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Diocesan Vocations

Diaconate Formation

Deacons assist priests in their pastoral and administrative duties, but report directly to the bishop. They have a distinctive role in the liturgy, their main tasks being to read the Gospel and assist in the administration of the Eucharist.

 A deacon is ordained to the first rank of Sacred Orders making him a member of the clergy. Deacons can administer two sacraments – Baptism and Holy Matrimony. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church teachings, they cannot give absolution, anoint the sick, hear confession or say Mass. They do have a distinctive role in the liturgy, with their main tasks being to read the Gospel and assist in the administration of the Eucharist. Transitional and permanent deacons both have the faculty to preach the homily by right of their ordination unless the bishop or priest presider retains that ministry to himself in any particular liturgy.

The vestment most particularly associated with the Roman Catholic deacon is the dalmatic. Deacons, like priests and bishops, wear the stole, however, deacons place the stole over their left shoulder and it hangs across to their right side, while priests and bishops wear it around the neck. The color of the stole reflects the colors of the liturgical year or occasion of the liturgical activity.

Because permanent deacons live and work in the secular world they are not required to wear a clerical collar as are priests and transitional deacons. However the local bishop can permit and request permanent deacons to wear the collar at sacramental or pastoral functions.

The proper formal title for a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church is "Reverend Mister". A permanent deacon is not addressed as "Father" as a priest would be, but "Deacon".

In the Roman Catholic Church, women are not ordained to the diaconate. There were reportedly deaconesses in the early Church, who helped to prepare adult women for baptism, and performed other ministerial tasks, but there is no conclusive evidence that they were ordained. The First Council of Nicea in 315, declared that deaconesses were to be counted among the laity (Canon 19).

There are more than 160 saints who were deacons; many of them martyred and some are well known saints. In addition to St. Stephen who was the first Christian martyr of the Church, St. Lawrence and St. Francis of Assisi were also deacons.

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