The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

But the benefits are great

money large.jpgOne of the things that has astonished me during my  diaconate is how often people ask me the same question. It happens with remarkable consistency. They’re almost always embarrassed to bring it up. And the answer seems to leave them surprised.

It happened again yesterday, when I appeared on Lino Rulli’s “The Catholic Guy” radio show. A caller explained that he’d always wanted to bring this up to the deacon in his parish, but he was too embarrassed. So, with the anonymity of the airwaves, he asked me, almost sheepishly, “Do you get paid?”


I had to laugh.

For those who are still wondering: the answer is “No.” I get a salary from my full time job at the NET. But I don’t get paid for being a deacon in the parish.

Maybe some people are considering the vocation as a way to make a killing. Or maybe they’re wondering about where their pastor is spending the second collection, or maybe they just see deacons lurking around the church so much and they just assume we must be getting overtime.

Again, no.

Deacons are not salaried. Unlike priests, we don’t get a stipend for masses, weddings or funerals. At Christmas, the pastor might slip an envelope into my hand and thank me, but that’s about it. As I told the caller yesterday, summoning the only cliche I could think of, “My reward will be great in heaven. But here? Not so much.”

And now you know.

Comments read comments(21)
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posted February 10, 2010 at 10:38 am

To you and to all the other deacons (and priests and bishops): THANK YOU.

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Devin Rose

posted February 10, 2010 at 11:03 am

That’s good to know. (We did give a donation to our deacon who baptized our sons, which the parish encourages people to do.)

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posted February 10, 2010 at 11:13 am

In my 10 years as a deacon I have been handed donations for many of the services I lead. I’ve always donated it to Catholic Charities in the name of the deceased or the newly baptized, etc. I’m sometimes shocked at the amounts of money people put in an envelope. One woman gave me $200.00 to come to her home and lead a rosary for her son. There were four people present. I don’t know what other deacons do with the moneys they recieve, but there is temptation present to pad one’s income.

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Deacon Dean

posted February 10, 2010 at 11:23 am

Amen, Brother! It was made very clear to us prior to ordination that (at least in the Archdiocese of New Orleans)we were NOT paid to provide the sacraments. We are expected to NOT keep any “stipends”, but rather to give them to the Church.

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posted February 10, 2010 at 11:54 am

Actually I’m kind of uncomfortable with the idea of deacons not getting paid as a policy. It seems to me that the laborer is worth his due, first of all. In real life it will be the rare parish that can afford to pay its deacon(s) — or any of the multitude of people who carry out its apostolates — anything like what they are worth, but in those places that have the funds it may in fact make sense to pay the deacon so that more of his time can be dedicated to his ministry.
So now I need to ask — I’ve always assumed that when a deacon has some staff title (parish administrator, DRE, staff member at a Catholic school, etc.) that the deacon gets the salary that goes along with the work. Is that not true?

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posted February 10, 2010 at 12:33 pm

It’s true in the Diocese of Rochester. A deacon serving on a parish staff does receive a salary/benefits package and the amount is comparable to what a lay person serving in a similar position would receive.

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posted February 10, 2010 at 12:34 pm

Could this be part of the master plan in the diocese of Rockville Centre? The diocese is in the process of asking 1800 people (at least 90% of whom are women) to take a voluntary separation from their paid employment, is the plan then for the very large number of deacons to take these salaried professional positions and do them from free?
As a side note, many of these women earned their master’s degree in theology with their own money, which is not the case with deacons.

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted February 10, 2010 at 12:46 pm

If a deacon has a full time staff job at the parish, as a DRE or administrator, he typically does receive a salary.
But if he’s the parish deacon, with an outside job, he doesn’t get paid anything extra for his deacon duties.
Dcn. G.

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Deacon Eric Stoltz

posted February 10, 2010 at 1:16 pm

I like to explain it to people this way: The bad news is we don’t get paid. The good news is we don’t get paid.
People immediately get that not being paid gives us a bit more freedom. And non-Catholic clergy I know are quite impressed that deacons do what we do without payment.

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted February 10, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Good line, Eric :-)
More than a few times, when I’ve had some sharp disagreements with my pastor — believe it or not, it happens — I’ve said, only half-joking, “What are you gonna do? Fire me?”
BTW: loved you in “Mask.”
(And aren’t you sick of hearing THAT?)
Dcn. G.

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Deacon Norb

posted February 10, 2010 at 2:59 pm

The over-riding premise is certainly true out here in the Diocese of Toledo, HOWEVER, with fewer and fewer priests, more and more deacons are taking paid staff positions in all sort places. I was a “volunteer” deacon for 24 years (1978-2002) but then got the tap to be a paid part-time Pastoral Associate in a parish with over 4,000 folks and only one priest — the pastor. There are at least four other deacons in our diocese who are on paid staff at the parish level and also five deacons serving on our Diocesan Staff in paid slots (three full-time; two part-time). If I have counted correctly, there are at least two deacons serving as Chancellors of their respective Diocese/Archdioceses across the country. Here in Toledo, we do not have any deacons currently assigned as Pastoral Leaders (pastors in all but name of “priest-less parishes”) but we have had. There are two reasons for this: 1. Canon Law requires a Pastor (and thus a Pastoral Leader) to reside inside the boundaries of the parish they are assigned; and 2. Long-standing US custom requires a Pastor (and thus a Pastoral Leader) to have a graduate degree in some form of religious studies. In our neck of the woods, it is far easier to find a religious sister that meets those two requirements than it is to find a deacon who meets them.

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Patty Turkovich

posted February 10, 2010 at 3:38 pm

I am a practicing Catholic (so when do I get it right after all these years of practice?) and have been all my life. I see I was mistaken that deacons don’t recieve even some occasional pittance of a stipend. I learned early on that making a career in the Church would lead one to — let’s just call it an life of extreme austerity. It is heart-warming that so very few of the many men and women who serve in the Church in so many ways — CCD teacher, choir members, lectors, extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, ushers, Altar servers… The list goes on. You are correct that those who serve in these capacities will face their reward in heaven. I think, however, that all of us who do serve in these and many other ministries do so for the love of God and in true service to God’s people. The deep satisfaction is our reward here on earth.

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Your Name

posted February 10, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Thanks for posting this Dcn. Greg; I too hear this regularly, and as you point out, most people are surprised when they hear that we do what we do for our of love (and for free). If I run into some points in my ministry where I feel as if someone isn’t happy with what I’m doing, I usually tell them to ‘take it out of my pay”…..
God Bless
Dcn. Chuck

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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted February 10, 2010 at 6:29 pm

In our archdiocese there is no across the board policy on pay. However, there is at least a rule of thumb to cover pay situations for every other professional position in the Church and thus many of us deacons hope some sort of voluntary financial guidelines will be set up.
As it is now each deacon makes his own arrangement with the pastor he is assisting. Some (usually high income lawyers or business people) agree to serve for nothing. Others, with families, couldn’t serve as needed unless there were some income from the parish. Some get travel and book money, some get tuition for their kids to go to Catholic school, some get paid for being pastoral associates or directors of religious education (full or part-time pay based on size of program). I know some deacons who–because they are retired on a limited income–get a very small stipend, but make themselves available 24-7.

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted February 10, 2010 at 7:08 pm

That’s interesting news, Dcn. John.
Bill Ditewig, in his indispensable book “101 Questions and Answers on Deacons,” notes that deacons may sometimes get compensated for their vestments or for mileage, and that they will get a salary if they have a full time job in the church. However:
Compensation is associated with the position accepted by the deacon in addition to his ecclesiastical assignment as deacon, for which no compensation is generally provided (Emphasis mine.)
In short: deacons don’t get paid for doing their ministry.
When can we form a union? :-)

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posted February 10, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Nice response to that recurring question, Greg. You handle it very well…

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Deacon Bill

posted February 10, 2010 at 10:02 pm

In the Archdiocese of St. Louis, deacons assigned to a parish are entitled to up to $750 annually to cover costs of retreats, continuing education, et al. Not many ever use the entire amount. Regarding stipends for doing baptisms, wake services, etc., when I receive one I take my wife out to dinner on it!
In any event, the riches that a deacon receives for his ministry cannot be measured in dollars.

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Deacon Mike Brainerd

posted February 11, 2010 at 3:20 am

I can relate, Greg. The comical look of utter bewilderment on my brother-in-law’s face when I explained this to him was absolutely priceless, however, so not all compensation is deferred to heaven.

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posted February 11, 2010 at 11:28 am

“But the benefits are great”
I hear the retirement plan is second to none. :)

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George Mason

posted June 9, 2010 at 1:40 pm

I have a few friends who are permanent Deacons. They are not given a salary across the board by parishes, but many are given salaries for their parochial work as deacons by certain parishes, for example, for directing religious education or for taking charge of the parish cemetery, or for counseling work, or for doing chaplaincy work at prisons or hospitals. (In the latermost case, the institution pays the deacon just as it, rather than the diocese or parish, would pay the priest.) Many deacons retired from their careers are also paid by parishes to be present and available for various tasks.
Deacons are not paid for liturgical ministry, but sometimes receive a stole fee which canonically belongs to the pastor who can, in turn, allow the deacon to keep it.
Meanwhile, permanent deacons obviously have a different role in the community than priests who through the power of sacrifice and forgiveness have a pastoral role over souls. The priest lives on call for parishioners; the deacon does not, as neither his home phone number nor address is not listed on the bulletin.
Moreover, deacons have more freedom in terms of where they help out in the parish (albeit some dioceses assign deacons to nearby their homes) and when they can help. A parochial vicar priest must adapt his life to the parish schedule; the deacon, while often generous, cannot be told to quit his day job to be at funerals or parish events, etc. Deacons also are not obligated to live in a particular residence as priests are. A priest is forbidden to hold a day job, even part time, but a deacon has no such restriction.
Finally, priests I know in at least one northeast Archdiocese, although they do not have room and board expenses, get a salary which is below the poverty threshold. If money is the key issues, deacons make out much better holding a day job than if they were to be paid by the parish!

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posted May 1, 2013 at 11:00 am

Thanks a lot to everybody. What is true is that the benefit of serving the church as Deacon is greater in heaven. God bless our deacons

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