Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Permanent deacons in U.S grow to nearly 15,000

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.

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