What is a deacon? How to become a deacon?


I am trying to discern my spiritual calling. I am 24 right now and I am sure I am not called to the priesthood. I am currently pursuing a master's degree in Computer Science.

Since my teenage, I have felt a calling from God to work for his kingdom. I am not sure what God has in mind for me and I want to keep myself open to what he wants to do in my life. I have found out that there is a way for lay people to minister in the church, i.e. being a deacon. But I don't know what it is all about. Could someone please guide me in this.



I don’t think that Deacons are lay people. I believe they are members of the clergy. It is certainly an important ministry. I think Lumen Gentium talks about the role of the permenant diaconate.


Deacons have received the power to Marry and Baptize, but they cannot perform Confirmation the Mass or Penance, or Last Rites. Most typically, the deacon position is filled by a young man who is studying for the priesthood. Becoming a Deacon is the last step before receiving full Holy Orders.

However, increasingly, due to the shortage of priests, some parishes are asking for laymen to consider becoming Deacons, as Deacons can be married. In that route it requires at least 2 years of study ( maybe 3). And typically - don’t hold me to this - they would like to have retired laymen, who can dedicate the remaining healthy years of their life to the Church and truly be an assitant to the priests and the parish as needed, when needed, where needed instead of a hobby or a weekend warrior type.

St. Francis of Assisi was a Deacon. He never accepted full Holy Orders and became a priest.


[quote="Julian0404, post:3, topic:198652"]

St. Francis of Assisi was a Deacon. He never accepted full Holy Orders and became a priest.


Thanks for this information!!! :)


The Deacon directory should be able to answer most all of your questions (it is available free): usccb.org/deacon/DeaconDirectory.pdf
Also see the US Conference of Catholic Bishops site: usccb.org/deacon/

The Arch-Diocese of Detroit has an informative site on the Permanent Diaconate Vocation


I believe that you are to young to become a permanent deacon. Most dioceses I’ve read about require you to be a minimum of 35 years old, and your children, if you have them, need to be older than infants. Your wife must also be on-board and accepting of this vocation. The schooling can be long also, about 5 years I believe and many dioceses would like you to already have some amount of college. So the requirements can be abit tough.

Their are many ways to serve the Church in the meantime though as a lecturer, choir member, Eucharistic Minister or usher, all of which show your pastor your an active parish member and all are good pre-requisites for the diaconate. You might also look into joining a third order, confraternity, or prayer group also. There are many ways to serve…:slight_smile:


You may be too young for the diaconate but have you ever considered being a lay third order-Franciscan, Dominican, Etc. They have great spirituality and most members are active in their parishes in many ministries.

Good luck


I am not sure what God has in mind for me. I am still discerning.


just some clarifications on this

a. anyone can baptize, even non-Christians, as long as there is intent to baptize (intention of bringing the person into the Church), the Trinitarian formula (I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit), and of course water, either poured on the head or submersion
b. Marriage is a sacrament given by the two people being married. the Deacon, or Priest, or Bishop are not the ministers of the Sacrament, the two people being married are. the Sacrament requires that the couple freely conscent to being married to one another, and do so in front of a witness of the Church. that is where the Deacon/Priest/Bishop comes in, to witness the conferring of the Sacrament of Matrimony, not to adminster it
c. Deacons are Ordinary Ministers of the Holy Eucharist
d. the Deacon’s ministry is proclaiming the Word of God. thus in any mass that there is a Deacon, he will be the one to read the Gospel, even if the Archbishop is the celebrant


Not just anyone can baptize, this is probably not exactly what you meant to say. A non Christian cannot baptize someone into Christianity. You cannot give what you do not possess. Any Christian can baptize that is correct; however, only in a moment of grave danger of death.

Lay minister in the Catholic Church cannot baptize in normal circumstance, only an ordinary minister such as bishop, priest or deacon; which the bishop is all three.

The deacon is a member of the clergy, an ordained member. He is part of the hierarchy of the Church and as stated an ordinary minister of Holy Communion.

Only the priest is given faculties to forgive sin; confession and the anointing of the sick. Therefore the deacon is not an ordinary minister of the sacrament of reconciliation or anointing of the sick.

The deacon does proclaim the Gospel in Mass and sometimes preaches the homily, but remember the first called to the diaconate were not called to preach the Word; so this is not the first call of the deacon. Diakonia means service, which is the deacon’s first call; serve the sick and the destitute or the poor.

As far as your age goes, it depends on your diocese. 35 is the minimum ordination age requirement for the married deacon; while 25 is the minimum requirement for the single. However the Church in the United States does not ordain anyone to the diaconate under 35, (I think this is the case.)

Anyway, as someone mentioned before, it is not a lay minister’s position or job to be a deacon. He is most definitely clergy.


Sorry, I forgot to mention about formation. The general requirement is 1 year of formal discernment meetings and 3 years of formation for a total of 4. Most require more than that. My diocese requires 1 year formal discernment and 4 years of formation, 5 years total.

Many of the courses we take are the same instructors and requirements as the seminarians.


Choy is correct; in fact a non-baptised person can baptise in a grave situation so long as they possess the right intent. See CCC 1256:


This is possible because the effects of baptism are not communicated by the person who baptises, but are a direct action of the Holy Spirit occurring through the valid and licit administration of the sacrament.


The CCC is quite clear and I stand corrected. On the other hand, Canon Law is not quite as plain and simple as the CCC. In section 2, the last sentence leads one to believe this instruction is for the baptized, i.e. Christian faithful, then it would a non Christian, or non baptized Christian. My studies have been much more thorough on canon law than the catechism as of late. The last 3 semesters have included canon law, not the CCC. I guess that is where my comment was rooted.

I can see both documents in agreement. There are circumstances that the Church has to allow opportunities for all in which we are not aware of.

Can. 861 §1. The ordinary minister of baptism is a bishop, a presbyter, or a deacon, without prejudice to the prescript of ⇒ can. 530, n. 1.

§2. When an ordinary minister is absent or impeded, a catechist or another person designated for this function by the local ordinary, or in a case of necessity any person with the right intention, confers baptism licitly. Pastors of souls, especially the pastor of a parish, are to be concerned that the Christian faithful are taught the correct way to baptize.

Can. 862 Except in a case of necessity, no one is permitted to confer baptism in the territory of another without the required permission, not even upon his own subjects.

Can. 863 The baptism of adults, at least of those who have completed their fourteenth year, is to be deferred to the diocesan bishop so that he himself administers it if he has judged it Expedient.

V. Who can Baptize?
1256 The ordinary ministers of Baptism are the bishop and priest and, in the Latin Church, also the deacon.57 In case of necessity, any person, even someone not baptized, can baptize, if he has the required intention. the intention required is to will to do what the Church does when she baptizes, and to apply the Trinitarian baptismal formula. the Church finds the reason for this possibility in the universal saving will of God and the necessity of Baptism for salvation.58

Thanks for correcting me on this point.

In Christ,


I was wondering as to what is the maximum time that a potential priest is a transitional deacon. I believe that the norm is about 6 months to a year but I believe that some go on to further studies before being ordained as priests. So, would the maximum(I suspect that there is one) be about 3 years?


for the record, priests do not have the fullness of Holy Orders, only a Bishop does


To the OP: Men ordained to the diaconate may not marry, though married men may be ordained to the diaconate. Take time to go on discernment retreats with your diocese and religious orders.

Regarding baptism:

[quote=“Catechism of the Catholic Church”]1256 The ordinary ministers of Baptism are the bishop and priest and, in the Latin Church, also the deacon. In case of necessity, anyone, even a non-baptized person, with the required intention, can baptize, by using the Trinitarian baptismal formula. The intention required is to will to do what the Church does when she baptizes. The Church finds the reason for this possibility in the universal saving will of God and the necessity of Baptism for salvation.

Also, young deacons are ordained all the time. I visited a parish where the deacon was obviously very young (I, in my mid-30s, thought he was barely out of high school). It was announced at the end of Mass what I already knew: he was to be ordained to the priesthood within months (granted, I didn’t know when).


We have one man in our diocese who once ordained a transitional deacon decided he was not called to priestly ordination, so he reamains a transitional deacon with no faculties. He sits in the pew.

This is not the norm I am sure.


You are correct, “transitional” deacon not “permanent” deacon.




Permanent Diaconate on the Rise in US-latest info on state of permanent diaconate in USA.

WASHINGTON, D.C., MAY 28, 2010 (Zenit.org).- There are more than 17,000 permanent deacons in the dioceses of the United States, a recent study of the U.S. bishops reports.

The diaconate is the first of three ranks in ordained ministry. Permanent deacons are those who are not planning to be ordained priests, and who carry out acts of ministry and service in their parishes and dioceses.

The study, titled “A Portrait of the Permanent Diaconate 2010,” was commissioned by the Secretariat of Clergy and Consecrated Life and Vocations of the U.S. bishops’ conference, and conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University.

The study, which is conducted annually, used data collected from 93% of all U.S. dioceses and Eastern Rite eparchies, estimates that there are some 17,047 permanent deacons in the United States, of whom approximately 16,349 are active in ministry.

All but one diocese reported having permanent deacons, and 21 dioceses reported having more than 200 permanent deacons, with Chicago having the largest number with 646.

An estimated 92% of active permanent deacons are married, 4% are widowers and 2% have never been married.

Sixty percent of permanent deacons are 60 years old or older, and 25% are 70 and older. Also, 81% are white, 14% are Hispanic, 2% are African American and 2% are Asian.

Some 28% of permanent deacons have graduate degrees, 18% are paid for their work as deacons, and 84% of dioceses surveyed require deacons to obtain some form of post-ordination formation.
God bless

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