The diocese of Cork and Ross will start a recruitment drive in the coming months aimed at encouraging both married and unmarried parishioners to join the clergy by becoming deacons.
Permanent deacons can be single or married. They baptise new entrants to the Church, witness marriages, perform funeral and burial services outside of Mass, distribute Holy Communion, preach the homily, and are obligated to pray the Divine Office (breviary) each day.
Two months ago, Ireland’s first married deacons were ordained by the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin. All but one of the eight men ordained are married.
According to Church law, candidates for the permanent diaconate must be at least 25 years old, if single, and at least 35 years old, if married. If they are single when the become deacons, they must commit themselves to celibacy.
Bishop John Buckley said now that parish councils and pastoral areas were well established in the area, the establishment of a diaconate was his next objective.
Any candidates who pass the initial assessment will have to spend four years in formation including academic study, spiritual, human, and pastoral formation. In the case of married candidates, the man’s wife will also be interviewed as part of the assessment process.
Married men served as deacons in the early Church. This practice was later stopped but was re-introduced following the reforms of the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s.
Since then deacons have ministered in many other European Churches but the Irish Church was reluctant to go down this route and had no need as there was plentiful supply of priests for the country’s parishes. The vocations crisis has promp-ted the renewed interest in the diaconate.
Seven other dioceses have permanent deacons in formation: Dublin, Armagh, Dromore, Kilmore, Kildare and Leighlin, Waterford and Lismore, and Kerry.
Deacons only carry out their church duties on a part-time basis. The role is voluntary; however, if deacons have taken early retirement or reduced their work commitments they may be able to offer a greater time commitment.