The Permanent Diaconate
Diocese of Down and Connor
What is a Permanent Diaconate?
In the gospels we see how the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth was characterised by humble service. He called his disciples to imitate him. At the Last Supper, after he washed the feet of his Apostles, Jesus said: “I have given you an example so that you may copy what I have done to you” (John 13:15).
In the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 6: 2-4) we read how Stephen and six others were appointed by the Apostles to assist them in their mission, specifically through works of charity. Their hallmark was service and works of charity.
The Permanent Deacon responds to the call of Jesus and his Church in three specific ways: through the ministry of Charity, the ministry of the Word and the ministry of the Altar.
The Ministry of Charity
- To service the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised;
- To coordinate the local Church’s response to their needs;
- To have a special care for matters of social justice;
- To foster and support parish groups and organisations.
The Ministry of Word
- To proclaim the Gospel and sometimes preach at Mass and other religious services;
- To help people in their study of the Scriptures and to lead them in prayer.
The Ministry of Altar
- To assist the Bishop or priest at Mass;
- To distribute Holy Communion at Mass, in hospital and in the homes of the sick, the housebound and the dying;
- To celebrate baptisms, to officiate at weddings and to assist at funerals.
Who exercises this Ministry?
In the Church there are two forms of the Diaconate – the Transitional Diaconate and the Permanent Diaconate.
The Transitional Diaconate
These are men who become deacons on their journey to priesthood, usually for one year.
The Permanent Diaconate
These are men who remain deacons all their lives, one of the most notable being St Francis of Assisi.
Candidates for the Permanent Diaconate may be married or unmarried.
The Church requires the married candidate for Permanent Diaconate to be, at least, thirty-five years of age. This requirement enables the candidate and his wife to discern his vocation to the Permanent Diaconate within the totality of their married life and vocation.
Likewise candidates who are single must be, at least, thirty-five years of age. In keeping with the tradition of the Church, those who are ordained as single men make a solemn promise of celibacy.
In Ireland the upper age for ordination to the Permanent Diaconate is 60 years.
Discernment and Formation
To discern whether or not God is calling him to the Permanent Diaconate, a candidate undertakes a period of prayerful reflection, discernment and training.
An introductory year of vocational discernment is followed by three years of personal, intellectual and pastoral formation. The process of discernment and formation is facilitated by a team led by a Director of Formation appointed by the Bishop.
The call to the Permanent Diaconate by the Bishop in the name of the Church is a gift given by God to his Church to extend, diversify and enrich pastoral ministry among God’s people.
The Diocese is preparing to start work with a fourth group of students for the Permanent Diaconate. This programme will commence in September 2024.
We now wish to seek expressions of interest from those seriously considering a vocation to this ministry and who are ready to enter the Discernment and Formation programme in September 2024.
Prospective applicants are recommended to read the two booklets below, and to speak to their parish priest or contact the Diocesan Director of the Permanent Diaconate. If you wish to register your interest please download and complete the form below. Forms should be returned by 31st March 2024.
For more information
Read the following:
Booklet on the Permanent Diaconate in the Diocese of Down and Connor
Booklet on the Permanent Diaconate: National Directory and Norms for Ireland
Permanent Diaconate: Expression of Interest Form
Diocesan Director of Permanent Diaconate
Deacon Brett Lockhart
St Brigid’s Parish
40 Derryvolgie Avenue
Tel : 028 90 665409
Diocesan Director of Vocations
Very Rev Conor McGrath
191A Upper Newtownards Road,
Tel. 028 90654157