From Pittsburgh Catholic: 

Nearly a quarter of age-eligible men are open to becoming a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Pittsburgh, according to a new study.

The donor-funded research, part of an initiative to strengthen and grow the permanent diaconate, also found that most parishioners surveyed, while initially unclear about all that deacons do, were supportive of their role and ministry once they learned the facts.

Deacons are ordained ministers of the Catholic Church, with a special calling to perform works of charity and service, proclaim the word of God, and assist in the liturgical and sacramental life of the church. Married men can be ordained as permanent deacons.

Currently, the diocese has 93 permanent deacons — 87 who are actively engaged in ministry — and 38 men who are in formation to become deacons. Bishop David Zubik is expected to call another deacon class this year.

Among the study’s key findings:

• 24% of deacon-age men in the diocese are interested in exploring becoming a deacon.

• 71% of married women would encourage their husbands to look into the diaconate.

• 36% of men who responded to the survey were within the eligibility age range of 30-59 to enter deacon formation.

• 82% of deacon-age men have a positive view of the diaconate.

• 70% of survey respondents, after reading a full description of the role of deacons, supported their work.

Researchers found that many men who felt called to the diaconate never spoke about it with anyone. Some expressed concern that becoming a deacon would take time away from their families. However, interviews with current deacons indicated that the formation process can be spiritually transforming for wives and children, as well as for the deacon candidates.

“You get to develop a deeper relationship with the church,” said the wife of one deacon. “You will find new ways to serve.”

“Serving the people of God is at the core of a deacon’s mission and allows him to grow closer to Jesus and deepen his faith,” said Deacon Stephen Byers, director of the Deacon Formation Program. “The formation process provides a strong foundation for personal growth, spiritual devotion, intellectual enhancement and pastoral practice.”

Read more.