The permanent diaconate in the American Catholic Church: An examination of identity, role, and continuing education activities.
Author(s)Barry, James Timothy.
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The primary activity of this study was to qualitatively examine the permanent diaconate in light of established definitions as well as the lived experience of the deacon. The purpose of this study was to analyze the diaconate and its role in the Catholic Church of the United States.Restored as a ministry during Vatican II, the diaconate is in the process of establishing a modern identity for a ministry that dates from the time of Jesus. The diaconate is an ordained ministry unique from the ministries of bishop and priest and is also distinct from non-ordained ministries.The literature pointed to a confusion concerning the diaconate and its mission as the service dimension of Holy Orders.The question of this investigation was what is the meaning and identity of the deacon. With a better understanding of the ministry of the deacon, what ramifications does this definition of meaning have for the formation and the continuing education of deacons?This problem was examined through the employment of grounded theory and ethnographic research. The investigator utilized a theoretical sampling process consisting of an initial sample of deacons. Secondly, a number of priests were interviewed. And thirdly, a bishop of the Church was interviewed.The purpose of these distinct categories was the establishment of comparison groupings in order to reveal the similarities and differences of the diaconate.To verify the initial findings, three focus group interviews were conducted which affirmed three primary themes: service, identity, and competence.Ethnographic research also was employed as the investigator is a deacon. Ethnographic tactics such as an autobiography, a journal, and a self interview were employed.It was concluded that priests and the bishop differed significantly with deacons in their views regarding the diaconate.The research indicated that the lived reality of the diaconate can be viewed as a model consisting of the three triads: self, status, and role. This model was termed The Meaning Model of the Permanent Diaconate. The interrelationship within the model has ramifications for policy formation and continuing education of deacons.