Restoration of the Diaconate
The restoration of the diaconate came about during the Second Vatican Council. “At the lower level of the hierarchy are deacons, upon whom hands are imposed ‘not unto the priesthood, but unto a ministry of service.’” (Lumen Gentium 29).
The deacon is a member of the clergy and, like the priest, shares in the ministry of the bishop. Historically, the deacon and bishop worked closely together in meeting the spiritual and temporal needs of others. The diaconate is a distinct order that imitates Christ in service to church and society. The diaconate as a permanent ministry was restored by Pope Paul VI, on June 18, 1967, upon the recommendation of the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council. In 1969 the Bishops of Canada initiated the ministry in this country. In 1993 the Archdiocese of Kingston ordained its first permanent deacons.
When Pope Paul VI implemented this decree in his Apostolic letter “motu propio” (on his own initiative), Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, he re-established the permanent diaconate in the Latin Church: He wrote the permanent diaconate is “not to be considered as a step towards the priesthood, but by its own character, as indelible, with its particular grace, to enrich all those who are called to it, and could dedicate their time to the ‘mysteries of Christ and His Church,’ in a stable manner.”
Therefore, a deacon is a man, single or married, that is called to be the Sacramental Presence of Christ who serves and, by virtue of the imposition of hands and the Prayer of Consecration, is configured in Christ through the Holy Spirit, with a gift and a permanent promise to participate in a special way in the mission and the grace of Christ, who came “to serve and not to be served.” Christ, throughout the life and service of a deacon, continues to serve His own, touching their lives and responding to their needs as He did during His ministry on earth.
This diakonía, or service, is exercised in the Church in three different ways. Deacons are called to live a threefold ministry of service.