Welcome to Discerning Deacons, a project fueled by love and fidelity to the Catholic Church!

Our mission is to engage Catholics in the active discernment of our Church about women and the diaconate.

Embrace

We embrace the prophetic call and ministry of deacons.

Witness

We witness the historical and contemporary diaconal ministry of Catholic women.

Hope

We hope in the Spirit to lead this discernment, renew the Church and heal our world.

Our work together is supporting educational opportunities and conversations in parishes and communities so that everyone can participate in the discernment.

We look forward to gathering virtually on September 3, 2021, the Feast of St. Phoebe, the deacon whom St. Paul commended to the Church in Rome, asking that they “receive her in the Lord” (Romans 16:1-2).

We will bring the fruits of our conversations directly to Pope Francis and members of the papal commission in October 2021.

Background

The Second Vatican Council (1962-65) renewed the ministry of the diaconate in the Catholic Church — restoring it as a permanent state of life, opening it to married men, and teaching that deacons are ordained to serve in liturgy, word and charity to the people of God.

At the Council itself, and in the decades that followed, a question has consistently emerged among popes and bishops and many others: Might the restoration and renewal of this ministry also involve giving official recognition to the diaconal ministry exercised by women?

In the early 1970s, Pope Paul VI commissioned a study. In 2002, the International Theological Commission said, “It pertains to the ministry of discernment which the Lord established in his Church to pronounce authoritatively on this question.” In 2016, Pope Francis established a commission to study the topic. And in 2020, following the Synod of Bishops on the Amazon, where a majority of bishops were in favor of ordaining women as deacons, and where the Synod formally requested to share their “experiences and reflections” with a papal commission, Pope Francis established a new commission that will begin meeting in Fall 2021.

The question of women and the diaconate is a living conversation and an active discernment in our Church. In a listening, participatory and synodal Church, it is a question not only for Synods of Bishops and papal commissions, but it is a discernment for the entire people of God.

Advisors

Most Rev. Randolph Calvo

Bishop of Reno, Nevada

Deacon William T. Ditewig, Ph.D.

Former Executive Director, Secretariat for the Diaconate, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Sr. Donna Ciangio, O.P.

Chancellor, Archdiocese of Newark

Fr. Warren Sazama, S.J.

Pastor, St. Thomas More Catholic Parish, St. Paul, Minnesota

Bridget Deegan-Krause, M.Div.

Board Certified Chaplain, Mission and Formation Consultant, Catholic Health Care

Cecilia González-Andrieu, Ph.D.,

Professor of Theological Studies, Loyola Marymount University

Featured Endorsers

Most Rev. Emil A. Wcela

Retired Auxiliary Bishop of Rockville Centre, N.Y.

Very Rev. Scott Santarosa, S.J

Provincial Superior, USA West Province, Society of Jesus

Fr. Richard Rohr, O.F.M.

Founder, Center for Action and Contemplation

Deacon Greg Kandra

Creator, “The Deacon’s Bench”; senior writer and outreach program manager, Catholic Near East Welfare Association

Nicole Perone

National Coordinator, ESTEEM

Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J.

Founder, Homeboy Industries

Fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.

Promoter of Preaching, Southern Dominican Province (USA)

Anna Nussbaum Keating

Catholic Chaplain, Colorado College; author, The Catholic Catalogue

Fr. Jacek Orzechowski, O.F.M.

Pastor, Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Durham, N.C.

Fr. Bob Bonnot

Executive Director, Association of U.S. Catholic Priests

Anne Hansen

Executive Director, Ignatians West

Fr. Theodore Gabrielli, S.J.

Pastor, Dolores Mission Catholic Church, Los Angeles

Donna B. Doucette

Executive Director, Voice of the Faithful

Are you a leader in our Church?

Are you interested in endorsing the project and sharing why this discernment is important to you today? Help encourage others to participate by expressing your support as a public endorser.

Leadership Team

Casey Stanton, co-director of Discerning Deacons

Durham, North Carolina

I hope our project can be a way to live into a vision for the Church’s renewal as we listen and seek to learn how the Holy Spirit guides, leads and presses us forward. The diaconate touches my own vocational desire to proclaim the Gospel and help move our faith out into the world. 

You can contact Casey at casey@discerningdeacons.org.

Casey Stanton has spent over a decade working in the field of social concerns ministries within parish life and as part of broader, faith-based coalitions. She most recently served as Adult Faith Formation minister at Immaculate Conception Parish in Durham, North Carolina. She holds a BA from the University of Notre Dame and a Master of Divinity degree from Duke Divinity School where she graduated with a certificate in prison studies. A Boston native, Casey is proud to make a home in Durham with her husband Felipe and their two children, Micaela and Teddy. She is a product of Sacred Heart education and invokes St. Madeleine Sophie Barat, along with Dorothy Day, to accompany her in helping to lead and shepherd this new project! She loves reading poetry out loud and seeing her favorite band, Hardworker, perform live (back when we went to concerts). 

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Ellie Hidalgo, co-director of Discerning Deacons

Miami, Florida

I’m excited we’re building a bridge of sisterhood and brotherhood to the Amazon. It is here, in the peripheries of the Amazon, where the Holy Spirit is calling forth Catholic women to preach and preside at baptisms, weddings and funerals, with the blessing of their bishops. They work toward the vision of a listening, participatory, synodal Church that is grounded in caring for each other and our common home.

You can contact Ellie at ellie@discerningdeacons.org.

Ellie Hidalgo served for 12 years as the pastoral associate and previously as a pastoral assistant for Dolores Mission Catholic Church and School, a Jesuit parish in the Latin American immigrant community of Boyle Heights, just east of downtown Los Angeles, California. This small church with a giant heart is known for its restorative justice ministries and faith-based community organizing, and for being the home parish of Homeboy Industries. Ellie holds a BA from the University of Pennsylvania and a Masters in Pastoral Theology from Loyola Marymount University. She was commissioned as a pastoral associate for the Archdiocese of Los Angeles in 2013. Inspired by the prophetic role of grandmothers, mothers, women and girls in bringing forth God’s dream for God’s people on earth, Ellie has preached for Catholic Women Preach in 2018 and 2020. She recently moved to Miami, Florida, to live closer to her family. She enjoys walking, writing, telling or listening to a good story, and cooking.

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Luke Hansen, co-director of Discerning Deacons

San Mateo, California

I dream of a Church that receives and empowers the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given to each member. Ordaining women to the diaconate is one important way to recognize and strengthen the diaconal ministry that is already exercised by Catholic women everywhere. I’m excited to walk with others into a vision of a listening and participatory Church, opening up new pathways for encounter and dialogue between Church leaders and Catholic women.

You can contact Luke at luke@discerningdeacons.org.

Luke Hansen, a co-director of Discerning Deacons, has worked as a teacher, journalist, prison chaplain and university chaplain. He has an MA in social philosophy from Loyola University Chicago, a Master of Divinity degree from the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley, and a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He has studied the history of women as deacons and the restoration of the permanent diaconate at the Second Vatican Council. He has served as a contributing editor for the Jesuit journals America and La Civiltà Cattolica in Rome. He reported from the Synods of Bishops in Rome in 2015, 2018 and 2019, and he has won several awards from the Catholic Press Association for his writing. A native of Wisconsin, Luke enjoys running, playing basketball and cheering for his favorite sports teams.

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Lisa Amman, deputy director of engagement

St. Paul, Minnesota

I am here to invite and connect people to the living discernment about receiving women as deacons in our global Church. I have seen women struggle in the mistaken belief that it may not even be discussed, and I have witnessed the joy and hope in their eyes when they learn the pope has invited the discussion! I dream women will have the ability to discern this call. I hope one day my daughters will hear women preach at Mass and see that women speak with knowledge and authority about Jesus. I hope children will never again experience our faith as “just about boys,” as my daughter declared when she was six. It is an honor to serve the wider Church in this mission of Discerning Deacons.

You can contact Lisa at lisa@discerningdeacons.org.

Lisa Amman, the deputy director of engagement for Discerning Deacons, has learned, prayed and worked in Catholic institutions her whole life. Inspired by the civic and ecclesial leadership of Benedictine sisters, she attended the College of St. Benedict in Minnesota. She served for five years as the director of social justice at her parish in St. Paul, and she worked for 10 years as a community organizer with ISAIAH, an alliance of more than 100 faith congregations. She coached, mentored and trained thousands of lay and ordained people of faith to advance the Gospel vision of justice and equal dignity in public policy. She is an active member of Saint Thomas More Parish, where she is currently working her way through the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises in everyday life. A native of Louisiana, she and her husband have two daughters. Lisa’s work to ordain women deacons is for her daughters.

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Our Story

At the end of 2020, we were invited to dream, to propose a project to engage the Church’s faithful in this time of discernment around whether or not to open the diaconate to women. 

It was the end of a long year. We had each carried losses: loved ones buried, vocations in transition, the weight of the pandemic. 

But we had also been praying together, listening to the Word of God, the witness of the Church in the Amazon, the stories of women and men, and the words of the Holy Father.

When we came together to pray on the Feast of St. Phoebe, we were reminded of the surprising power of encountering stories of faith in a sacred time of prayer, and we believed that more encounters could help break the tendency toward polarization and could help bear fruit. It is an act of faithful discipleship to witness to how God is calling us.

The stars aligned to invite us to believe in what we could not yet see. 

So we have begun the journey: engaging, drawing together, growing in leadership and love, building a living community grounded in encounter.

We are grateful for the team of advisors who offer their wisdom and guidance, for the endorsers who express words of encouragement as we get started, and for you, as you prayerfully discern how you might participate in this unfolding work of renewal and hope. 

April 25, 2021

World Day of Prayer for Vocations

Our project operates as a non-profit under the fiscal sponsorship of St. Thomas More Catholic Church in the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

Continue Your Journey…

Pray

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Learn

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Join the Discernment

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