How Is a Catholic Deacon Ordained?

Leaders in the Catholic Church must be individuals who can influence people positively. The selection of leaders in the Catholic Church is done through systematic approaches that align with the Church’s canons and Biblical scripture. Both internal and external church leaders and organization systems are involved in reviewing individuals interested in taking up leadership roles to determine their ability to lead the church and work collaboratively with the existing leaders.

A Catholic deacon is ordained by (1) meeting the minimum requirements for deaconship, (2) applying with the church for which he might become a deacon, and (3) passing the review process. The application is followed by a ceremony meant to commemorate and signify the ascension into the diaconate.

The ordination process for deacons in the Catholic Church is done to individuals appointed for religious positions in the Catholic Church. Individuals interested in serving the Lord through the position of being a deacon are required to undergo several processes before being ordained.

What is a Deacon in the Catholic Church?

In the Catholic Church, a deacon is the third of the Holy Orders. The Pope is at the top of the hierarchy of Catholic Church leaders, followed by the cardinals, then bishops and priests, and then the deacons. While the role of cardinals, bishops, and priests may be interconnected those allocated to deacons are specific to them. Deacons are religious leaders who minister by meeting the physical needs of the members of the church. Deacons work closely with priests in the Catholic Church.

The rules of the Catholic Church only allow men to be ordained as deacons. Unlike the Pope, cardinals, bishops, and priests, deacons can decide whether they want to marry or wish to serve God as single men.

Roles of Deacons in the Catholic Church

Deacons interested in becoming priests are considered transitional deacons and are often seminary students who are still undergoing training and are in the process of becoming priests. Both transitional and permanent deacons perform the same roles, which often include providing spiritual guidance to the community and visiting the sick in healthcare facilities and their homes.

Aside from that, they are involved in visiting the elderly who cannot attend church services anymore because of their advanced age or health complications and offering them spiritual guidance. They can also witness marriages, baptisms, distribute the Holy Communion, and preside over funeral services conducted outside the church.

The Process of How a Deacon is Ordained 

Requirements

  • Individuals must meet the following requirements to be allowed to serve as deacons in the Catholic Church:
  • Be at least 35 years and above
  • Be a baptized member of the Roman Catholic Church
  • Individuals who joined the Catholic Church and were baptized as adults must be have been a member of the church for at least five years
  • If married, the deacon must ensure the church recognizes his union
  • If divorced or single they are expected to live in celibacy thereafter
  • If an individual is divorced, he cannot remarry
  • They must meet the minimum educational qualifications for the position, which entails having a high school diploma
  • They should be in good health
  • Before being ordained, individuals must discuss the discussion with God, their family members, and their priests
  • After meeting these standards deacons can apply for the role and submit the relevant paperwork

Step 1: The Actual Process of Being Ordained

Step 1A. An opening song

A hymnal, psalms, one of the church’s anthem may be sung at the beginning of the service for ordaining deacons. The hymnal serves as the indication that the service has officially begun. The bishop then ends the hymnal with the words “blessed be God, Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit,” which acknowledge the trinity and their power as one and as different entities.

The congregation responds by answering, “And blessed be his kingdom.” In some of the Catholic Churches, the response offered by the congregation may include the words “now and forever.” During the Easter holiday or the Day of Pentecost, the priest ends this session by stating that Christ is risen, while during penitential occasions the priest ends the session by blessing God and thanking him for forgives of sins.

Step 1B. Presentation

The first part of the presentation session entails presenting the individuals interested in becoming deacons to the church. The bishop sits and the congregation sits and a priest presents the candidates to the church. In most cases, the priest narrates pre-written words that acknowledge the leaders of the church present before stating the names of the individuals interested in being ordained.

The second part of the presentation involves the Bishop questioning the priest on whether each of the candidates has been selected based on the canons of the particular church and whether his way of life aligns with the role of being a deacon. These questions are answered by the priest who certifies that the canons of the church were considered in the selection of the candidates.

The third section is based on the bishop’s interaction with the candidates. The bishop questions the candidate on whether they will be loyal to the church, the Catholic doctrines, and the worship of Christ per the Catholic Church. Additionally, the candidates are questioned about their willingness to obey the leaders of the church, the bishop, and other ministers working within the Catholic Church.

These questions are asked to ensure that the deacons will abide by existing rules and work collaboratively with other leaders. The candidates respond to the questions by declaring their willingness to obey and declare they believe in the Holy Scriptures.

Step 2: Ordination

Step 2A: Signing of the Declarations

After providing their responses, the individuals sign a declaration that shows their commitment to the words they spoke and their willingness to obey.

Step 2B: Recalling the Role of the Congregation

After signing the declarations, the bishop requests the congregation to stand and reminds them of the importance of the deaconry ministry. He also reminds the congregation about their roles in presenting the candidates as potential deacons.

Step 2C: Inquisition about Opposition 

The bishop ends his speech by stating that if anyone wishes to object to the ordination of any of the candidates, he or she should present the step forward. The process is done to ensure that candidates who might have committed a crime in the past and gotten away with it or those who might have ulterior motives for taking up the role are exposed.

The bishop then questions the people on whether it is by their will that the individuals standing before them be ordained as deacons and follows up with a question of whether the church will support him in the church’s ministry. To these questions, the church responds by the words “It is” and “We will.” This session is ended with a prayer. The Bishop then reads the Collect for the Day and finishes it off with the words, “the Lord be with you.”

Step 2D: Ministry of the Word

The ministry of the word is begun by reading three scriptures, one from the Old Testament, another from the Epistle. The individual selected to read the scripture gains the attention of the room by first stating the words “A reading from or A lesson from and then stating the specific book, chapter, and verse that he or she would read.

The ministry of the word can be performed by any person from the congregation as long as the individual is informed before the service. Allowing the congregation to minister the word is a way of ensuring that they feel incorporated in the events taking place during the mass.

Step 3: The Sermon

Step 3A: Nicene Creed

The beginning of the sermon is marked by the congregation’s involvement in singing or reading the Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed is an expression of the congregation’s faith and belief in God. It is also a declaration of their recognition of the Trinity and the role of God, the Holy Spirit, and Jesus in their lives.

Step 3B: The Examination

The examination is a one-on-one interview of the candidate interested in becoming a deacon by the bishop. The rest of the congregation are seated and the bishop addresses the candidate by informing him of the roles he is expected to perform, which include serving the poor, sick, and those who are weak.

The bishop narrates all the roles that a deacon is expected to perform and asks the candidate if he believes he is truly called by God and the church to serve in that role.

The candidate then responds with the words “I believe I am called” to indicate that he believes that he has been called by God and the church to serve in the role. This is followed by the bishop’s inquiry of whether the candidate will commit to the responsibility entrusted to him, respect others, be faithful in prayer, and always focus on Christ. If the candidate agrees with these questions, he responds by saying “I will.”

Step 4: The Consecration of the Deacon

Consecration is the act of saying or declaring something sacred. In the Catholic Church, the consecration of a deacon during his ordination entails presenting the deacon to God and sanctifying him. During this step, the congregation stands while the candidate or candidates for the deacon position kneel in front of the bishop.

Step 4A: Hymn 

One of the hymns linked to the consecration process is sung by the congregation. A common hymn associated with this part of the ordination is the “Veni Creator Spiritus.” This is followed by a period of silence that the congregation uses to say a silent prayer.

Step 4B: Prayer of Consecration

The bishop narrates the prayer of consecration, which entails praising God for his works and the many ministries in the church. After this section, the Bishop lays his hands on the candidates and narrates a prayer that essentially requests God to fill the candidate with grace and make him modest and humble. The prayer ends with the words “Amen,” which imply that may the requests made through the prayer be fulfilled.

Step 4C: Presentation of the Bible

The end of the consecration is marked with the bishop’s actions of giving the ordained deacon a Bible. The bishop presents the Bible to the ordained deacon while narrating words that illustrate the importance of the action and the authority that the deacon will have as one of the church leaders. The presentation of the Bible to the deacons also illustrates the official recognition and beginning of their role as deacons to the Catholic Church.

Step 5: The Peace

The peace marks the end of the most important part of the ordination process. The bishop declares the “Peace of the Lord” upon the congregation and the congregation responds with the words “And also with you” to indicate their goodwill towards the bishop.

Step 6: At the Celebration of the Eucharist

The newly ordained deacon performs his first role as an ordained deacon, which entails preparing the bread and wine for the communion. The deacon prepares the wine by pouring a little wine and water in the chalice and placing the vessels on the table designated as the “Lord’s Table” in the church. The bishop then goes to the table and conducts the great thanksgiving.

The great thanksgiving is characterized by a cluster of prayers associated with the Lord’s Supper. The prayers are associated with the recognition of God’s holiness, Christ’s death and resurrection, and the promise that Christ will come again. In most cases, the bishop narrates three prayers at the Lords’ Table.

Step 6A: Communion 

The priest leads the church in communion by reading the scriptures associated with the last supper and stating how the bread and wine prepared represent the body of Christ and the blood that he bled for people’s sins. Individuals who have been baptized, undergone the Catholic Conformation teaching, and confessed their sins are allowed to take part in the Holy Communion.

Step 7: After Communion

If the mass had been dedicated to the ordination of the deacons, in place of the prayer used to mark the end of the communion, a different prayer is used to acknowledge the events of the day and God’s role in sanctifying the ordained deacon. The bishop conducts the prayer, which entails:

  • Thanking God for the Holy Communion: The bishop thanks God for feeding the congregation with the holy food and the blood of His son.
  • Unity: The priest thanks God for uniting the church through the deacon and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit in the church.
  • Raising Servants in the Church: The bishop thanks God for his mercies and his grace in raising faithful servants in the church. He also states that the servants raised by God will serve the ministry by adhering to God’s word and sacraments.
  • Dedication of the deacon: The bishop dedicates the bishop to God in prayer by asking God to guide the deacon and make him a faithful servant for the ministry of God
  • End of Prayer: The end of the prayer is marked by the bishop’s praise of God’s name.
  • Blessing and Dismissing the People
  • The bishop blesses the people by declaring words of affirmation and blessings to the congregation. The new deacon then dismisses the people by imploring them to go to the world and spread the gospel of Christ.

In Summary

The process of ordaining a deacon in the Catholic Church has many segments. Individuals interested in being ordained as Catholic Church deacons have to meet a set of standards that include being a male aged 35 years and above and being a baptized member of the church. Additionally, individuals who take up these roles must understand the roles that they will be required to perform and commit themselves before the church.

Inability to meet any of the requirements considered for individuals interested in being ordained as deacons can lead to disqualification for the role. Deacons ordained are also expected to work closely with other leaders to ensure that they promote the ministry of God through their work.

Gene Botkin

Gene is the director of the Theosis Christian Project. He studied physics and military science before founding the Project. Gene is currently pursuing his doctorate in systems engineering at an engineering college in the Ozarks. The Theosis Christian Project is his attempt to expand Holy Orthodoxy in America.

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