Fifty years ago on the heels of the Second Vatican Council, Blessed Paul VI’s apostolic letter "Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem", the Church in the United States was granted permission to restore the sacred order of the permanent diaconate. The importance of the restoration of the diaconate was outlined in the Vatican II decree "As Gentes" which stated "Where episcopal conferences deem it opportune, the order of the diaconate should be restored as a permanent state of life according to the norms of the constitution. For there are men who actually carry out the functions of the deacon’s office, either preaching the word of God as catechists or presiding over scattered Christian communities in the name of the pastor and/or the bishop, or practicing charity in social or relief work. It is only right to strengthen them by the imposition of hands which has come down from the apostles, and to bind them more closely to the altar, that they may carry out their ministry more effectively because of the sacramental grace of the diaconate." Today the United States has more permanent deacons than any country in the world, with more than 18,000 serving the Church.
The English word "deacon" is derived from the Greek "diakanos" which means "servant" or "helper" and it occurs in the New Testament with those meanings. The office apparently arose from the earliest days of the Church in Jerusalem. As the number of Greek speaking Christians increased, the Aramaic speaking Christians complained that their widows were being neglected in every day ministry. The apostles selected seven men "of good reputation and full of the Spirit and wisdom" to attend to these tasks. The Apostles laid hands on them and they became the first ordained deacons.
Fr John R. Mulvehill