What is a Permanent Deacon in the Catholic Church?
In the first generation of the Church, the Holy Spirit led the Apostles to select seven men as “deacons” to assist the bishops, and to assume responsibility of the more secular and temporal duties.
In the centuries that followed, the Church continued to grow under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Likewise the work of the deacons evolved into three major areas: liturgical, doctrinal, and charitable.
At the Second Vatican Council, on September 29, 1964 the Council Fathers approved the restoration of the diaconate as a permanent Order, a full part of the three-fold hierarchy of Holy Orders: bishop, priest, and deacon.
On June 18, 1967, Pope Paul VI issued “Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem,” that established the permanent diaconate for the Western Church. In May of 1968 the Roman Catholic bishops of the United States petitioned the Holy See for permission to restore the diaconate in the United States. On August 30, 1968, Pope Paul VI acceded to their request.
Today, in regard to the liturgical role, the deacon proclaims the Gospel, directs the prayers of the faithful, assists the celebrant at the altar and distributes Holy Communion.
In regard to the doctrinal role, teaching duties for deacons include giving instruction for initiation into the Christian community. In regard to charity, the deacon’s work consists of identifying the needs of the community and brings assistance to those in need and want.