For many Catholics, deacons are a bit of a mystery. Parishioners may see us assisting with Mass on Sundays, teaching RCIA classes or visiting the infirm, but they may not be sure exactly who we are or what we do.
In fact, deacons are ordained clergy who serve our bishops and priests, tending to many of the pastoral and ministerial duties of the Church. Pope Paul VI, following Vatican II, reestablished the diaconate as a permanent order in 1967, celebrating its jubilee year in 2016. The tradition of deacons has its roots in the earliest days of the Church when the Apostles enlisted the help of seven men to assist them in serving the needs of the poor, elderly and widows. Since then, the role of the diaconate, modeled on the life of Christ, that of Christ the Servant, has evolved to what it is today: an order assigned by our bishop to administer baptism solemnly, to be custodian and dispenser of the Eucharist, to assist at and witness marriages, to bring Viaticum to the dying, to proclaim the Gospel to the faithful, to instruct and exhort the people, to preside over the worship and prayer of the faithful, to administer sacraments and to preside at funeral and burial services all in support of our bishops and priests in service to the people of God.
As the director of the diaconate for the Diocese of Phoenix, I have the honor of witnessing men answer God’s call to this order. The process of becoming a deacon is no easy task. Our rigorous program at the Diocese of Phoenix includes two years of catechetical instruction at the Kino Institute followed by five years of serious spiritual and formational study.
Thanks to the continued support of Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted, we have 235 active deacons in our diocese who are living out the values of justice, charity and service that are the foundation of our Holy Gospel, setting a humble example for all around them.
I remember my own diaconal journey and the many challenges it entailed—balancing my family and business with my call to serve the Lord. As it is with all candidates, it wasn’t an easy walk for me. There were—and are—times when I am completely exhausted at the end of the day, but then I sit in prayer, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, my strength comes flooding back.
I am buoyed by the joy of my ministry, whether I’m helping bring a beautiful soul to Christ’s Church through baptism or celebrating the ordination of a cohort of deacons after seven long years of preparation. There’s a real joy and beauty in serving the Catholic Church in this way.
As fellow Catholics, I invite you to remember our deacons, their wives and families in your daily prayers and Masses, today and always.
Christ’s peace and joy be with you,
Deacon James Trant
Deacon James Trant is Director of the Diaconate Office for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.