Monday, July 21, 2008

The deacon that I am

In my on-going research that I hope will result in something new and useful about the permanent diaconate, not to mention a completed IPR leading to a Master’s degree, I acquired a copy of Deacon Bill Ditewig's latest book The Emerging Diaconate: Servant Leaders in a Servant Church, which marks another great contribution by Dr. Ditewig to the growing literature on the permanent diaconate, most of which is being published by Paulist Press. Just having started the book last night, I have to state that I very much appreciate Ditewig's look at and interpretation of the burgeoning data on the diaconate in the United States. While I will not bore you with all my interest in his analysis, I do want to share my sitz im leben as a Roman Catholic deacon in the U.S. in the early twenty-first century. He looks at five sets of data, four of which are compiled by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), located at Georgetown University over the past few decades and one of which was compiled by the USCCB’s Committee on the Diaconate. Only two of the CARA sets will be relevant to accomplish my purpose here.

According to the March 2007 CARA post-formation survey, I am one of some 16,661 permanent deacons in this country. The 2004 CARA Profile on the Diaconate indicates that I am one of some 4,932 deacons in the western part of the U.S. Turning again to the 2007 survey, I am one of 13,495 Caucasian deacons in this country, a more ethnically diverse group than priests. Also as of 2004, the year of my ordination, according to the Catholic Hierarchy database, I am one of some 70 permanent deacons in the Diocese of Salt Lake City ( I know this number is not exact). CARA’s 2007 survey, using data from 2006, locates me among the some 15,495 permanent deacons in the U.S. who are married and among the 30% of permanent deacons employed in a secular occupation.

At 42, according to Dr. Ditewig, I am one year older than "the average age of deacons in nearly every other part of the world" (24). The 2007 CARA survey indicates that I am twenty years younger than the average age of permanent deacons in this country. CARA’s 2004 profile shows that by being ordained at 38, which is just three years older than the minimum age established by canon 1031§2, which sets the minimum age for a married man to be ordained a permanent deacon at 35, I was fifteen years younger than the average age at ordination of permanent deacons in the U.S. Hence, as of 2007, I am one of only some 1,500 U.S. deacons who are younger than 50. Having been born in 1965, the year the Second Vatican Council ended, which, according once again to the 2004 profile, places me among the one percent of deacons in the U.S. who are considered part of the post-Vatican II generation.

Never having actually completed my thesis in philosophy, I am, according to CARA in 2007, in the 35% of permanent deacons who have a bachelor’s degree. Next year (God willing) I will join the 19% who hold graduate degrees. Besides, my blog, translated, is called Catholic Deacon.

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