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USCCB News Release Archives

May 28, 2010

Generosity, Resilience, Education, Key Features of Permanent Deacons

Most permanent deacons in active ministry are married
Number of permanent deacons on the rise

WASHINGTON—A national survey of permanent diaconate offices in Catholic dioceses in the United States found that one-quarter of active permanent deacons (28 percent) have a graduate degree. Given that the diaconate is a ministry of service and charity, the vast majority of deacons are not paid for their ministry. Even still, their number continues to rise and they stay active for a very long time.
The study, which was commissioned by the Secretariat of Clergy and Consecrated Life and Vocations of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, was conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University.
Some of the findings related to permanent deacons in active ministry include:

  • Number of deacons:21 arch/dioceses report having more than 200 permanent deacons, with Chicago(646 deacons), Trenton (442 deacons), and Galveston-Houston (383) among the topthree. Deacons currently minister in all but one diocese in the United States, and eight in ten permanent deacons in responding arch/dioceses are active in ministry.It is estimatedthat there are as many as 17,047 permanent deacons in the United States today, of whomapproximately 16,349 are active in ministry.
  • Demographic characteristics: 92 percent of permanent deacons in active ministry are married, four percent are widowers, and two percent have never been married; more than six in ten permanent deacons are at least 60-years-old, four in ten deacons are 60 to 69, and about a quarter are 70 or older; 81 percent of active deacons are non-Hispanic whites, 14 percent are Hispanic/Latino, two percent are African American and two percent are Asian.
  • Education: Over one-quarter of active deacons (28 percent) have a graduate degree. Deacons are twice as likely to have a graduate degree in a field not related to the diaconate as to have one in a religious field such as religious studies, theology or Canon Law.
  • Compensation and formation: Fewer than one in five (18 percent) permanent deacons are financially compensated forministry. Eighty-four percent of responding dioceses require post-ordination formation. One in six dioceses provides post-ordination formation in a language other than English —such as Spanish and American Sign Language— and more than eight in ten dioceses provide formation opportunities for the wives of deacons.

Of the 194 Catholic dioceses contacted, all U.S. dioceses and Eastern Rite eparchies except for the Archdiocese of Military Services, 106 responded to the CARA survey for a 55 percent completion rate. In cases where a non-responding diocese or eparchy had supplied diaconate information in a previous year of data collection, the most recent prior information was used, bringing the total of responding diaconate offices to 180, or 93 percent of all dioceses/eparchies. At the request of the USCCB, CARA has conducted this survey annually since 2005.

The CARA study “A Portrait of the Permanent Diaconate 2010” can be found on the USCCB Secretariat of Clergy and Consecrated Life and Vocations’ Web site at

Keywords: permanent diaconate, deacons, Secretariat of Clergy and Consecrated Life and Vocations, bishops, USCCB, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate

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