The Permanent Diaconate in the Diocese of Cork and Ross
Corkonians are becoming familiar with the sight of deacons helping at the altar in some churches, since our first permanent deacons were ordained in 2017. These deacons minister in a number of city parishes, eg Mayfield, St Patrick’s, The Lough and Dennehy’s Cross, as well as Ballinhassig and Kinsale in south County Cork.
As well as preaching during the Mass, deacons baptise and officiate at funerals and weddings - and help with much of the pastoral work conducted in parishes. They are called to serve the poor and serve at the altar: many deacons coordinate the parish’s ministry to the poor, through the St Vincent de Paul Society and other groups.
What is a Permanent Deacon?
In the gospels we see how the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth was characterised by humble service. He called his disciples to imitate him.
At the Last Supper, after he washed the feet of his Apostles, Jesus said: “I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you” (John 13:15).
In the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 6: 2-4) we read how Stephen and six others were appointed by the apostles to assist them in their mission, specifically through works of charity. Their hallmark was service and works of charity.
The Permanent Deacon answers the call of Jesus and his Church in three specific ways: through the ministry of Charity, the ministry of the Word and the ministry of the Altar.
The Ministry of Charity
- To service the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised;
- To coordinate the local Church’s response to their needs;
- To have a special care for matters of social justice;
- To foster and support parish groups and organisations.
The Ministry of Word
- To proclaim the Gospel and sometimes preach at Mass and other religious services;
- To help people in their study of the Scriptures and to lead them in prayer.
The Ministry of the Altar
- To assist the Bishop or priest at Mass;
- To distribute Holy Communion at Mass, in hospital and in the homes of the sick, the housebound and the dying;
- To celebrate baptisms, to officiate at weddings and to assist at funerals.
Who are Permanent Deacons?
These are men who remain deacons all their lives, one of the most notable being St Francis of Assisi. Candidates for the Permanent Diaconate may be married or unmarried.
The Church requires the married candidate for Permanent Diaconate to be, at least, 35 years of age. This requirement enables the candidate and his wife to discern his vocation to the Permanent Diaconate within the totality of their married life and vocation.
Likewise candidates who are single must be, at least, 35 years of age. In keeping with the tradition of the Church, those who are ordained as single men make a solemn promise of celibacy. In Ireland the upper age for ordination to the Permanent Diaconate is 60 years.
Discerning the call to be a deacon
To discern whether or not God is calling him to the Permanent Diaconate, a candidate undertakes a period of prayerful reflection, discernment and training. An introductory year of vocational discernment is followed by three years of personal, intellectual and pastoral formation. The process of discernment and formation is facilitated by a team led by a Director of Formation appointed by the Bishop.
For more information, contact Fr Bernard Cotter