Permanent Diaconate, Westminster

Welcome to the Permanent Diaconate section of the Westminster Vocations website.

Here you will find a series of articles and reflections, testimonies and practical “What next...” features –  all aimed to help those discerning a possible calling to this particular vocation within the Church.

A useful starting point is to understand exactly what it means to be a Permanent Deacon. This is a man ordained by the Bishop of his diocese to serve the Church in a three-fold ministry:

The Ministry of Charity
He is particularly called to serve the poor, the vulnerable and the marginalised. He may co-ordinate his parish’s response to their needs, fostering and supporting parish groups and initiatives for those most in need. He has a special care for matters of social justice.

The Ministry of the Word
He proclaims the Gospel and sometimes preaches at Mass as well as presiding and preaching at funeral and burial services. He baptises and officiates at weddings, helping people to prepare for these sacraments. He leads the people in prayer and plays a leading role in the teaching and catechetical life of his parish community.

The Ministry of the Altar
He offers service at the altar at the Mass assisting the Bishop or Priest. He distributes Holy Communion at Mass, in hospital and in the homes of the sick, the housebound and the dying. He may coordinate the Eucharistic ministers and Communion visits within the parish.

The Permanent Diaconate in Westminster diocese.
There are now more than 30 Permanent Deacons serving in the diocese. As well as parish ministry these men are engaged in a variety of other ministries, including school, prison and hospital chaplaincy.

The link with their home parish is crucial – candidates for the Permanent Diaconate must have the support of their parish priest and congregation and it is this community which they will serve after ordination. This means that they should be deeply rooted and engaged in their own parish, and already be involved in works of service and exercising some leadership roles within this community.

In Westminster, the Permanent Diaconate is open to either single men over 35 who feel called to the celibate life or to married men over 40. Those who are married must have the support of their wife and family and accept that if their spouse should die before them they cannot remarry and would live in the celibate state.

Any candidate must demonstrate the necessary maturity and stability for this life-long commitment. They will be prepared to embark on a three or four year part-time course of formation, focusing on the four areas of spiritual, pastoral, human and intellectual development.

Most candidates will be in the world of work and continue to be so after ordination. Indeed it is the role of the Permanent Deacon to have “one foot in the sanctuary and the other in the workplace”.

Above all, they will be men of faith and prayer, with a desire to serve others for the sake of God’s kingdom.