The U.S. Catholic Church in 2020 had 18,075 permanent deacons serving in ministry, a decrease of 118 deacons, less than 1%, from the previous year, according to data collected by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate in Washington.
Despite the slight decline, as shown in information in the Official Catholic Directory, CARA researchers expect the number of permanent deacons to grow to a projected 19,478 based on trends since 2003.
Meanwhile, a total of 124 formation permanent diaconate formation programs in the U.S. reported 2,105 candidates enrolled during the 2020-2021 academic, a decrease of 50 candidates, about 2%, from the previous year, researchers found.
The number of permanent deacons has remained steady in recent years after steady growth with ordinations beginning in 1972. The ministry was reestablished by St. Paul VI in 1967 following the reforms of the Second Vatican Council.
CARA released a report on its findings Sept. 7. The study was completed in July.
A breakdown of the data collected by the center show that the share of candidates in their 30s and 40s stood at 22% in the 2020-2021 academic year. That represents a 50% decline in the share of candidates in the two youngest age groups since 2002.
Nearly half, 45% of candidates, were in their 50s and 33% were age 60 or older in the same academic year.
Among findings in the report:
- The formation program with the highest number of candidates is San Antonio, with 74.
- During the 2020-2021 academic year, seven in ten deacon candidates (66%) were white/Anglo/Caucasian. The racial and ethnic distribution of candidates to permanent diaconate is gradually becoming more diverse. In 2002-2003, 76% of candidates were white. If this trend continues, the share of candidates who are white is projected to decline to 64% ±6% (CI=95%) in the diaconate formation programs in the 2025-2026 academic year.
- Just over a quarter of those in formation (26%) are Hispanic/Latino.