Rt Rev Ralph Heskett
Bishop of Hallam

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 Vocations Director

Rev Peter Cullen, 0114 268 1197

Deacons Director

Rev Peter McGuire 01246 432 389


The Permanent Diaconate

Andrew Crowley reflects on his role as a deacon.

By 2014, the number of deacons in our Diocese reached 18 - enough for a football team with a subs' bench!

We are all used to the idea of deacons being ordained on their way to the priesthood, but the order of Permanent Deacons was only re-established by Pope Paul VI.  It is something new for all of us and we are all still trying to understand how this new ministry relates to our church life.

In essence the deacon has three aspects of service to his ministry.  These are Charity, Word and Altar.  It is in this space that deacons live their vocation.  It is not an exclusive space however as we are all called to service in these 3 areas - it is what makes us Christian, and is the fulfilment of our Baptism when we were anointed as Priest, Prophet and King.  The experience of vocation, discernment and ordination do however give a permanent sign to the Church of the importance of these three ministries.

This vocation is not a right, something to be earned or demanded, but a gift freely given by the Spirit to whoever is called.  This can often be quite unexpected and a complete surprise!

The fact of ordination by the Bishop makes a permanent and indelible mark on the deacon's life.  His life is never totally his own.  This is the reality of the ordination; there is always someone else to consider.  Something has happened which is irreversible - a reality which is constant in daily life, no matter where he is - with his family, at work, in the street, and in prayer.  In a profound way Jesus is inextricably linked with whatever he does.

A commonly asked question is "What is a deacon allowed to do?"  Although this is understandable it does restrict the deacon to a series of roles and functions.  The deacon is led by the Holy Spirit to serve the community, and not just the parish community, in whatever way the community needs.  It is very much a lived vocation - being called forth by the Spirit to imitate Jesus, who was an itinerant preacher who served the needs of those he met.  There was no prescribed rite for Jesus to follow.  His response to those around him was firmly rooted in obeying the will of His Father, and was discerned through prayer.  This attitude allows the deacon to fulfil his ministry of service in whatever way is appropriate; for instance by being a dad and husband, a worker, a neighbour, an activist for justice and peace.  In tandem with these ministries are the formal ones that we are familiar with such as minister of baptism and proclaimer of the Gospel.

In Hallam, all the deacons are married and most are in paid work.  A few have retired and some have taken up part time chaplaincy posts.  The Church expects that deacons who are married to place their marriage and family life first, and for all the rest to fit in around this.  It might be busy but it can be done.

Prayer is at the heart of the deacon's life - from this, and to this, everything flows.  He commits himself to formal prayer at least twice a day by celebrating the Morning and Evening Prayer of the Church.  Other times and forms of prayer are also encouraged.

Becoming a deacon is a long process with a long period of discernment, and study.  Men who are married, can become deacons if they are over 35 years old, whereas single men can become a deacon if they over 25 years old.

In Hallam, trainee deacons usually undertake a 4 year programme - the first 3 are spent on the Foundation Theology Degree Course, and the 4th is more specific to the ministries that the deacon fulfils.

If you are called to find out more then talk to your parish priest who will put you in touch with the Diocesan Director for Deacon Formation, Fr Peter McGuire.