History of the Diaconate

The first deacons are described in the Acts of the Apostles and referred to in the writings of St. Paul. In Acts 6:1-6 seven men of good reputation among the Christian community are chosen to assist the apostles in the care of the community’s needs.

Deacons were relied upon as leaders and enablers of local apostolic communities, as related in several places both in the New Testament and writings of the Fathers of the Church. Deacons assisted the episcopal ministry of the early Church, acting as the bridge between the bishop and the local community’s needs.

Deacons were examples of loyal faith and dedicated service to the Church, especially St. Stephen, St. Lawrence, and St. Francis of Assisi. 

The restoration of the order of Permanent Deacons, seen as vital to the life of the Church by the bishops of Vatican Council II, has been implemented and enhanced by Pope Paul VI, the National Catholic Conference of Bishops, and Pope John Paul II. The 1964 Vatican II document Lumen Gentium addressed restoring the permanent diaconate:

It is the duty of the deacon, according as it shall have been assigned to him by competent authority, to administer baptism solemnly, to be custodian and dispenser of the Eucharist, to assist at and bless marriages in the name of the Church, to bring Viaticum to the dying, to read the Sacred Scripture to the faithful, to instruct and exhort the people, to preside over the worship and prayer of the faithful, to administer sacramentals, to officiate at funeral and burial services. Dedicated to duties of charity and of administration, let deacons be mindful of the admonition of Blessed Polycarp: "Be merciful, diligent, walking according to the truth of the Lord, who became the servant of all."

Since these duties, so very necessary to the life of the Church, can be fulfilled only with difficulty in many regions in accordance with the discipline of the Latin Church as it exists today, the diaconate can in the future be restored as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy. It pertains to the competent territorial bodies of bishops, of one kind or another, with the approval of the Supreme Pontiff, to decide whether and where it is opportune for such deacons to be established for the care of souls. (#29)

In 1968 the National Conference of Catholic Bishops requested and received authorization to utilize the permanent diaconate in the United States. It published its first guidelines for the diaconate in 1971.

In the Sacramento Diocese, the restored Order of Deacons began in 1977 with the first permanent deacon ordained in 1981. The Permanent Diaconate has received the encouragement and support of the past and present bishops of our Sacramento Diocese: Bishop Alden Bell, Bishop Francis Quinn, Auxiliary Bishop Alphonse Gallegos, Auxiliary Bishop Richard Garcia, Bishop William Weigand, Auxiliary Bishop Myron Cotta and Bishop Jaime Soto.