There are two types of deacon - transitional and permanent. Transitional Deacons are men who are studying for the priesthood. They are typically ordained as deacons about a year before their ordination to the priesthood. Permanent Deacons are not intending to become priests. This page is about the permanent diaconate.
Many of the attractions to the priesthood also appeal to those who are drawn towards the permanent diaconate - a desire to love and serve God and his people in the Church. They may preside at baptisms, marriages and funerals, assist the priest during Mass, and many play a valuable role in parishes through their service to the sick and housebound, as well as to those preparing to receive the Sacraments of Initiation. Some will also have chaplaincy roles in places such as in hospitals, prisons and schools. As most permanent deacons will be in employment, they are a witness to Christ in their workplace as well as through their activity in parishes. Their service means that they are a valuable part of their community.
Steps in Discernment
As with all discernment, the first place to begin is in careful thought and prayer, asking God to provide guidance in whether to pursue the possibility of a vocation to the permanent diaconate. If married, a man should speak to his wife before anyone else as their support for the vocation is essential. The next person to turn to would be their parish priest as permanent deacons will typically have their ministry chiefly focussed on elements of parish life. They will be able to advise about what steps to take thereafter. The period of formal study and discernment for the diaconate is typically about four years so is a significant commitment both during this period as well as following ordination.
Those considering whether to undertake formation for the diaconate may wish to read the items given below to help with their discernment. The video clip gives a very short introduction about the diaconate. Whilst produced for the Archdiocese of Toronto some years ago rather than our own, the themes in it are still relevant to deacons elsewhere.
The Heart of the Diaconate: Communion with the Servant Mysteries of Christ, by Deacon James Keating, Published 2015 by Paulist Press, 96 pages, ISBN 978-0809149179
The Permanent Diaconate, by The Congregation for the Clergy-Vatican City, Published 1999 by CTS, 142 pages, ISBN 9781860820427