Deacon Kandra: “Everything We Do is About Connecting People”

FAIRFIELD—The diaconate is the fastest growing ministry in the United States with the number of ordained deacons up more than 41% in the last 14 years, said Deacon Greg Kandra at the Annual Convocation for Deacons of the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Speaking to more than 100 deacons and their wives who gathered for the event, Deacon Kandra said that there are more than 40,000 ordained deacons around the world, and that the diaconate has grown while other vocations continue to see decreased number.

“I love being a deacon,” said the former award-winning CBS News producer who was ordained in the Diocese of Brooklyn in 2007.

He said that his ministry has changed his life as he has accompanied others in their faith journeys.

“We are a phenomenon and one of the great success stories of Vatican II,” he said of the growing understanding and acceptance of the role of deacons.

His keynote address was part of a daylong celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Pope Paul VI restoration of the ministry of diaconate in the American Catholic Church. The day concluded with Mass celebrated by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano, who discussed recent changes to the Diaconate Formation Program in the Diocese of Bridgeport.

Deacon Kandra said that the diaconate “has its own character and grace” and that deacons work in many settings including parishes, schools, and hospitals.

“It’s not what we do, but what we are. We are bridge builders called to connect the people of God to the God we love,” he said.

He said the diaconate is drawn from the Greek work, “daikon”, which means go-between or emissary.

“We are go-betweens between the priest and the people, the sanctuary and the street,” he said, noting that most deacons are married men and fathers who work in a wide variety of careers including “lawyers, truck drivers, and engineers.”

Deacon Kandra said that while Deacons preach, officiate at weddings and wakes and offer benediction, they are not simply “functionaries” of the Church.

“People don’t see us as functionaries. They see as holy, patient and merciful men who work with them, and in every sense bring people to Christ. The diaconate isn’t just a ministry—it’s a way of living,” he said.

“We stand on the shoulder of giants,’ he said, noting that the role of the deacon in the Church dates back to the first martyr, Stephen.

Deacon Kandra was introduced for the first of two of his keynote talks by Deacon Anthony Cassaneto, who noted that Deacon Kandra “has to cross many bridges” to leave him home in Forest Hills Queens and that he has served as a bridge builder by using his skills in communications and writing to reach out to others.

Deacon Greg Kandra is the creator of “The Deacon’s Bench.” The blog has garnered over 20 million readers from around the world since its inception in 2007.

Additionally, he serves as the Multimedia Editor for Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), a pontifical association founded by Pope Pius XI in 1926. He oversees the agency’s blog “One-to-One” and is one of the editors of its award-winning magazine, ONE.

A Maryland native, Deacon Greg graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.A. in English in 1982. He was ordained a deacon for the Diocese of Brooklyn in 2007. He and his wife live in Forest Hills, New York, where he serves at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs parish.