A deacon is a man who is called by God and after discernment, formation and preparation is ordained by his bishop to serve the needs of God’s people. If a married man is called to the diaconate, his wife must consent and support his decision to seek formation and ordination. As Catholics, we believe that each ordained deacon is conformed through the sacraments grace of Holy Orders into the image of Jesus the Servant.
In order to better understand the role and mission of the deacon in the life of the Church, one must begin with the Church’s teaching regarding the sacrament of Holy Orders that the deacon receives and shares. The bishops of the United States, in their document The National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States (NDPD) (2003), describe the sacrament of Holy Orders in the following way: “Holy Orders is the sacrament through which the mission entrusted by Christ to his apostles and their successors continues to be exercised in the church until the end of time. Thus, it is the sacrament of apostolic ministry: “The mission of the Apostles, which the Lord Jesus continues to entrust to the pastors of his people, is a true service, significantly referred to in the Sacred Scriptures as ‘diakonia’, namely service or ministry. This diakonia is exercised on different levels by those who from antiquity have been called bishops, priests and deacons.” The ordained ministries, apart from the persons who receive them, are a grace for the entire church. (art. 24)./p>
As an integral part of the sacrament of Holy Orders, the conferral of the diaconate configures a man to Christ’s consecration and mission, constituting him as a member of the hierarchy and sacred minister of Christ with “a distinct identity and integrity in the Church that marks him as neither a lay person nor a priest; rather, the deacon is a cleric who is ordained to diakonia, namely, a service to God’s people in communion with the bishop and his body of priests” (art. 29). Thus, the divinely constituted structure of the Church requires the unique and irreplaceable ministry of bishops, priests, deacons, laity and religious to work together for the building up of the community of faith. Each state of the Church contributes in a unique way to its divinely given mission. The deacons of the church are the sacramental sign of Christ’s ministry of service on behalf of the Church and the world, serving the discipleship of God’s people.