as well as individuals homes bringing Holy Communion to the sick and elderly.
The Deacons participate in the annual parish Visitation.
They work with the Blind and parishioners with substance abuse problems as well as Aids victims.
Deacons have responsibilities for the CCD program in the parish including the training of the CCD teachers.
The Deacons serve as Chaplains or Spiritual Directors for various organizations.
They are active in the work of the cluster including acting as the webmaster for the cluster web site.
The deacons are involved in Pro Life Activities.
The deacons participate in the prison ministry in the various prisons.
They act as group leaders for the Disciples in Mission programs and other faith sharing
Click Here for more information including the history of Deacons
Click Here for more information - U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
Click Here for a recent statement by the Pope concerning Deacons