Bishop William Lee, Bishop of Waterford & Lismore, has decided to introduce the Permanent Diaconate in the diocese. This restored order in the church is open to married men between the ages of 35 and 60, and to single men between the ages of 25 and 60 who wish to become deacons.
Two men, Lazarus Gidolf and Tom Fitzgerald, are currently participating in the Preparatory year, prior to formal studies for Ministry, and the Diocese of Waterford & Lismore has linked up with the Diocese of Kerry in the process. Deacons can perform some of the roles traditionally associated with Priests, such as officiating at some of the Sacraments, and preaching, but they are not considered substitute Priests.
History of Diaconate
In about the fourth century, for a variety of reasons, including he rapid development of the Church, the permanent diaconate as a seperate ministry, disappeared. Many deacons were ordained to the priesthood to cater for the spread of the Christian communities into rual areas outside the large cities. Eventually the diaconate came to be regarded as a stage on the way to priesthood. According to the Catholic church while the proposal to restore the diaconate could be perceived as a response to a shortage of priests, it says it has the potential to be muchy more than that.
The restored diaconate (usually known as the permanent diaconate, because these deacons are not on the way to Priesthood), is open to married men with families. The process of preparation is longer and more intensive then would normally be the case for lay ministers.
Permanent deacons normally continue working in their own profession, unless they have taken the option of early retirement. They are not paid a salary, although they would normally be reimbursed for expenses. The varied professional training and experience of permanent deacons (in business, healthcare, social services etc) often makes it possible for them to take on administrative and organisational responsiblities in a parish or diocese. In this way, deacons can also help to reduce the burden on priests in a time of shortage.