Men who are ordained to the permanent diaconate promise to live out the charism of service to God, and to the people of God through a life of ordained ministry. This commitment is characterized by service to the Word of God, to the Sacraments of the Church, and to a life of Heroic Charity. The role of the deacon is to be a helper of the bishops and priests. He is to proclaim by his life the Church's call to serve the needs of others: to proclaim the Gospel message, to live a life of fidelity to Christ and the Church, and to lead the community in building a Kingdom of grace, faith, justice, and compassion. The deacon is to be a sign and a living witness of the presence of Christ the Servant in the world.
Since the Second Vatican Council the Church has seen even more clearly that the deacon is called to serve the Bishop, and his Priests, by becoming more intimately associated with, and involved in the life of the poor, the marginalized, the forgotten, the abandoned, the silent, and the voiceless. The deacon is asked to give his voice to the poor so that their concerns may be heard by the whole Church, especially the Bishop. Intimately united to the ministry of the Bishop and the Priests, deacons are called to serve the Church, giving their lives in service to their brothers and sisters, the People of God.
Ministry of the Deacon
The diaconate had its origin in the first century when the early Church was being established, and a need for catechesis and service to others was recognized. After flourishing for 400 years, the diaconate declined and became little more than a transitional step to priesthood. The Second Vatican Council, 1962-65, restored this ministry of service to its original purpose. Deacons share in the sacrament of Orders with bishops and priests. In the United States, there are more than 18,000 deacons serving primarily in parishes. The work of the deacon is defined as a ministry of Liturgy, Word, and Charity.
The deacon assists the priest at Mass. He may administer the sacrament of Baptism, witness and bless marriages, officiate at funerals and burial services, minister at the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, and preside at Communion liturgies, where a priest is not present. This service at the altar is a sign and symbol of the Church's commitment to those in the parish and the community.
The deacon proclaims the Gospel, the Good News. After further study he may receive from his bishop the faculty or authority to preach. His reading of the gospel in Church is only one aspect of proclaiming the word of God. The deacon endeavors to turn the Word into deed in his daily life.
His ministry of love and justice is the heart of the diaconate. In the Diocese of Belleville, we have more than 30 deacons serving in parishes. They are also involved as hospital and prison ministers, assist the homeless on the streets and in soup kitchens, minister to the divorced and widowed, advance pro-life causes, and counsel and serve, particularly those who are on the margins of society. His manner of living demonstrates a caring for others and a living expression of the Gospel of Jesus.