So, what is a deacon anyway?

So, what is a deacon anyway? What’s the difference between a priest and a deacon?  How long have there been deacons?  Are there deacons because there is a shortage of priests?

These are just some of the questions that I’ve heard in the past about being a deacon.  I was ordained a deacon in 2006 and in my experience I have found that ‘what is a deacon?’, is one of the common questions posed by curious people who aren’t too sure about us and what we are about. As Vocations Coordinator for the Diocese over the past year, one of the things that I’ve learned is that the identity of the deacon and education for the faithful would go a long way towards helping others come to a different understanding about questions like these.

You can trace the origin of the diaconate all the way back to the early Church, but for starters let’s first look at the recent history of the diaconate.  It was in the Second Vatican Council that was called by Pope John XXIII in 1959 that the Fathers of the Council established that the clerical major order of deacon should be restored as a permanent clerical state and that the order could be conferred on mature married men (35 years of age and older). At their Spring 1968 Conference, the Bishops of the United States petitioned the Holy See for authorization to restore the diaconate as a permanent order in the United States. On August 30, 1968, the Apostolic Delegate informed the Bishops of the United States that Blessed Pope Paul VI had granted their request.  It was 10-years later on February 25, 1978, that Bishop Curtis ordained the first class of permanent deacons for the Diocese of Bridgeport.  While each of these men expresses his life of service in various ways, all deacons share a common purpose in their ministry.

The year 2018 celebrated the 50th Anniversary of the restoration of the Permanent Diaconate and along with that celebration came several excellent resources that delve deeply into the theological roots of the diaconate, along with its rightful place within the hierarchy of the Church.  I will be referring to these resources in ensuing articles as a means to answer some questions, perhaps stimulate more questions, allow others to see how they too, in their works of charity for the Church demonstrate the traits of the deacon.  Who knows, perhaps this may stimulate interest in men of faith to discern their own personal call to serve the Church as a deacon?

Dn Tim Bolton
Coordinator of Diaconate Vocations
Diocese of Bridgeport