Young deacons


#1

It seems as though the initial intention during and post Vatican II was a call for younger men to become deacons (around 35 years old). Despite this, statistics show that most men become deacons upon retirement, or at least after their kids are grown. I am 30 years old and have been considering persuing ordination when eligible.

It seems to me that young deacons would be a benefit to the church. So I am curious to know, if you have been through the formation process, do you feel it is something that a younger married man with a young family is capable of completing? Would you recommend it?


#2

Our Archdiocese recommends waiting until the children are fairly grown.
It takes them away from their families so much. Their family does come first, but the Church realizes that some men may feel badly that they can’t do more. So they wait, until they have more spare time.
Also, the opinion of the wives counts for a lot.
Are they OK with the Deacon being called away often?
Sometimes you’re just needed to fulfill your FIRST and primary vocation first.
Good luck discerning!


#3

I am just entering my aspirancy year (first of five years of formation). I am currently 42 with 6 children (2 late teens and 4 under 8) and a 7th on the way in January. I had been considering it for the last 4 years, but always figured I was too young. It seems my diocese disagred.

My diocese and many others have noticed a definite graying of permanent deacons and are seeking to reverse the trend. Something like a third of the deacons in my diocese will be at or above the retirement age of 70 by the time my class completes formation. Given that we only average 1.2 deacons per parish this is very worrying. It is too the point that we were told that if two men were of equal qualifications with one 40 and the other 55 they would take the younger man every time. The inquiry sessions specifically asked for younger men.

There were questions about the time required for formation when raising a family and working to support my family. As I discussed with the selection committee, one of the thoughts even before the second vatican council was that deacons were to be actively engaged in their communities. As one priest said, deacons can bring the Gospel to places that a priest cannot. His point is that a deacon is not just engaged in the parish and liturgical functions, but rather brings the light of Christ to those outside the Church community.

This thought of ordaining working men that are still raising a family is not that unusual outside the US. The US is an oddity in that regard. That is why you see more and more diocese rejecting the idea that men must be done with one phase of life before being ordained. If the Church only intended men that could dedicate 20+ hours a week then the minimum age of 35 would not have been set at an age many men still have young children. As I understand it the fathers of Vatican II specifically lowered the age form an original proposal or 40 or 45.

Now just having started I cannot say how difficult it will be, but if you feel called then talk to the head of formation. They may tell you that you should wait until any children are minimally teenagers, but you may find that they are glad to have young men. To give you an idea, our last class (we only do one class every 4 years) has 9 men in formation. Once they encouraged younger men my class will start with 21 men and they had to turn away men because of too many applicants.


#4

I was 39 when chosen and am also in the aspirancy year. I am the youngest in my class by at least 8 years or so.


#5

I personally waited until my children were grown. I had a fairly demanding job and I considered that my time with my family was so limited that between job, Church duties, formation and work around the house I would loose the time I had with the kids.

Formation did put some stress on my schedule but it was well worth the journey and am very grateful that God has led me along this path, I could not be happier in my ministry!

My prayers for your discernment.


#6

I just started my aspirancy year too, and I am 46… most of the men in my class are about my age. It’s tough as you want to make sure you preserve the family as your marriage (if you are married) is your first vocation, and the Diaconate makes that perfectly clear. That is also why the wife must give her consent at many stages along he road.

I agree that younger deacons do bring something to the program, but there is just so much that also must be committed to, that sometimes, only the retired men can dedicate that much time to the program.

I hope I can do the commitments that the Diaconate is asking of me, and for this, I give God my full trust that He will guide me in what He is calling me to be and do.

My prayers are also with you as you discern this potential calling.

God bless,

John


#7

Someone more knowledgable than I can comment, but I thought the canonical age of 35 was merely the ordination minimum, not a “target age” as such. Our diocese definitely skews to the senior side, the youngest ordinands I know of over the last decade being about 50, and those were the exception. Most men being ordained are closer to 60. For a time the informal rule was to have no children younger than high school. Our retirement age is 75, and a significant number will be ageing out in the next 5 years or so.


#8

Not sure I would say it’s a target age, but when all the original proposals were in the age for married permanent deacons was suggested at 40. The council fathers lowered it because they felt 40 was too old. It implies that they did want younger men. Maybe not only younger men, but they did not seem to expect that men were done raising their children as a prerequisite to ordination.

If you look outside the US the age is generally in the early to mid forties from what I understand. If you look at the CARA reports done for the USCCB over the last several years and the number of men ordained is barely at replacement levels. In some years there are more deacons that retired or died than were ordained. The percentages in their 60’s and 70’s continue to grow. With people having children later and later the “wait until your children are fully grown” stance will continue to skew to older and older ordinations. If I had to wait until my unborn daughter was in high school before begining formation, I would be too old to ordain at 62.

Like I say I think many dioceses are trying to get a better mix of different ages. They are also trying to reinforce the thought that it is a life long vocation, not a second career after your major job of raising children and establishing a career is complete.


#9

Do we know what the age groupings are in other countries that have a good number of permanent deacons? I thought I recall my bishop saying that Germany was another country that had a good number of deacons, but I might be incorrect. Just curious none the less if this is something that is more specific to the US or if it is worldwide.

Pax,

John


#10

To be honest I don’t know of any stats other than generalities reported through books and websites. I believe outside of the US Germany and Italy have the highest numbers of permanent deacons with each having between 2200-3000 deacons (depending on source and reporting time period). The last stat I had read was that the average age of ordination outside the US was 41. In the book “Today’s Deacon”, William Ditewig relates a story about the first 5 permanent deacons ordained in Germany. He states their ages as being between 35 and 47. I have a few older friends that remember having friends who’s dads were ordained to the diaconate in their 40s while they were in elementary of middle school. This would have been in the mid 70’s and early 80s so it might be that ordination ages have just continued to go up each decade. :shrug:

Attached is a picture of a group of deacons in Hong Kong from IDC (International Diaconate Centre). Now obviously this isn’t all the deacons in that country, but they appear to be younger than those in the lower half of the image which is of deacons from a nearby diocese. :wink:

http://forums.catholic.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=22318&d=1442007508

Really it has nothing to do with if deacons should be older or younger, but rather with how Americans perceive the “appropriateness” of younger deacons. At 42 I certainly don’t feel like a youngster, but I know I have seen many on CAF that seem to dislike or disapprove of younger men in the diaconate because they cannot dedicate the same amount of time a deacon in retirement can. That certainly weighed on talking to the head of formation in my instance.


#11

Usige- Do you feel young Deacons are appropraite?

I feel like the main argument against Young Deacons is always the time commitment. Is it possible that Deacons are over worked? When a Deacon is ordained, they typically receive 2 assignments, one in a parish and one in a ministry outside of the church. Would a resonable solution be limiting the assignment to one? I am already engaged in the secular world with my profession (i work with the mentally Ill). Therefore, If i became a deacon, I could be assigned to a parish and effectively have “One foot in the church and one in the world.” As a Deacon comes to retirement, they could then be assigned a new ministry outside of the church and therefore remain present in the secular world.


#12

It depends entirely upon individual circumstances. I entered formation when I was about 45. I have four children, at the time I started formation they were 15, 13, 11 and 10. I waited until I did because my youngest would be out of 8th grade by the time I was ordained, so if I was assigned to a new parish, our ties to the old parish, and the parish school my children attended, would not be a as much of an issue. Good thing because I was indeed assigned to a different parish. Different people, different circumstances. I was in the younger half of my class (43 ordained) but there were definitely several men younger than me, one being 38 at ordination.

It all depends.

However, I think every man discerning a call should look at the requirements and consider whether they can fit into his life, rather than trying to determine if the requirements can be changed.


#13

Sorry i missed this.

Personally, yes, I think young deacons are appropriate if they can still serve as their Bishop needs. Depending on how your diocese utilizes deacons can make a big difference. The director of diaconal life in my diocese has said one thing we will have to learn in formation is to be able to say “No”. He also said that our duties would reflect our station in life.

We had our first class today and our youngest aspirant is 30 and our oldest is 57. There are 6 of us under 45 and 4 that are over 54. The other 10 are inbetween. I’d say the average age in our class is around 48 or 49. Myself and one other have pregnant wives and maybe 1/3 of us have children under 10. Long and short is my diocese is trying to structure it to support younger deacons.


#14

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