Frequent Asked Questions


Frequently Asked Questions

What’s a Deacon?

A deacon is an ordained minister of the Catholic Church, just as much clergy as a bishop and a priest.  A deacon (from diákonos, Greek for waiter or servant) is a sacramental sign of Christ, the servant-leader who humbly washed the feet of others while on earth.

Biblical Roots

In Acts 6, to counter discrimination and better serve local needs in an increasingly diverse Church, the twelve apostles told the community of disciples to “select from among yourselves seven men of good standing, full of the Spirit and of wisdom.”  The apostles “prayed and laid hands on” the seven, who then not only served their own communities, but — through preaching, miraculous signs, prophetic witness and even martyrdom – they also brought the Word of God to places like Ethiopia, Samaria, and Greece, greatly increasing the number of disciples.  

Today’s deacons continue this legacy of service to the Gospel.  Although the permanent diaconate waned some centuries later, it was thankfully restored after Vatican II in 1967 by Pope Paul IV, which then greatly contributed to the growth of African American clergy. Currently, as many as three hundred (2%) of active deacons are African American or Black.

That’s Cool, But What Do Deacons Do?

While our ministries may be part-time, there is no such thing as a “part-time” deacon!  A deacon is who we ARE, not what we do. Like all clergy, deacons are ministers of Word, Liturgy and Charity.  First, deacons proclaim, preach, and teach the Gospel. Second, as ministers of Liturgy, we baptize, witness marriages, preside at funerals and Eucharistic Adoration, bring communion to the sick, pray daily and lead the faithful in prayer.  Third, as ministers of Charity, deacons seek out the needy, direct Church resources to their needs, and lend our prophetic voice to eliminating injustices or inequities that cause such needs.  

Tell Me More!

All ordained clergy start as — and forever remain – deacons; just as all bishops are still priests.  “Transitional deacons” aspire to priesthood, but the vocation of “permanent deacons” is to serve Christ as deacons – permanently.  Whether we are transitional or permanent, the Church views both of us exactly the same – as deacons. 

Ordained persons serve the diocesan Church, including deacons. Bishops assign deacons to a perceived area of need (often within a parish) for which the deacon may have special gifts or talents.  Unlike priests, who take a vow of poverty, deacons must earn a separate living like anyone else; therefore, a bishop will not assign a deacon in ways detrimental to gainful employment.

May married men be ordained deacons?

Yes, the permanent diaconate is open to Catholic men over 35 years of age and most permanent deacons in active ministry are married (over 90%).  Once ordained, however, if his wife precedes him in death, a deacon may not remarry.

I’m Interested, Now What?

o find out more, have your pastor put you in touch with the Director of Deacons for your diocese for info about requirements and formation (3-5 years).  Also, contact local deacons or the National Association of Black Catholic Deacons (NABCD) for insight and continuing support.