Derives from Diakonia, a Christian theological term from Greek that encompasses the call to serve God by serving those who suffer and are in need.
Permanent deacons, unlike transitional deacons, do not become priests.
DeaconA member of the hierarchy of the Sacrament of Holy Orders, after bishop and priest. The deacon is ordained not to priesthood but for ministry and service.
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. Among other tasks, it is the task of deacons to assist the bishop and priests in the celebration of the divine mysteries, above all the Eucharist, in the distribution of Holy Communion, in assisting at and blessing marriages, in the proclamation of the Gospel and preaching, in presiding over funerals, and in dedicating themselves to the various ministries of charity. (1570)
Since the second Vatican Council, the Latin Church has restored the diaconate “as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy,” while the Churches of the East had always maintained it. 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. (1571)
For more information on the Permanent Diaconate, visit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website.
In the Diocese of San Diego, the formation of candidates for the permanent diaconate and their wives (if married), takes place over a period of five years. After acceptance into the program, a man and his wife enter into Aspirancy, a year given to further his discernment and understanding of the diaconate call. During that time the aspirant and his wife are assigned individual spiritual directors, who will guide them in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, an adaptation of the original 30-day retreat.
At the end of Aspirancy and with the support of his wife, he may petition for admission to Candidacy. If accepted he is formally received as a candidate by the Bishop, and he and his wife continue the discernment process while taking classes and participating in pastoral ministries.
- Prayer and Discernment: The Aspirancy year sets the tone for the rest of formation. By learning how to pray with the Scriptures (Lectio Divina and Augustinian/Ignatian Contemplation) the aspirant is better prepared to grow in the remaining four formative elements. He will also learn how to keep a prayer-journal and make the Examen (Examination of consciousness) twice a day, to help him find God in all things.
- Spiritual formation helps the candidate grow in his knowledge of the Church’s traditions of prayer, liturgies, and devotions so that he can deepen his own spiritual life. This dimension also helps him integrate his prayer, study, work, and family life. Wives continue with their assigned spiritual directors so that they may grow spiritually along with their husbands.
- Theological formation provides the intellectual training necessary for an effective minister of the Gospel. Required courses include sacred scripture, dogmatic theology, moral theology, liturgical and sacramental theology, canon law, and church history. Candidates can ask to have their credits go toward further degree options through the Franciscan School of Theology at USD.
- Pastoral formation includes four years of ministry in the following areas: the abject poor, the ill (hospital), the incarcerated (adult or juvenile), and the dying (hospice). Candidates will be supervised along the way in each of the four areas, one per year.
- Liturgical formation includes learning how to preside and preach at sacramental liturgies appropriate to the role of a deacon, as well as how to assist and direct the liturgical actions during Mass and other sacramental liturgies such as weddings, baptisms, funerals, the Easter Vigil, Ash Wednesday, and Christmas.
For acceptance into the Diaconate Formation Program in the Diocese of San Diego, a man must:
- live in the Diocese of San Diego
- be at least 35 years old at the time of entrance into the program and not more than 55
- be a Roman Catholic of mature faith and sound moral character
- if married, be married in the Roman Catholic Church, and have the full support of his wife and children
- be of sound physical and mental health
- have a habit of prayer and an openness to formation
- have the aptitude for the intellectual formation required by the program
- have already demonstrated apostolic service and zeal
- demonstrate a basic potential to develop skills of leadership and homiletics
- have the support and recommendation of his pastor and at least five other individuals with current contact and knowledge
The Office for the Permanent Diaconate welcomes men of all communities and backgrounds. A man interested in serving as a deacon in the Diocese of San Diego should speak with his pastor and then contact our office.