What Distinguishes the Service of a Deacon
Deacons do not have a monopoly on service. The distinctiveness of the deacon's service is sacramental. As the American Bishops reflect: "What all in the Church are to be and to do is made visible and effective by the liturgical consecration and empowerment of some members among them. Within the one great sacrament of Jesus Christ, which is the church, the sacrament of orders symbolizes at once the unity and the diversity of Christian service.
What Deacons Do
As living reminders of what it means to be Disciples of Christ and members of the Church, a deacon's ministry evolves in response to specific needs and is based on his God-given talent. There are three dimensions of diaconal service: ministry of love and justice, ministry of the Word of God, and the ministry within the liturgy. So deacons prepare the faithful to receive the sacraments and to carry out their vocations as baptized Christians. They might preach, teach, counsel and give spiritual guidance. They assist bishops and priests in liturgical celebrations. They care for the abused, infirmed, young and old, the other-abled, bereaved, divorced, dying, imprisoned and victims of oppression. Many deacons organize groups to work for peace and social justice, speak for the voiceless and make Christians aware of their wider responsibilities. They baptize, witness marriages and preside at funerals. Whatever they do, deacons make visible the servanthood of Christ.
The Wives and Families of Deacons
Although some deacons are single, the vast majority of deacons are married and share their dedication to ministry with their wives. Deacons serve the diocese, but that service originates in the home through spousal and parental relationships. A deacon is a servant all the time and his family always comes first. Ministry is understood in a holistic manner; service can never be compartmentalized. Service rendered in the context of the family may well be the most needed ministry, especially in the culture we live in. Diaconal families are enriched and challenged by ministry. In that way, diaconal families are on the " cutting edge" of where the Church is moving today, rediscovering the importance of ministry within and flowing from the home, the domestic Church.
Community and Assembly
Deacons are "team players", not "lone rangers". Mutual support is nurtured through formal and informal gatherings of deacons and their families. Diaconal families become resources to one another and encourage one another in our call to greatness through service. The diaconal assembly is a voice in the diocese, sharing with the bishop the concerns of the People of God.
The Permanent Diaconate - A Heritage of Service
A good number of deacons are numbered among the saints celebrated by the Church throughout the liturgical year. Stephen, the Christian martyr, was one of the original seven deacons in the Acts of the Apostles. Lawrence, second only to Peter and Paul in veneration, was untiring in his efforts to serve the greatest treasures of the Church of Rome, its poor. He was also known for his humor as he faced a martyr's death. The great Francis of Assisi universally recognized as a champion of peace, served the Church as a deacon.