The number of permanent deacons in the United States continues to increase, according to a national survey released by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
The bishops began to ordain permanent deacons for the United States in the
early seventies. The ministry emphasizes roles in liturgy, preaching and
service. Currently there are more than 18,000 deacons, about 3,000 of them
retired. The most recent survey found that the largest numbers of deacons
were reported by the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston (414), Diocese of
Trenton, New Jersey (383), Archdiocese of Los Angeles (344) and Archdiocese of
Hartford, Connecticut (300).
Ninety-three percent of active deacons are currently married; four
percent are widowers, and two percent never married.
“The statistics are encouraging,” said Archbishop Robert J. Carlson,
chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations.
“But they also alert us to the fact many of the deacons will soon reach retirement
age. This suggests a need for bishops to recruit a greater number of men to
join the ranks of the permanent diaconate.”
Ninety-five percent of active deacons are at least 50 years old. About a
quarter are in their fifties; 43 percent are in their sixties; and 25 percent
are 70 or older. Seventy-eight percent of active deacons are white. Fifteen
percent are Hispanic or Latino, Three percent are African American and three
percent are Asian.
Many permanent deacons hold jobs outside of the ministry in such areas as
sales, law or other work. Only about 21 percent of active permanent deacons are
compensated for ministry. Some serve in full-time ministry, for example in
parishes or diocesan positions. Others are compensated for hospital or prison
ministry. A small percentage of deacons are entrusted with full-time pastoral
care of a parish and others work in a social services agency.
Almost 30 percent of permanent deacons hold a graduate degree, about
two-thirds of them in a field not related to the diaconate. Three in ten (31
percent) have a bachelor’s degree as their highest level of education. Eighty-five
percent of deacons are required to undergo post-ordination formation. The
median number of hours is 20 per year. About 74 percent of dioceses also
provide formation opportunities for wives of deacons.