P.O. Box 1730
Springfield, MA 01102-1730


Tel: 413-452-0674
Tel: 413-452-0676

"Out of love, place yourselves at one another's service"

(Gal. 5:13)

Diaconate – What does it mean?

Diaconate is a ministry deeply rooted in Scriptural accounts of the early church.  The word “deacon” comes from the Greek word “diakonia,” which means “to serve.”  It is grounded in one of the basic messages of the Gospel that says, “unless you serve others, you cannot enter the Kingdom.”  As Christianity grew, it was necessary to appoint men as deacons to work alongside the apostles.  In Acts 6:1-6, apostles laid their hands on deacons, wise men full of the Holy Spirit, to assist them in caring for the needs of people.

On January 15, 1983, Bishop Joseph Maguire ordained 19 men as the first Deacons to administer and serve the spiritual needs of the people throughout the Diocese of Springfield.

Currently, there are 75 active Deacons serving in our diocese.  In addition,

  • Our Class of 2017, was ordained on May 20, 2017

  • Our Class of 2019, consisting of 6 aspirants, entered their 2nd year in August 2016 . 

  • Our Class of 2021, starts their Diaconate Journey in August 2017.

 

Diaconate Celebrations

Class of 2017

Class of 2017

The thirteenth class of deacons were ordained in the Diocese of Springfield on Saturday, May 20, 2017 at St. Michael’s Cathedral in Springfield, MA.

The Class of 2017 consisted of nine men from all over the Diocese.  We wish them well in their ministries as deacons!

 

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Important Role of Deacons

There are many diverse ministries within the Church.  The “ordained” ministries are those of Bishop, Priest and Deacon.  These are three complementary ways of sharing more fully the one priesthood of Christ conferred on all through baptism.

Whether ordained or non-ordained, all ministries work together to make the Church a fuller sign of Christ’s presence.  The Church’s mission is to carry out the mission of Christ and this is done by different people using different gifts, but all working together to build up the Kingdom.

The ministry of Deacon is found in the New Testament.  That order today is being adapted to meet the contemporary needs of the Church.  The Diaconate provides new demands and opportunities for service to the People of God.  There is an ever-present need for persons in contemporary society to hear the message of Christ and to experience the witness of service in His Name.

Resources

National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States

National Directory

 

The Official Handbook of the Permanent Diaconate for the Diocese of Springfield

Diocese of Springfield – Deacon Handbook

 

How a deacon can serve the people of God

Possible Ministries

Ministry to the sick and aged, to the widowed and divorced

Pastoral Counseling

Religious Education, Sacramental Preparation

Parish Visitation of Families

Liturgical Celebration (Baptisms, Marriages, Funeral Services, Communion Services, Preaching, Presiding at Prayer Services)

Youth Ministry – Campus Ministry

Mentoring of Lectors, Eucharistic Ministers, etc.

 

 

Specialized Ministries

Ministry to the workplace

Prison Ministry

Hospitals and Nursing Homes

Ministry to the physically, mentally and emotionally handicapped

Marriage and Family Enrichment Programs

Social Justice Ministry

And many other important ministries already existing such as inner-city ministries and other Church-related offices and agencies

 

 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a deacon?

A deacon is an ordained minister of the Church; he is a person of faith called to serve God and people as an official representative of the servant Church.

Is he a priest or preparing to become a priest?

No! The permanent deacon is not a priest, a substitute for a priest or preparing to be ordained a priest.  While he often performs duties that priests also perform, the diaconate exists in its own right.

Is he a layman?

The deacon is not a layman.  He is ordained but there are differences in lifestyle when compared to other ordained persons.

May deacons marry?

Deacons may marry before ordination, but a married deacon may not remarry after the death of a spouse and a single deacon must remain celibate.

Do the demands of the Diaconate put a strain on the marriage of the deacon?

There is always that possibility.  The aspiring candidates for ordination as a deacon    must discuss his intentions with his wife and family.  In fact, the Diocese requires that the spouse give her consent before the candidate will be accepted.

Is the deacon paid for his work?

He is not paid for his ministry.  Few deacons work full-time in ministry.  The deacon is usually expected to support himself and his family from his secular occupation.

Is a deacon expected to take time off from his career to perform his ministries?

No, at the present time.  Diaconal ministry will be performed during non-working hours, which will most likely mean evenings and weekends.

It should be understood by all to whom the Deacon renders service that his family obligations always come first.  Even his job takes priority over his ministry because this is the means of his livelihood.  In the third place are his duties as Deacon.

Candidates for the diaconate will so arrange their lives that such conflicts among their roles will ordinarily be avoided.  Not to be able to balance the three dimensions of family, job and service to the Church on a regular basis would be interpreted as a sign that the candidate is called to a vocation other than that of Deacon.

What does a deacon do?

First, the deacon is to be active in charitable work and any work of service.  This may involve ministry to the sick, the aged, the poor, prison ministry, campus ministry, or youth ministry.  The possibilities are limitless; the deacon is called to initiate ministries where needs are perceived.

Second, the deacon preaches the Word.  At liturgical services he reads the Gospel and may preach the homily.  He also preaches the word by working in adult education, religious education programs, sacramental preparation, etc.

Third, while the deacon does not celebrate the Eucharist as do the bishop or priest, he assists at the Eucharist.  He is an ordinary minister of the Eucharist.  He may also officiate at Benediction, administer sacraments, baptize solemnly, bless marriages and preside at wakes, funerals and burials.

Why have we never heard about deacons?

The first deacons were commissioned by the Apostles themselves but in the Fourth Century, for reasons too complex to outline here, the role of Deacon began to decline as the role of priest became more important.  In the Middle Ages the permanent diaconate was suppressed for a variety of reasons and from then on the Diaconate was seen as the final step to priesthood.  This view was held until the Second Vatican Council when it was decided to reinstitute the concept of the permanent diaconate.

Does the deacon take the place of such people as Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, Lectors or Home Visitors?

No!  The role of the deacon is that of one who works side by side with others, who enables and encourages the service of all.  Remember the deacon is the visible and official reminder of what we all are called to do: serve.

Are deacons transferred?

Yes, Deacons are assigned by the Bishop where their services are needed.  They should expect to perform their ministry in parishes and institutions within a reasonable distance from their homes.

Does the deacon wear special clothing and how are we to address him?

At liturgical services, the deacon wears vestments appropriate to the Diaconate.  Apart from liturgy, however, there is no official garb.  While the official title of the deacon is “Deacon”, this is not used except in correspondence.  Call the deacon what you would call him as a layman.  People should be at ease with the deacon.  The general rule is no special garb or titles.

How are deacons prepared?

The formation program will normally demand of candidates a time commitment of at least two nights per week and six weekends per year over a four year period.  It will include the following components:

Spiritual Formation– Pastoral Formation– Academic Formation

A program for wives of candidates will be offered as needed to assist the families of candidates adjust to the demands of formation and future ministry.  Wives have the option to attend most of the classes with their husbands but it is not mandatory or expected.

Can you apply to the Diaconate if you have young children?

It should be clearly understood that both ordination to the diaconate and marriage are sacraments.  Married men seeking to enter the diaconate must have the full cooperation and encouragement from their spouses.  In addition, families with young children at home may require more in-depth discernment and review by both the applicant and the Board.  Care of children is a sacred obligation that should not be neglected as someone pursues the possibility of ordination to the Diaconate since ordination does not diminish one’s obligation to the vocation of marriage.  As a rule of thumb, a deacon’s priorities should be: first family; second job; third diaconate.

Why have deacons?

We sometimes forget that the role of the Church is to be servant.  Now all of us are called to service and in this sense the deacon (also bishops and priests) do nothing unusual.  But the ordination of a man to the diaconate is a public, permanent and visible sign of the official teaching of the Church that everyone must serve.  The deacon provides leadership in service and highlights the essential role of servant to which we are called.

Many needs for service are met by dedicated laymen and laywomen.  The ministry of deacon must not infringe on the role of the laity.  Pope Paul VI stated that the Deacon’s role is to be a facilitator of the lay apostolate.  Vatican II decided to restore the Diaconate to a permanent status for many reasons:

  • to restore the fullness of “orders” as it was in the early Church (Acts 6:1-6; 1Timothy 3:8-13; Philippians 1:1) not as an archeological antique but as a rediscovered treasury of grace;
  • To strengthen, with the help of the Sacrament of Orders, people who were already doing diaconal ministry;
  • To confirm their ministry by making it more official and recognizable;
  • To witness to the Church’s concern for the needy by making that ministry of service more official and visible.  Deacons are a sign of the Servant Church.
  • To promote the continued ministry by requiring of Deacons a permanent commitment.

Charitable service is the main area of the Deacon’s ministry.  All Christians are called to charity but the Deacon is officially sent or commissioned by the Church to bring Christ and His Good News to those in need.  The Deacon inspires, encourages and enables others in their ministries, taking care not to minimize or overshadow the efforts of others.