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The newest issue of Again Magazine has a very interesting article about the shortage of deacons in the Orthodox Church. In the GOA, there is one deacon per 14 parishes.

Deacons have historically been very important in the church--representing bishops and priests at councils, helping serve the liturgy (without the deacon the priest must add those prayers to his own), visiting and serving the faithful... I didn't realize just how important deacons are.

The sad thing is that some churches are so very poor that they can hardly even afford the priest. An Antiochian church I sometimes attend has 2 or 3 deacons in addition to a priest, while the Greek church I belong to doesn't even have a full time priest.

I notice that few RC churches have deacons, as well.

Do people interested in diaconate need to go to seminary?

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There are a few programs geared towards people pursuing the diaconate, either on the road to becoming a priest or simply to be a deacon. I've heard that the Greek Archdiocese is actually getting ready to launch a program to foster the diaconate.

My parish has both a deacon and a sub-deacon. I believe both are pursuing the priesthood.

Andrew

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I notice that few RC churches have deacons, as well.

Do people interested in diaconate need to go to seminary? [/QB]
Yes, candidates for deaconate are expected to spend a some time studying at the seminary.

However, according to the article, the OCA can "...create and encourage home or parish study programs, and under the guidance of the diocesan bishop and local priest, that specifically educate and train diaconal candidates." "...so they will not have to duplicate their efforts in order to be ordained a deacon."

The article still gave the impression that some kind of seminary education would still be required however minimum.

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Originally posted by Westerner Gone East:


x x x

I notice that few RC churches have deacons, as well. x x x
There are still Catholic parishes (19,000+) that do not have Deacons (Permanent, i.e.) as yet but as of the end of 2005, there were 14,995 Permanent Deacons in the U.S.:

http://www.usccb.org/comm/statisti.shtml

Ordinations to the diaconate in the U.S. have been increasing progressively since then, starting from 0 in 1965:

http://www.usccb.org/comm/USStatsJune2005.pdf

However, the shortfall will be filled sooner or later if the trend continues.

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Westerner gone East,

In the East, as you may have noticed, the deacon has a more prominent liturgical role than the deacon in the West.

They are allowed different things, but overall, they both serve in their historical office as serving the community and assisting the presbyter (at the request of the Bishop, who the deacon is under) who is acting in the place of the Bishop [at his absence] at the Liturgy.

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Hi,

In the Latin Archdiocese of Los Angeles there are 73 men (most of them married) enrolled in Diaconate formation. That includes one year aspirancy and 4 years candidacy.

The goal is to have 100 men in formation at any given time by 2008, and hopefully have a dedicated facility to do so.

In Los Angeles, some "classes" for Diaconate formation are taken at the seminary, but I am not sure they would be the same classes seminarians take.

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In the East, as you may have noticed, the deacon has a more prominent liturgical role than the deacon in the West.
That's true, from a certain point of view.

In the Byzantine Church, there are several things the deacon is supposed to do and in his absence the presbyter does only to preeserve the integrity of the Liturgy.

In the Latin Church, the only such a thing I can think of is rading the Gospel.

However, in the Latin Church the liturgical role of the deacon goes well beyond that of his Byzantine brothers when he is called to preside at a baptism, a wedding, a funeral, a communion service, benediction or other blessings.

Byzantine deacons don't do these things, their tradition is not to preside at the celebration of any sacrament or sacramental. I know that by exception, sometimes it happens, but it is generally rare.

Now, of course, the most important role of the deacon in the life of the Church is that of being a server to the community, especially those most in need (the poor, the infirm, the elderly, the imprisoned, the marginalized, etc.), and that is done within and without the Liturgy.

Shalom,
Memo

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You are discussing something that is very near and dear to my heart - the revival of the Eastern diaconate.

Here is a discussion thread on the diaconate that we had very recently:

A "Presiding" Diaconate: Accomodation or Abuse?

The diaconate is a vital ministry to the life of the Church, and if we take St. Ignatius' words seriously, we cannot have a church without deacons!

Part of the issue as I see it with the East (although almost exclusively with the Orthodox East since the Catholic East - at least in North America - is still a little gun shy about living fully its tradition) is what James Barnett describes as the "omnivorous priesthood". One of the reasons why Orthodoxy has so few deacons is that most deacons are very quickly advanced to the presbyterate. It is the whole transitional diaconate phenomenon which has been so deadly for the ministry of deacon in the Church. If the diaconate is ever to fully recapture its ministry, it must be populated with men who are committed to its vocation (which cannot be simply reduced to a cultic functionalism, although the liturgy of charity is intimately connected to the Divine Liturgy) on a permanent basis - or at least longer than 5 years. And, there should be at least two, possibly three or four deacons per parish, depending on the size.

This is a fascinating topic for me, and I have engaged numerous friends within Orthodoxy on this subject while visiting Japan and Holy Resurrection Cathedral where multiple deacons can be seen moving around the iconostasis like the seraphim in heaven! While there I met a man who was studying for the diaconate and had absolutely NO aspirations to move on the presbyterate. This precipitated a very lengthy conversation (6 hours) on the nature of diakonia in the church as experienced in the Divine Liturgy. In the liturgy, the deacon is the living icon of the Church's diakonia. As a member of the hierarchy of service to Christ and the Church, he embodies a particular form of diakonia, namely to be the animator of the diaconal charisms of the faithful, intercessor for their needs with the bishop/presbyter, keeper of good order in the eucharistic assembly, proclaimer of the Gospel, dispenser of the Holy Gifts and dispenser of Holy Charity to those in need.

Much has been made in Latin circles of the "bridge" nature of the diaconate between the laity and the presbyterate. Actually, I see both the presbyter and the deacon together forming two ends of the bridge to the bishop, who is ultimately the spiritual father of the faithful. The presbyter is the icon of the sacerdotal fatherhood of the bishop to the faithful. The deacon is the icon of the servant-fatherhood of the bishop to the faithful.

Put into scholastic categories, one could say that the domain of the presbyter is "sanctifying" grace and the domain of the deacon is "actual" grace. I would drive too strong a wedge between these two concepts of grace, but see them as illustrative of the distinct type of leadership required in the parish. The presbyter is the "first-born" son who presides and sanctifies through the Holy Spirit. He plants the "seed" of divine life in the souls of the faithful. This is his domain. The domain of the deacon is cultivate and care for the seedling and harvest the fruits of their mutual labor. The deacon as the "second born" renders "effective" and "fruitful" what was planted by the presbyter. He translates the Word of life into the obedience of faith in his congregation.

What has transpired since the diaconate's decline is that it has been reduced to either a transitory or merely a cultic role -without fully examining or appreciating what that cultic role within the assembly represents in the common life of the body/assembly.

For instance, the fact that the deacon presents the prayers of the faithful in the assembly implies that he is intimately familiar with the needs of his congregation through close personal and pastoral contact. In presenting these needs to God, the presider and the assembly what is also implied is that this same deacon (or a team of deacons) is also actively dispensing whatever caritas is needed or possible to help meet these particular needs.

Another example.

Throughout the Divine Liturgy, the deacon is guiding the participation of the faithful. This represents more than just an attempt to maintain good order for worship. It iconically represents his leadership in the assembly where he "animates" the faithful in the "liturgy after the liturgy" - to render effective the Holy Gifts they have received at the altar of the church within their own diakonia at the altar of their homes and the marketplace.

Until we look at the deacon's role through "new eyes", he will continue to be either a stepping stone for advancement to higher orders or a stumbling block for clergy who do not understand or appreciate his ministry. I for one see the deacon as the undiscovered (or as yet unrecovered) cornerstone of dynamic parish life.

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I am about to begin the formal process of conversion to Orthodoxy. As a Melkite of 12 years, I had felt a call to go into either the priesthood or the diaconate. Obviously, this won't happen anytime soon, and perhaps it is not God's will at all. Still,

Does anyone know how long a convert must typically wait before being considered a possible candidate for deacon or the priesthood? Also, is it required that those studying for the priesthood go away to seminary and do so full time?

I am 37 year old, in a stable marriage, with 2 children, and with several years experience as an altar server, serving on parish council, teaching bible study, etc. Also, I've done some graduate work in theology and have had two graduate courses in byzantine theology/asceticism taught by an Orthodox monk and scholar. Currently, I am an academic librarian and I am teaching Philosophy part-time as well. I am working on my Ph.d. dissertation in Philosophy.

My wife works in mental health, directing a crisis intervention network for suicidal and severely mentally ill folks. I hope this isn't hijacking the thread, but I just thought that this would be relevant and related to it. Thanks and God bless.

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I think I read somewhere that there would be conferences held on the theology and state of the Orthodox diaconate. Does anyone know anything about this? Will it be taped or will transcripts be made available?

Blessings,

Gordo

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Gordo,

What I think you recall is the presentation of papers made to the SCOBA hierarchs collectively at their recent gathering in Chicago. No, it was not taped, but the papers may be posted somewhere later on.

In IC XC,
Father Anthony+


Everyone baptized into Christ should pass progressively through all the stages of Christ's own life, for in baptism he receives the power so to progress, and through the commandments he can discover and learn how to accomplish such progression. - Saint Gregory of Sinai
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Thanks, Father. Once thoe are posted, they should provide interesting fodder for discussion on this topic.

Blessings,

Gordo

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It would indeed be a blessing to have more deacons, who could lighten the load of overworked priests! If only more parishes had the $$$ to pay them. I'm assuming that the majority of Eastern churches aren't rolling in dough. Ours is rolling in pennies.

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If a bishop so chooses me to be a deacon, I shall glady study and be ordained a deacon whenever the time is right, perhaps when i'm slightly wiser and older.

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Much has been made in Latin circles of the "bridge" nature of the diaconate between the laity and the presbyterate. Actually, I see both the presbyter and the deacon together forming two ends of the bridge to the bishop, who is ultimately the spiritual father of the faithful. The presbyter is the icon of the sacerdotal fatherhood of the bishop to the faithful. The deacon is the icon of the servant-fatherhood of the bishop to the faithful.
<--absolutely right thats what Father Elias and Deacon Evangelos are like, a GREAT team..a bridge to the bishop.

My friend Evangelos was just ordained a deacon for St. Mary Antiochian Orthodox Church of Chambersburg, Pennsylvannia today! And his Roman Catholic wife and Orthodox children were joyfully at his side!

It does seem to be a fact that the Churches with the most deacons are the healthiest.

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I don't know how it is the East, but many Latin Dioceses have Deaconate Programs that are on the weekends or after work. The programs usually run for 4-7 years.

In the 3 Dioceses that I live near: Belleville,IL has weekend courses; Cape Girardeau-Springfield, MO has weekend courses also; but the Archdiocese of St. Louis, MO has courses that are only offered in the evenings at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary.

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To add to Dr. Eric's information...

I teach diaconate classes at our [Latin] seminary. They are held one weekend a month for 10 months - with an intensive week of classes in the summertime. The program spans 3 1/2 - 4 years. There is a discernment year where "mini-courses" are taught. These are one -shot lectures that cover some aspect of the ministry of the deacon. I do a talk on the history of the decline of the diaconate. If a candidate continues after this testing period, he takes three years of academic coursework in theology that is identical to the training seminarians studying for the priesthood receive. The major difference is that the diaconate formation is usually not taken for credit and the rigorous course of philosophical subjects are omitted.

Our seminary teaches men aspiring to the diaconate from the midwestern dioceses of Des Moines, IA; Kansas City-St. Joseph, MO; and Salina, KS.

I believe that canonically in the Latin church a man must be at least 35 to study for the so-called permanent diaconate. Their wives (since most are usually married) must give consent and attend classes with them.

As far as the idea of being a "bridge" between laity and the bishop, I tell the men in my classes that if they remember anything - let it be that I will personally haunt them if they refer to themselves as lay deacons ! biggrin For as the title of a book on my syllabus states: the diaconate is a "full and equal" part of Holy Orders.

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