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Deacons can be married, and that is before you are ordained, otherwise the rule of celibacy applies. For men who are married it is important to know that if his wife should pre-decease him following ordination, he may not re-marry, accepting instead the gift of celibacy.
For men who are married, the lived witness of the Sacrament of Matrimony is a key part of the ministry of the deacon. It remains his first priority - which must be balanced with his career and future ministry!
Deacons are not compensated for their ministry (there is no pay associated with the order of deacon), however you do have a fund which is set-up for your continuing education, and annual retreat expenses. This fund is paid for by the parish to which you are assigned. In addition, the deacon is able to keep the stipends that are associated with presiding at baptism, weddings, and funerals rites.
Deacons as members of the clergy, are together with the laity called to the mission of Jesus Christ through baptism to be "priest, prophet and king" to worship God, to proclaim the Good News, and to be engaged in acts of love and justice (service).
The deacon is assigned in a covenant (mutual agreement) to a parish by the Archbishop. The deacon is a minister who serves where the Church and its members have needs. So what does that look like for the deacon?
Ministry of Charity with Justice
The deacon today, as "witness and guide" is involved in a "ministry of love" to people in prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, hospice, jails and shelters for the abused, truckers, airports, seaports, runaways and the homeless. They minister to people with AIDS, battered women, drug addicts, the dying, refugees and undocumented immigrants, victims of racism and ethic discrimination. You will also find deacons addressing the structural and institutional causes that impede justice. It is the duty of the deacon to identify the needy and direct the loving service of the Church to them.
Ministry of the Word
This ministry is far ranging, and as "evangelizer and teacher" it takes on many forms - proclaiming the Gospel at liturgy, preaching, catechetical instruction, other forms of teaching, counseling, outreach to returning Catholics, R.C.I.A. But more importantly it is the sacramental dimension of the deacon in this area to give witness in his actions, and speech in the workplace (the marketplace) in an informal way to the Gospel. People should be able to see in the deacon's life a committed Catholic, an ordained minister who struggles like they do to meet the demands of work and family.
Ministry of Worship or Liturgy
The Liturgy is the source and summit of Christian Life - the deacon, as "sanctifier", brings the gifts of the people, articulates their needs in the Prayer of the Faithful and through his presence mirrors their service at the Lord's Table. He sends the community forth at the conclusion of the Mass to be what they have become - "the Body of Christ"! It is through the deacon's ministry to people that his liturgical role makes sense. Deacons are ordinary ministers of Holy Communion, solemnly baptizing, witnessing marriages, bringing viaticum to the dying, and presiding over funerals and burials. He may officiate at celebrations of the Liturgy of the Hours and at exposition and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. Deacons conduct public rites of blessings. Offer prayer services for the sick and dying, and administer the Church's sacramentals as designated in the Book of Blessings.
These three areas of ministry are not separate, the deacon is ordained for all of them, and must be prepared to undertake each of them in some way. Through them the deacon is a sign of the Servant Christ who redeemed us as Priest (Liturgy), Prophet (the Word), and King (Charity with Justice).
- The role of the spouse is first and foremost one of support.
- Because the marriage of the couple is the first priority, the Church requires that she be able to give informed consent to her husband's ordination. Therefore the wife is the gate keeper in the admissions and screening process, time of formation (aspirancy & candidate), and post-ordination!
- The Church recommends that the wife participate as fully as possible through the entire program (classes, retreats, wives formation program, and in reflection opportunities). She is required to attend the Inquiry for Discernment process, and if her husband is accepted into the aspirancy path of formation - she must accompany him, participating fully in her own aspirant formation process.
- Upon ordination a husband and wife become a "diaconal couple" and the spouse becomes the "deacon's wife" however, together as a couple they will need to work out balancing the needs of the family, her career, her ministry and decide whether they will minister as a couple and to what extent, but in general the spouse's role is one of support.
Bibliography and more information
Web sites to help with the areas of deacon ministry:
Archdioceses of Milwaukee
United State Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)
Holy See; The Vatican Web site
National Association of Diaconate Directors (NADD)
National Diaconate Institute for Continuing Education (NDICE)
The National Association of Hispanic Deacons (NAHD)
The Native American Deacons Association (NADA)
National Association of Asian Pacific American Deacons (NAAPAD)
Southwest Institute for Diaconal Studies Resources (SWIDS)