In the Catholic hierarchy, the Pope is at the top, followed by cardinals, bishops, priests and deacons in that order. There are two types of deacons in the Catholic Church: permanent deacons and transitional deacons. Only men can be deacons; it is an ordained position and only men can be ordained in the Catholic Church.
Permanent deacons are ordained to the Catholic Church and have no intentions of becoming a priest. Deacons may be married or single. However, if they are not married at the time they are ordained, they cannot marry after and are expected to live a life of celibacy. Should a deacon’s wife pass before he does, he is not permitted to remarry. If divorced, a deacon must receive an annulment from the church before he can be ordained.
Transitional deacons are seminary students in the process of becoming ordained priests. They serve as deacons for one year and are then ordained by the bishop as priests. Read on for more information on how to become a catholic deacon.
The Role of the Deacon
Both permanent and transitional deacons perform the same duties in the church. Deacons aid priests in their parish duties by visiting the sick, providing spiritual guidance in the community and acting as a servant of God. In addition, deacons can witness marriages, perform baptisms, preside over funeral and burial services outside of Mass, distribute the Holy Communion and preach the homily (a sermon given after the Gospel of Mass).
Deacons are also expected to pray the Liturgy of the Hours each day. These are the 150 Psalms and Scriptural readings from the Old and New Testament that every cleric is expected to pray daily. Deacons hold secular jobs to provide for themselves and their families.
How to Become a Catholic Deacon
There are several requirements a deacon must meet. Deacons must be at least 35 years old and practicing, baptized members of the Roman Catholic Church. If baptized as an adult, a deacon must have belonged to the church for at least five years prior to being ordained.
As mentioned above, deacons must satisfy certain marriage requirements. If married, he must ensure the Church recognizes the marriage. If divorced, he must seek an annulment. Deacons may not remarry. If single or widowed, deacons are expected to lead a life of celibacy. Of course, transitional deacons may not be married, as they are working toward priesthood.
Deacons must meet education requirements, as well. They must have earned a high school diploma or GED. Deacons should be in good health and be able to dedicate time to the formation program, a five-year course of study for prospective deacons.
Deacons should discuss the decision with God, their families and their priest. They should pray for guidance to ensure the path is sanctioned and discuss the desire to join the diaconate with their families. If married, a deacon must receive the consent of his wife to proceed. Speaking with a priest will help a deacon decide if the life of a cleric is right for him.
Once a deacon has met these requirements, he may submit an application to the diocesan diaconate office through his priest. The priest will send a letter of recommendation, confirming that the applicant is in good standing with the Church.
The application process includes intensive screening. Deacons can expect several rounds of interviews. If married, a deacon’s wife will also be interviewed, as will any children the couple has still living at home. Deacons may be required to submit an application for canonical dispensations for past misconduct and agree to a psychological evaluation.
Deacons must also submit a multitude of paperwork along with their applications. Candidates for the diaconate should compile and include a certificate of baptism, confirmation of marriage (if applicable), proof of age, a recent photograph of themselves, a recent photography of their spouse (if applicable), a letter of consent from their spouse (if applicable), letters of recommendation (including one from a current employer), recent medical records, academic transcript, background check, proof of legal residency and a report from the rector where the candidate spent time in formation.
Once all the required documents have been submitted, the diocesan diaconate committee will review and come to a decision. If the applicant is deemed ready by the committee, the bishop will then make the final decision.
Of course, this process applies only to permanent deacons. Transitional deacons fulfill many of these obligations by attending seminary. Those interested in becoming a cleric can enhance their understanding of doctrine and discipleship through theology courses. Online theology degree programs offer classes that serve as an excellent supplement to bible study.