Does anyone know why the vocation of the permanent diaconate took off in the dioceses of the US, and in a few other regions, but not so much on a global scale? In most of the dioceses of Western Canada the permanent diaconate was never restored post-Vatican II and most lay faithful, in my experience, don’t even know what a deacon is. The same could be said of Latin America from what I have seen. Outside of the US it seems a lot of bishops have had no or little interest in restoring it. The Archdiocese of Vancouver in Western Canada just a few years ago finally instituted, for the first time in its history, a formation program for the diaconate, so they will start to see some there…
On this board I find posters seem to take it for granted that the diaconate is an option, but it seems to me that it is largely a US phenomenon.
Can anyone comment on the situation in Europe, or Africa, or Asia?


From what little I know, the restoration of the diaconate was meant primarily for the “missionary” outreach of the Church in the areas of the world where priests were not readily available. This never occurred. Instead, the US has the greatest percentage of deacons. We are still trying to figure out why this has happened. I trust that the Holy Spirit has much to o with it, but we do not know where it will lead.


From what I’ve read, there are about 17,000 permanent deacons in the U.S., which is roughly 50% of the world’s total. It would be very interesting to know why the implementation of the permanent diaconate developed as it did. Perhaps one, but only one, factor could be that the U.S. bishops had relatively quick access to Catholic teaching institutions with respect to the academic formation of diaconal candidates. It’s also my sense from the deacons I know that many have liturgcal and parish-ministry oriented functions as opposed to other kinds of outreach. Clearly the restoration of the permanent diaconate took place coinciding with the decline in parish priests and U.S. vocations, creating many ministerial holes to fill. Perhaps the U.S. supply of candidates presented with levels of education that made for a better fit. And perhaps “clericalism” - not that it isn’t a U.S. problem as well - may also have been an influence in more traditional Catholic cultures, slowing-down both the acceptance and understanding of the permanent diaconate.


This was one of the things I thought as well. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but did the decline in Priests most heavily impact the US or is it quite prevalent all over this beautiful planet?


The United States still has one of the highest ratio of priests to people. The rest of the world has a lower rate. So I don’t believe it was the “shortage” in the US that prompted such an increase in the diaconate. Most deacons do not see themselves as replacements for the priestly vocation, and most do have work (of service and charity) outside the parish.


Exactly. Americans on this forum constantly go on about a severe priest shortage, but the reality is Americans are ABUNDANTLY blessed compared to much of the world with a ratio of priests to people most of us would kill for…
Now Latin America has a true priest shortage, which is probably part of the reason why Protestant missionaries have been so successful at converting poorly catechised Catholics. Latin America also has virtually no permanent deacons…


I didn’t mean for it to sound that way as we all know that deacons are not mini priests. The fact is though, they are assigned as the bishop sees fit and sometimes has them doing things that a priest might also had done in the past with some items (RCIA, Pre Cana, taking communion to the sick, prison ministry, etc).

Boy, I really hope that’s not the case regarding the killing part. I think God would be really disappointed.


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