The role of permanent deacons

Ordained by the Archbishop, they serve as he directs. Often this is in a parish setting, but it could be anywhere that there is a need. In our archdiocese, a deacon will not serve in his home parish. Deacons are called to bring the presence of Jesus to the market place where we shop, to the places where we relax and play, to the workplace and to family life. One way of viewing the deacon’s work is that their commission from the bishop is to learn of the needs of people, and to bring word of these to the community, both the archdiocese and the parish. Tradition speaks of deacons as the eyes and ears of the bishop!

The deacon works in harmony with the ministries of ordained priests and the lay leaders of the Church. A deacon is neither a priest nor a pastoral associate, though the functional aspects of the roles can overlap. The deacon is not an ‘almost priest’ who cannot celebrate the Eucharist, nor is the deacon a replacement for the pastoral associate. The deacon is not a substitute for or about diminishing the ministry of lay people who are called by baptism to share in the mission of Jesus. On the contrary, the deacon’s task includes promoting and sustaining the apostolic activities of the lay faithful.

In Australia, deacons bring God’s word to believer and unbeliever alike, they preside over public prayer, baptise, assist at marriages and funerals, they minister in schools, the military, prisons, ports, hospitals and diocesan agencies.

“Deacons share in Christ’s 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… This permanent diaconate, which can be conferred on married men, constitutes an important enrichment for the Church’s 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.’ [Ad Gentes Divinitus #16].”

Catechism of the Catholic Church #1570, #1571

“When you came here seven years ago, we could not accept you. We have come to apologise and to say that now we understand how you have contributed to building up our faith community.”

Parishioners in a large country town to a deacon and his wife.

“There appears to be more than enough need for as many deacons and as many pastoral associates as a diocese can call and form for service. If we envisage a scenario where there is competition between these two forms of service, that would indicate a church that is dying out.”

Deacon Paul Russell, Perth.

“The experiment with deacon formation in the 1970’s resulted in disappointment. Today, our situation has changed significantly with the service of so many pastoral associates, most of whom are women. Recruitment and formation of deacons will allow for the reality of service in the archdiocese.”

Bishop Hilton Deakin to a group of enquirers.