The Deacon Diaper Drive to be held in many of our parishes starting the weekend of March 30-31 brings attention to the diaconate and the many services they provide.
In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, 178 permanent deacons are serving in active ministry, 75 are retired and 43 are in formation. They play vital roles in the mission of the archdiocese to help people live the Gospel and, with joy, fulfill their baptismal calling by prayer and worship, teaching and sharing our faith, serving others and fostering unity in diversity, all while being responsible stewardship of all God’s gifts.
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, held 1962-65, restored this ministry of service to its original purpose.
Deacons share in the sacrament of Holy Orders with bishops and priests. In the United States, the more than 13,000 deacons serve primarily in parishes. The work of the deacon is defined as ministry of liturgy, word and charity. Their service at the altar is a sign and symbol of the Church’s commitment to those in the parish and the community. The deacon endeavors to turn the Word into deed in his daily life. And the ministry of love and justice is the heart of the diaconate.
Typically, deacons serve the Church by assisting pastors at their home or nearby parishes; they assist at Masses and serve as needed for baptisms, weddings, funerals, communion services and the like. Some also serve in other ministries, such as prison, hospital, outreach to homeless and needy people, ministering to divorced and widowed people or in advancing pro-life causes.
Formation is difficult at times, as the men juggling secular careers, family life and diaconate formation. It’s ultimately rewarding. According to prospective deacons and ordained deacons, each year, each semester in formation builds upon another, enhancing men’s lives in unseen and unexpected ways. Their spiritual lives improve, as do their temporal lives.
The archdiocesan Office of the Permanent Diaconate describes their service well: “A deacon’s response is not to move away from the secular world, but to become more involved in it. His daily dress is not different, but his manner of living demonstrates a caring for others and a living expression of the Gospel of Jesus.”
That’s powerful. And it’s so needed in the world today.
Please take the time to thank a deacon for his important work in the archdiocese and thank their wives and families for sacrificing time with them to enable their ministries.