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Deacons in the Catholic Church – who they are and what they do

Deacons an ordained position and only men can be ordained as deacons in the Catholic Church and in the hierarchy they occupy the lowest rung. There are two types of deacons – transitional and permanent although there is only one order of the diaconate. Transitional deacons are generally seminary students who are on the way to becoming priests. In Malaysia, it is not customary for bishops to ordain them as deacons while they are still in seminary. They are typically ordained only upon completion of seminary formation. 

Permanent deacons are those who have no intention of becoming priests but want to serve the Church is a bigger role. Permanent deacons may be married or unmarried men and they may be employed outside the Church or are running their own business or have other means of generating their income unless there is an arrangement between them and their bishop for the deacon to serve the church in a salaried capacity. When an unmarried man is ordained as deacon, marriage is no longer possible after that. Similarly, if a married deacon is widowed after his ordination, marriage is no longer possible.

Deacons can baptise, witness marriages, perform funeral and burial services outside of Mass, distribute Holy Communion, preach, and are obligated to pray the Divine Office each day. They can also perform common rites of blessings except those that are reserved only to priests or to bishops.

The graphics below should give you a quick overview of who deacons are, what they do and how the Church views them. Further down is a detailed explanation of the role of the deacon prepared by Rev P. Deacon Sherman Kuek of the Malacca Johore Diocese.

Here is a detailed explanation on the role of the deacon, prepared by Rev P. Deacon Sherman Kuek from the Malacca Johore Diocese.