A great write-up from OSV News, with a few names you might recognize:

When bishops, other delegates and observers gather in October at the Vatican for the general assembly of the world Synod of Bishops on Synodality, one of the wide-ranging topics they are anticipated to discuss is on the role of permanent deacons in the church. The synod’s working document, published in June, included the reflection question: “How is the ministry of the permanent diaconate to be understood within a missionary synodal church?”

Deacon Dennis Dorner, who oversees diaconate formation for the Archdiocese of Atlanta, said the question is not difficult to answer.

“As a missionary disciple, the first and primary role that we have is to be meeting people where they are, and the only way we can possibly do that is by listening and understanding who they are and what they are dealing with in their lives,” he said. “We then can meet them there (and) have the opportunity to share the message of the Gospel with them.”

Deacon Dorner, who also serves as chairman of the board of directors for the National Association of Diaconate Directors, describes the permanent diaconate as a “bridge” between the clergy and laity, and the sacred and the secular. The crux of the vocation, he said, is listening, which dovetails with what Pope Francis has called for in “a listening church.”

“I certainly see my role as deacon — and I think most of my brother deacons sense that their role — is to be available, to listen to what the needs of the people are,” he said, noting that deacons can then share those needs with priests and bishops. “The very nature of what we’re called to do is synodal, if synodal means listening.”

When Pope Francis opened the Synod on Synodality Oct. 9, 2021, he said, “The Synod then offers us the opportunity to become a listening church, to break out of our routine and pause from our pastoral concerns in order to stop and listen. To listen to the Spirit in adoration and prayer. … To listen to our brothers and sisters speak of their hopes and of the crises of faith present in different parts of the world, of the need for a renewed pastoral life and of the signals we are receiving from those on the ground.”

Deacon Scott Dodge, director of the diaconate office for the Diocese of Salt Lake City, said ministry of the permanent diaconate, while pastoral, differs from that of priests, because it “is not primarily about making the sacraments available.”

Rather, he said, “deacons make the church present in an institutional and sacramental way in places where the hierarchy usually isn’t and often cannot be. … I think this contributes a lot to synodality.”

Read it all.