The Diocese of Killaloe is looking for married men to become part of the restored Permanent Diaconate, first mooted after the Second Vatican Council in the early Sixties.
The move will bring Ireland up to speed with other countries, particularly the United States, where permanent deacons have been a feature for decades.
“We are 20 or 30 years behind other countries,” Fr Albert McDonnell, chancellor and director of the Permanent Diaconate programme in the diocese told the Tipperary Star. However, he pointed out that around eight dioceses in Ireland had a permanent diaconate with the Killaloe diocese “behind some and ahead of others”.
Under the guidelines issued by Bishop Kieran O’Reilly in his pastoral letter that was read at Masses last Sunday, the diaconate is open to married men over the age of 35, subject to the consent of their wives, or to single men who must make a solemn promise of celibacy. Fr McDonnell was not aware of there being any single deacons, and said that married men generally become deacons after their family have grown up.
Deacons can take part in wedding ceremonies, baptisms, burials and funerals and, if present, there is no need for a priest to officiate. However, they cannot celebrate the Eucharist.
Fr McDonnell said that the diocese had already had four or five expressions of interest from men, even though the pastoral letter was only read out last Sunday.
“These are early days, and the first advice is for people thinking of becoming a deacon to talk to their parish priest and then to the diocese,” he said.
A deacon is one step below being a priest and the diocese sees them as having a greater active role in the Church given that there has been a decline in vocations and many villages have been left without an active priest. The Diocese of Killaloe has only one person training to be a priest, Michael Gerraghty from Birr. He will be ordained next year.