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Theology & Ministry of Deacons
The Ministry of the Deacon
Saint John Paul II has said that the deacon’s ministry is “the Church’s service sacramentalized.” The deacon’s service in the Church’s ministry of word and liturgy would be severely deficient if his exemplary witness and assistance in the Church’s ministry of charity and justice did not accompany it. He also affirms that at the very heart of the diaconate is a calling to be a servant of the mysteries of Christ and to his brothers and sisters. These two dimensions are inseparably joined together and show the importance of the nature of the ministry which is given by ordination. (National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States, 36)
Deacons are public ministers in the Church, ordained for the three-fold ministries of Word, Liturgy and Charity. At present there are about 100 deacons serving in parishes and special ministries in the Diocese of Fort Worth. Deacons minister under the authority of the Bishop and are assigned to meet the needs of the diocese.
Theology and Ministry of Deacons
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Similarly, deacons must be dignified, not deceitful, not addicted to drink, not greedy for sordid gain, holding fast to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. Moreover, they should be tested first; then, if there is nothing against them, let them serve as deacons. Women, similarly, should be dignified, not slanderers, but temperate and faithful in everything. Deacons may be married only once and must manage their children and their households well. Thus those who serve well as deacons gain good standing and much confidence in their faith in Christ Jesus.1 Timothy 3:8-13; NABRE
Second Vatican Council
At a lower level of the hierarchy are deacons, upon whom hands are imposed 'not unto the priesthood, but unto a ministry of service.' For strengthened by sacramental grace, in communion with the bishop and his group of priests they serve in the diaconate of the liturgy, of the word, and of charity to the people of God. It is the duty of the deacon, according as it shall have been assigned to him by competent authority, to administer baptism solemnly, to be custodian and dispenser of the Eucharist, to assist at and bless marriages in the name of the Church, to bring Viaticum to the dying, to read the Sacred Scripture to the faithful, to instruct and exhort the people, to preside over the worship and prayer of the faithful, to administer sacramentals, to officiate at funeral and burial services. Dedicated to duties of charity and of administration, let deacons be mindful of the admonition of Blessed Polycarp: 'Be merciful, diligent, walking according to the truth of the Lord, who became the servant of all.Lumen Gentium, 29
Where episcopal conferences deem it opportune, the order of the diaconate should be restored as a permanent state of life according to the norms of the Constitution De Ecclesia. For there are men who actually carry out the functions of the deacon's office, either preaching the word of God as catechists, or presiding over scattered Christian communities in the name of the pastor and the bishop, or practicing charity in social or relief work. It is only right to strengthen them by the imposition of hands which has come down from the Apostles, and to bind them more closely to the altar, that they may carry out their ministry more effectively because of the sacramental grace of the diaconate.Ad Gentes, 16
Basic Norms for the Formation of Permanent Deacons
The diaconate is conferred through a special outpouring of the Spirit (ordination), which brings about in the one who receives it a specific conformation to Christ, Lord and servant of all. Quoting a text of the Constitutiones Ecclesiae Aegypticae, Lumen gentium (n. 29) defines the laying on of hands on the deacon as being not "ad sacerdotium sed ad ministerium," that is, not for the celebration of the Eucharist, but for service. This indication, together with the admonition of Saint Polycarp, also taken up again by Lumen gentium, (n. 29), outlines the specific theological identity of the deacon: a participation in the one ecclesiastical ministry, he is a specific sacramental sign, in the Church, of Christ the servant. His role is to ‘express the needs and desires of the Christian communities’ and to be ‘a driving force for service, or diakonia,’ which is an essential part of the mission of the Church.Basic Norms, 5
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