The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Here come the deacons

Process.jpg The growth of the diaconate has prompted a reporter from Religion News Service to look into the vocation — and the resulting article has a few familiar names:

He’s performed so many funerals, they call him “Burying Joe.”

A recent Saturday afternoon found Joe Krysiak again at a cemetery, his white alb and paisley stole whipping in the wind as he recited the Rite of Christian Burial and sprinkled holy water drawn from a Smucker’s jar on the ground below the flag-draped coffin.


The day and night before, Krysiak put in six hours at St. Anthony of Padua/Most Precious Blood, the joint parishes he runs in Baltimore, visited a sick parishioner in the hospital, and comforted a bereaved family at a funeral home.

Krysiak is on call 24/7 for his Catholic parishes, doing everything, or almost everything, a priest would do. But the spry 79-year-old is not a priest — he’s a deacon.

”Everybody sees us on the altar and thinks we are almost like mini-priests,” Krysiak said. “Nobody realizes all the things that deacons do.”

For more than a millennium, the Roman Catholic Church relied on a corps of celibate priests to celebrate its sacraments, run its parishes, and offer spiritual guidance to its faithful. But the number of U.S. priests has plummeted from 59,000 in 1975 to 40,600 last year. Meanwhile, the country’s Catholic population has grown to 65 million, leaving thousands of parishes without a resident priest.


At the same time, permanent deacons in the U.S. have swelled from seven in 1971 to an estimated 17,000 in 2010. Worldwide, the permanent diaconate has expanded roughly 30 times faster than the priesthood since 2000, according to the Vatican, with much of the growth attributed to the United States.

As recipients of one of the three levels of ordination in the Roman Catholic Church, permanent deacons can perform almost all the sacraments, except celebrate the Eucharist, absolve penitents and anoint the sick.

Both very old and very new, the permanent diaconate dates to the New Testament, but later became subsumed as a stepping-stone to the priesthood.

Permanent deacons must be male, at least 35 in most dioceses, and spend three to four years intensely studying church history, moral theology, Scripture, canon law, liturgy and other subjects. Most are not paid for their work.


Straddling the border between lay Catholics and the professional priesthood, between the sacred and secular world, deacons are God’s middlemen, called to a busy life of holy service.

”When you take this step, you basically say ‘There go my weekends, my friends, my life as I knew it,'” said Deacon Greg Kandra, who works in the Diocese of Brooklyn and writes the popular blog “The Deacon’s Bench.”

What a doofus.  (Clearly, the Religion News Service is getting desperate.)  

Anyway, you can read more here.

Oh: and the photo at the top shows the processional for my ordination, exactly three years ago today: May 19, 2007.   Happy Anniversary, brothers. (And a special shout-out to our classmate  Jim Hynes, who will always be walking with us. Pray for us, brother, as we pray for you. We miss you.)  


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posted May 19, 2010 at 9:01 am

Congratulations on your third anniversary! May you enjoy many more years in service.

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Paula Gonzales Rohrbacher

posted May 19, 2010 at 10:44 am

Congratulations on your third anniversary Deacon Greg! Are you the one with the sunglasses looking at the camera?
[Yes. I have those transitional lenses, and didn’t realize they’d make me look like Brad Pitt on the red carpet at Cannes. But thank you for noticing :-). Dcn. G.]

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posted May 19, 2010 at 11:29 am

Great. This is wonderful.
Maybe, just maybe in 5-10 years a few hundred of these married “permanent” deacons are ordained to the priesthood.
This would be a very controlled, conservative way to have some married priests besides minister converts from Episcopal or Lutheran or Orthodox church.
The best mix or factors:
A married deacon who is theologically orthodox.
A married deacon with a rrack record of good behavior
A married deacon who is more or less established financially
A married deacon who is 50ish with NO YOUNG CHILDREN
A married deacon who is good with people
With this we avoid the problems of “Preacher’s Kids” that the Protestant ministers have. And we have an established man, good behavior who does not need $70K+ a year to live with a 2nd career.
I say IF we are going to ever have a significant married priests this is the way to do it; the only way to do it.

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Dave Norman

posted May 19, 2010 at 11:41 am

Congratulations on your 3rd Anniversary, and a prayer for those preparing for this call.

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Dcn Scott

posted May 19, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Happy anniversary to you and your brother deacons, Greg. Ad multos annos as you serve the Church of/in Brooklyn

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posted May 19, 2010 at 2:57 pm

The diaconate is not the way to get a married clergy “in the back door.” if deacons or others think it is,
then the diaconate will self destruct, IMHO. if men join the diaconate thinking or having this hidden agenda, then they are way off base.
Perhaps one day there will be a married priesthood, it will need to start with those who have a call to priesthood. the diaconate is an end in itself and not just a second best choice because the priesthood is not open to them if they are married.
[anthony…I agree with you. The diaconate is an end to itself. I have no interest in the priesthood, and neither do most of the other deacons I know. But my point — which the reporter, somehow, missed — is that the prominent presence of married clergy in most parishes may well make the concept of a married priesthood more acceptable — and thus seem more plausible — to both the people in the pews and the hierarchy. Dcn. G.]

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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted May 19, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Congratulations on your third anniversary Deacon Br–oops-Greg.
I agree with anthony-the diaconate is a vocation in and of itself and should not be used as a stalking horse for any other agenda. However, there are “married” deacons becoming priests–after their wives have died.
Also, I personally don’t like the words “permanent deacon.”
In Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic churches there are married priests. But bishops must be celibate and a priest whose wife has died may be consecrated a bishop. But I have never heard or read of a married Eastern priest being called a “permanent priest.”
As far as ordination to holy orders is concerned there is only one diaconate–not one order of “transitional deacons” and one of “permanent deacons.”
[Thanks, Deacon John. And I’m with you: the dividing line between “permanent” and “transitional” doesn’t help — and should be non-existent. It’s created, in effect, a two-tier system in the order. Dcn. G.]

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posted May 19, 2010 at 5:12 pm

I think anthony brings up an important point. We don’t want a return to the diaconate as just a “priest in training.” But Deacon John adds an important element to that thought, we don’t call some priests “permanent.”
Bishops are called from the ranks of priests. One could be ordained directly to the episcopacy, we have examples of it from the past. But we draw our bishops from the ranks of priests because that is where the most qualified candidates are. Not all priests become bishops and I imagine that those who view the priesthood as just a stepping stone to their “true vocation” of the episcopacy would be weeded out.
It seems reasonable to me to apply the same logic to married deacons. The diaconate *is* a vocational end in and of itself. But the reality of the episcopacy does not degrade the vocation of priest. There is no reason that one with a genuine call to the diaconate could not, later in life, be called to the priesthood. God is the one doing the calling after all.
With that in mind, if we are going to re-introduce a wider married priesthood, I think Goodguyex is on to the way to do it. Call them from married men who are later in life, men for whom the practical advantages of celibacy are not such an issue. And you know what, the men who would be the best candidates would just happen to be most likely in the diaconate. But we can do it like we do the episcopacy .. let the Church call them. That would weed out most of those who would just try to use the diaconate as a stepping stone to the priesthood that got them around the celibacy requirement.

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posted May 19, 2010 at 6:02 pm

the episcopacy is the fullness of priesthood. there is a sacramental connection to the two orders.
the diaconate does not participate in priestly orders. this ia a big difference.
and if God does call married men to the priesthood, i would not limit it to married deacons. he will call who he wants, but i will keep repeating IMHO the more the diaconate tries to be a back door for a married priesthood, the more they will dig their own grave…..

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Deacon Alexander Breviario

posted May 19, 2010 at 10:07 pm

Happy Third Anniversary my brothers!
Peace be with you!
May our angel Jim continue to watch over us…
PS. We should begin to plan a celebration for our 5th… I’m open to suggestions, seeing that we have two years to plan…

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Gerard Nadal

posted May 19, 2010 at 10:58 pm

Happy anniversary to all of you great men of the Deaconate. God Bless you all for your faithful care of us in your great ministry of service!

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posted May 20, 2010 at 6:40 am

No, men should not join the permanent diaconate in the anticipation of becoming priest. But that does not mean some of them should not become priests. Let’s leave a bit of mystery here.
Maybe 5-10% could become priests but they should not become deacons to become priests, I agree. I like the idea of possibilites without certainties.
Cardinal Ratzinger wanted to retire 5 years ago, but his plans unexpectantly changed. Something similar in some way could happen to a married “permanent” deacon if you get my drift. In other words “exceptions”.

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posted May 20, 2010 at 3:37 pm

Sure there are always exceptions to a rule. but i dont follow your example, PB16 was not just in the college of cardinals but was the dean. so he knew he had a chance at being called to papacy.
deacon are ordained to the “ministry of service” and not to the priesthood.
if there ever is a call to married priesthood in the church, it makes more sense to start the process with men who are called to the priesthood. and not with guys called and ordained to another order of the church.
but all this is just to much speculation, deacons should just try to be deacons and not all this speculation about something that is not even in the cards for now or the near future.

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