Vicariate for Care of the Clergy

Permanent Diaconate

Becoming a Deacon

On the occasion of this year’s diaconal ordination, the number of permanent deacons in our Diocese rose to 38. What sort of ministerial life do the deacons undertake? Through ordination, the deacon receives the Gospel of Christ, whose herald the deacon is, to believe what he reads, to teach what he believes, and to practice what he teaches. How does a deacon do this? His ministry is based on a threefold life of service to the Word, to the Liturgy and to Caritas (charity in love).

In his Ministry to the Word, a key task of the deacon is to proclaim the Gospel. The deacon is to allow the Word of God, the Good News of the Gospel, to become an ever more intimate part of who he is, so that his perspective on life is grounded fully and deeply on the presence of God in his life. The family and community in which the deacon’s vocation is formed and nurtured, his openness to the presence of the Holy Spirit – through his prayer life – are solid foundations upon which the deacon will draw upon his experiences to preach and to break open the scriptures.

A programme of formation provides the student with plenty of material to study and digest! The first year is a propaedeutic year, a year of introduction into a formal prayer life, basic liturgy and a way of thinking with the Church. At the end of this year of discernment, the next step is to be admitted as a Candidate for the diaconate. There follow three more years of discernment and formation focused on the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral development in all the appropriate areas of theology, scripture, catechesis, liturgy, Canon Law and other related subjects. Throughout this four-year period of formation and discernment, an openness to the Holy Spirit allows the aspiring deacon to believe what he reads. The deacon, like all the baptized, is a work in progress: we all need to undergo lifelong discernment and formation in order to draw more closely to God. An open, questioning mind and heart helps us to grow, to learn. Prayerful discernment and continued support of the faith community are vital to helping the person in formation for the diaconate.

Ordination is the next stage on the journey. Once ordained, the deacon continues to discern how he is to live out his ministry, to put into practice what he has learned, and to share his giftedness with others, encouraging and enabling others to fully live out their own giftedness too. How does the deacon do this?

Through imitating Christ the Servant, the deacon is to live a life of loving service in whatever role he is asked to undertake. His Ministry to the Liturgy and to Caritas are of great importance. Supporting the sacramental life of the faithful through performing baptisms, witnessing marriages or conducting funeral services are just three ways in which the deacon does this. Deacons, it has been said, have one foot on the sanctuary and one foot in the pews: this acknowledges that the vast majority of deacons can draw on both working life and family life experiences, in helping them to ground the actions of loving service they undertake to both those gathered in our churches and to those in the wider community. Practically, the deacons of this diocese live out their ministerial calling in a variety of ways: some are parish / partnership based, some work in chaplaincy roles (hospital, hospice, school or prison), some work in areas of social justice (e.g. with refugees), some work with seafarers, some help with sacramental preparation. There are as many ways to respond to Christ the Servant as there are deacons. Each has his own giftedness, life experiences and own way of living out his ministerial calling.

If any of this sounds appealing, if you think that the Holy Spirit might be prompting you to respond to God’s call to consider your vocation to the permanent diaconate, then why not email us to find out more information. We do occasionally run an information evening, which start at 7.00pm and last for about 90 minutes.

At each session, there will be the opportunity to listen to a deacon share his own experience, to hear from the wife of a man who is a deacon what it means for them and family life, a chance to know a more about the formation programme and the application process and, most importantly of all, the opportunity to ask questions. Wives of men who are considering the permanent diaconate are equally welcome to attend these sessions. The prayerful discernment of husband and wife as a married couple is an essential aspect to consider during formation and beyond ordination. We look forward to welcoming you at one of these sessions.

Diaconate Ordination of Neil Haggerstone

On Saturday 4 December Neil Haggerstone was ordained a deacon at St Cuthbert’s Chapel, Ushaw.

Click on the link below to view a selection of images from the ordination.

What is a Deacon?

In the early church, deacons were very important. The Second Vatican Council saw the need to restore the Permanent Diaconate which is open to married men, and most dioceses throughout the world have begun to accept this need.

Increasingly, deacons are becoming involved in various ministries throughout our diocese. Some are involved in paid ministry such as hospital chaplaincy or lecturing, several are involved in various Diocesan commissions and associations such as Marriage and Family Life, Vocations, Diaconate Formation and Marriage Tribunals. All are involved in their local parish and community, some with added responsibility where there is no resident priest. Deacons are unpaid, most in Hexham and Newcastle Diocese are married men and their wives play an important part in the formation and ministry of deacons. The deacons are from a wide range of professional and educational backgrounds and together they form a diaconal community to support each other in their spiritual and ministerial lives.

What does a Deacon do?

"The bishops will govern the Church, the priests will do all the work and the deacons will have all the fun."

Richard Cushing, American prelate of the Roman Catholic Church

A deacon receives the sacrament of Holy Orders and is an ordained minister within the Roman Catholic Church. The clerical dress of a deacon is similar to that of a priest but the ministry of a deacon should not be confused with that of a priest. Deacons are ordained to serve the Church in a threefold ministry.

The deacon is particularly called to serve the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised, and he will often coordinate the local church’s response to their needs. He must have a special care for matters of social justice and he should aim to foster and support parish groups and organisations that share this concern.

The deacon will proclaim the Gospel and sometimes preach at Mass and other religious services.

He will preside at services other than the Mass and he will lead the people in prayer.

He will also officiate at funeral and burial services.

The deacon has a special ministry during Mass and he will assist the bishop or priest who is presiding. He will distribute Holy Communion at Mass, in hospital and in the homes of the sick, the housebound and the dying. The deacon will baptise and help to prepare people for this sacramental celebration. He will also prepare people for the Sacrament of Marriage and he may officiate at their wedding.

Homily Resources for Permanent Deacons

In this section of material relating to the Permanent Diaconate there are two different resources offered.

The first, with a somewhat tongue-in-cheek title, offers 10 Commandments about the preparation and delivery of homilies.

The second offers some sample homilies given by me over the years. They have been compiled from the notes that I wrote for myself at the time, and are offered not because by any stretch of the imagination are they the best examples available, rather that they offer an insight into what one priest delivered on those occasions in the various parishes in which I served at the time. Homilies are very much “of the moment”. What was relevant to the experience of a congregation in one year may well be very different three years later when those same Readings occur in our 3-Year cycle of Readings for Sundays.

Fr Sean E. Hall

Year C Homilies

Contact Us

Permanent Diaconate Formation Team:
Bishop’s Liaison: Rev. Jeff Dodds
Director of Formation: Rev. Mark Millward
Director of Ongoing Formation: Deacon David R Collins
Promoter of Vocations: Deacon Shaun McGee
Team members: Rev. Simon Weymes, Deacon Shaun McGee, Deacon Vincent Purcell

If you are interested in finding out about the Permanent Diaconate you should contact:

Rev. Mark Millward tel: 01642 806469 Email: formationdeacons@diocesehn.org.uk.

If you are interested in the Hexham and Newcastle Diaconal Community you should contact:

Deacon David R Collins.
Email: directorofdeacons@diocesehn.org.uk.