Whenever we talk about the Church and “numbers,” it seems we brace ourselves for bad news. Young people are leaving the Church. The American Church is struggling to produce priestly vocations. Fewer people are attending Mass. Fewer people believe in God, or any kind of higher being, at all.
But there is one piece of statistical data that not only is encouraging, but frequently overlooked. And it’s that the number of permanent deacons in the United States is on the rise.
A new study from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostlate at Georgetown University to be released at the end of May has put the deacon population in the United States at 18,045, with the highest numbers in the archdioceses of Chicago, Galveston-Houston, Los Angeles and New York.
That number has been growing steadily for the past 50 years — since the restoration of the permanent diaconate was implemented by Blessed Pope Paul VI in 1968 as a product of the Second Vatican Council. The number of permanent deacons especially is growing in the United States.
(The diaconate itself is a very ancient tradition handed down from the early days of the apostles that, over time, faded out in the Western Church, though it remained alive and well in the Eastern Church.)
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the restoration of the permanent diaconate in the Latin Church, a national gathering is being held in New Orleans in July. Hosted by the National Association of Diaconate Directors, it will be an opportunity for the growing community to come together for fellowship, formation and inspiration.
Our Sunday Visitor has a very exciting role to play concerning the permanent diaconate as well. This summer, we will be launching Deacon Digest, an all-new magazine that will serve permanent deacons, deacon candidates and their wives. This will be the only print publication serving this demographic in a practical, pastoral and yet intellectual manner.
With a focus on cultivating the interior life, the magazine seeks to build a community of men on fire for the diaconate by providing quality content that forms, informs and inspires.
We are so pleased to be able to offer this resource for these members of the clergy who sometimes can feel isolated in their ministries.
Perhaps your parish is one of those that is blessed with a permanent deacon. If so, be sure to thank him for his ministry, which often is done in addition to a “day job” and his everyday family life.
And consider thanking him with a gift subscription to Deacon Digest. It’s the gift that we know will keep on giving — something that will help him stay energized in his vocation and feeling like a part of a bigger community.
For more information, go to deacondigest.com.
Gretchen R. Crowe is editor-in-chief of OSV Newsweekly. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.