The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

What’s a deacon do?

This website today posted a few answers — though it’s riddled with some pretty basic mistakes. (“Transitory” deacons? “Deaconate”?) Check it out and see what you think.

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Deacon Chick

posted August 16, 2010 at 2:26 pm

It is so riddled with mistakes as to be of little use and may be quite misleading. I am unaware of any requirement in any diocese that the wives and children of deacons must be involved in ministry. In Chicago it is an explicit and not implied expectation that the deacon be able to financially provide for himself and his family. Reading the article, one would be led to believe that permanent deacons are relatively common in religious communities and that is certainly not the case.
Usually I think the dissemination of any information on the diaconate (note, not “deaconate” as in the article) is useful — not in this case however.

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posted August 16, 2010 at 3:14 pm

I am in agreement with Dcn. Chick. Articles like this are why we have an identity problem. Many, if not most practicing Catholics, have no idea what being a deacon or living the life of a deacon is all about. This article doesn’t help that cause.
The amount of disinformation in this article is scary. I guess I should start checking the mailbox for my stipend check – maybe that could be my wife’s “required” ministry?!?!?
I have seen a trend in my travels of having “deacon couples” listed in bulletins and on websites. I see that they remove the deacons from the clergy area and put the listing with the ministries such as Knights of Columbus, Mens/Women’s clubs, Sewing circles, pottery club for underdeveloped dalmation puppies, etc. And the identity crisis continues.
I love my wife and child and they love me but I didn’t see them laying on the floor of the church when I was ordained. My wife is a very private person and due to circumstance of her youth, wants absolutely no part of being in the public eye. In fact, she shies away from it. But in cities like Chicago, the people reading the bulletins and looking up the websites see “deacon couples” listed and may indeed believe what was written here. The tendency is to blur the line between ordained cleric and laity. Truth be told, you are either one or the other as you can’t have a foot in both rings. Our wives, no matter how great, loving, strong, beautiful, faithful, etc., are not ordained with us and never required to serve with us if they do not want to do so.
Now in the same breath, I love it when my wife and I can do ministry together. In her mind, our child is top priority when I am ministering so we don’t get to do it as often as we would like.
I seem to harp on this only for one reason: Your ability to be effective in your ministry is only helped with the proper identity. If people do not understand who you are and what you are called to do and why you are doing it, the chance of failure increases . . . or the chance of being more effective decreases. Now, the person himself has to live the call of the diaconate to be understood and accepted by the community. Hopefully that was discerned by the community prior to his ordination into the diaconate. The clear understanding of the diaconate inside the church is necessary to make the mission of Word, Liturgy, and Charity, effective in the lives of the people we serve.

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posted August 16, 2010 at 3:22 pm

There seems to be a lack of understanding on the roles of deacons in the Catholic Church, not only outside the Church, but also many Catholics are ignorant of what the requirements and role of the deacon are within the Church. I think we need to educate and inform (I say “we” as am training for the deaconate in the Archdiocese of Boston) as to the proper place of deacons, their vocation and their role in Catholic life.

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Deacon Dennie Nickell

posted August 16, 2010 at 9:49 pm

I fully agree with Dcn. Chick. I called the Chancery today and they told me my stipend check “was in the mail. While the Diocese of San Diego requires that wives, as far as possible, to participate in diaconate formation, there is no requirement that they or the couple’s children be involved in church ministry. Although, of course, many are.

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Deacon Norb

posted August 17, 2010 at 6:59 am

Which brings up the whole “PW/PK syndrome” (Preacher’s wife/ preacher’s kids syndrome).
As were a fair number of my deacon colleagues locally, I was ordained when my wife and I still had young children. Both of us had to work constantly to make sure every one of our children had a reasonably normal life. It helped that my ministry station was NOT in my home parish (those colleagues of mine whose ministry was in their home parish indicated that the problem was much worse for them).
My wife, much like “Post-DIT’s” one, is a private person and is far more comfortable being heavily involved with our own family but she is also a professional on her own right and her time is very often not her own.
She is rather proud to claim that she is the wife of a deacon (and is tirelessly supportive of MY ministry) but REFUSES to accept the cultural unreality of being involved as a “Deacon’s Wife” and all the emotional and pastoral baggage that comes with it.

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Deacon Frank

posted August 17, 2010 at 1:06 pm

What does the deacon do?
The best answer I received was while I was in formation. It was from our deacon director. He said:
“It’s not what a deacon does. It’s who is the deacon, the man? Each one of us called, as unqualified as we are, by the Lord, have unique gifts and talents that the Holy Spirit can use in our diaconal ministrial capacity to build-up the body of Christ.” No two deacons have identical talents & gifts; or ministries.
There’s a difference between having a career or job and a vocational calling to the diaconate. Having a career we’re in control by human standards. Having a diaconal vocation: God’s in control and never forget it.
As far as the wife and kids. They were not ordained, I was [period]. To put unrealistic demands on them isn’t “pastoral” at all. Is it? My wife has her own unique lay ministries. I’m asked to help when needed. I ask for her help when appropriate.
If in my opinion, a deacon-candidate & wife needs the ‘diaconate’ to keep them “busy”; well maybe just maybe more discernment may be needed. God’s work and the Church’s mission isn’t busy work! It’s serious spiritual, emotional, etc, and daily cooperating with Jesus Christ in salvation history.
St Padre Pio may have summed up a slogan for the deacon: “Pray, hope, and don’t worry.” So, who is the deacon? God doesn’t called the qualified, to diaconal ministry, he qualifies the called.
Be available.
Deacon Frank

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Candidate Tim S.

posted August 17, 2010 at 2:56 pm

If I had come across this article while discerning entry into the diaconate program I would have ran away as fast as possible. Especially when I read this.
>>Permanent Deacons’ educational background has to be in conformity with that of a regular priesthood program. They usually have minimum Theology and Philosophy degrees, just like those studying to become priests.

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posted August 17, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Candidate Tim:
Super glad you noted that. In my town there are maybe seven deacons: Four active and three in “senior/retired” status. Those seven include a deacon who is a retired insurance expert, one who is a retired college professor, two who are retired auto-workers, one who is a retired small-town newspaper business manager, one who is still working as an engineer with an auto parts company, and other who works full-time for the church in an administrative post. Among them: one with a doctorate degree, one with a masters degree, one with a baccalaureate degree, and four with no degree at all. Only one of those three with any degrees at all has it in theology/philosophy/religious studies.
The one “Candidate” in our town has an MBA in Organizational Development and Industrial Training.

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Monroe Mouse

posted August 17, 2010 at 8:50 pm

This part took me by surprise:
>>As such, it’s vital that the Deacon, his wife, plus the child (or children) must occupy vital roles in the parish life, in capacities that their professions may have enabled them to do so. The wife is also required and expected to render services for the Church, in accordance to her training and qualifications. Their child (or children) will also take active leadership roles, too, in the many activities where children are allowed to participate, in the same parish.
I am a deacon’s kid. My dad was ordained when I was still in grade school.
Fact: my siblings and I didn’t have any more responsibility or leadership in our parish than children from any other family. Our involvement in church was similar to students from other Catholic families, such as bringing up the offering, volunteering as altar server, or singing in choir as we personally were interested in that activity.
My siblings and I were / are still / proud of what our dad does in the church. But it’s really unfair to assume that a deacon’s ministry is an entire family’s ministry — or that his kids are any different than other kids.
I got through high school without much fuss or extra expectations from other people. Some classmates did not connect us to the same family until our senior year. There just wasn’t reason for the discussion to come up. Even so, my two best friends were girls who whose fathers were pastors in other Christian denominations. We could certainly relate to each other’s family stories!
My sisters, however, were known on campus as “so and so’s kids.”

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Sub-deacon Lazarus

posted August 17, 2010 at 10:14 pm

You think it is hard explaining to someone what a Deacon is, you should try explaining what a Sub-Deacon is. And my stipend is 2 x yours 2 x $0.0 =
Sub-deacon Lazarus (Orthodox)

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Paula Gonzales Rohrbacher

posted August 18, 2010 at 11:22 am

I found the article to be misleading and inaccurate. I took no vows at my husband’s ordination and, while I am involved in several ministries in my parish and diocese, do not feel compelled to do so because of my husband’s status as a permanent deacon. My children have also been very involved in parish life, but do so because they are members of the parish, not because their dad is a deacon.
I object to the term “deacon couple”! I try to be a good example and live the life of a faithful Catholic Christian because I am called to do so by my baptism, not because I am the wife of a deacon.

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