Good question!

Luke Coppen and Brendan Hodge have an excellent answer and overview: 

In an Aug. 17 letter conveying the pope’s decision, the Vatican said that the step was a “noble initiative for the good of the holy people of God in the Philippines”.

This is a significant moment for the permanent diaconate since its restoration in the Latin Church in 1967 as the Philippines has the globe’s third-largest Catholic population after Brazil and Mexico.

The number of permanent deacons worldwide could rise notably in the coming years, with consequences for Catholic parish life.

But what exactly is the permanent diaconate? How has it developed over the past half-century? And where are permanent deacons located around the world?

There follows a history of how the diaconate came to be restored as a full and permanent order — one not always enthusiastically embraced.  Some dioceses (and some countries) have only recently brought back deacons, with the Philippines being the latest example.

For now, the order is flourishing primarily in the West:

According to L’Osservatore Romano, 97% of the world’s permanent deacons are found today in the Americas and Europe.

It appears that roughly two-thirds of permanent deacons in the Americas are based in the United States, while a large portion of the remaining third live in Brazil. There are also notable numbers in Argentina, Chile, and Mexico.

thorough study of the permanent diaconate in the U.S. in 2021-2022 estimated that there were a total of 20,888 permanent deacons in the country, with 20,673 serving in Latin Rite dioceses and 215 in Eastern Catholic eparchies.

Among the dioceses that took part in the study, the one reporting the largest number of permanent deacons was Chicago, with 804, followed by Los Angeles with 498, and Joliet in Illinois, a suffragan diocese of Chicago, with 497.

The participating U.S. Latin Catholic dioceses with the lowest ratios of Catholics per permanent deacon are Lexington (477 Catholics per deacon), Amarillo (547), Rapid City (678), Pueblo (681), and Anchorage (699).

But in some dioceses that did not participate in the survey the ratio is much higher. The Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, for example, ordained its first permanent deacon in 2021.

Read on. 

Photo: Paul Haring/Catholic News Service