The Byzantine Catholic Deacon
The diaconate dates to the time of the Apostles. The Apostles chose seven men "acknowledged to be deeply spiritual and prudent," and ordained them by the laying on of hands (Acts 6:1-11). These men were empowered explicitly to provide for the distribution of food among the growing church membership. From the beginning, the primary purpose of the diaconate was a ministry of service. The word deacon derives from the Greek word, “diakonia,” which means service.
The “Acts of the Apostles” clearly shows the first seven deacons spreading and building the early church. The diaconate is a ministry of service.
Applicants must be Byzantine Catholic males 35 years of age or older, in a stable marriage of at least five years or committed to a life of celibacy, with job stability or retired, enjoying the moral, physical and psychological qualities in harmony with receiving a sacred order, be a member and actively involved in the local Byzantine Catholic parish programs and have the recommendation of their pastor and parish pastoral council.
The deacon assists the eparchial bishop in preaching the Word of God, in discovering and responding to needs of charity, and in celebrating the Divine Services.
In the local parish, the deacon assists in the Divine Services, assists in baptismal and marriage preparation, takes holy Communion to the sick and confined, makes hospital visits, works in parish youth programs, teaches Eastern Christian Formation sessions, works in various parish programs, and ministers in other areas of his expertise under the direction of his parish priest.
The Diaconal Program encompasses the spiritual, academic and ministerial formation of the candidate in an attempt to nourish and develop the whole man. Through spiritual formation the diaconal student is totally immersed into the diaconate; this is not something to be put on as needed. Experiences are provided during the discernment process. A diaconal student will have a personal spiritual director who walks with the candidate along his faith journey and helps to guide his discernment.
Most students attend the diaconal preparation program of the Byzantine Catholic Seminary of SS. Cyril and Methodius in Pittsburgh. This is comprised of four years of two week intense study each summer with assignments throughout each year. Only in very special circumstances are variances to this program made. In addition, the candidate meets with selected members of the eparchy for supplemental theological and liturgical instruction as is appropriate and necessary for his full formation.
A diaconal candidate works with his pastor and the eparchial staff in developing his pastoral skills, acquiring ministerial experience and receiving specialized liturgical formation.