Is the Holy Spirit prompting the renewal of the diaconate?

Recently I said to my young adult nieces and nephews: If there is one thing you can do this year to support the discernment about women and the diaconate, this is it! Come and participate in Discerning Diakonia on Monday, April 29th and join with hundreds of others virtually to talk about women’s participation in our Catholic Church.

Today, I make the same invitation to you! This week is registration week for Discerning Diakonia, and I ask you to join us and share this invitation with 5-10 friends, colleagues or family members. You can register here.

It’s been two and a half years since the start of the global listening process – For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation and Mission. Where are we today as a People of God in living this question together – Is the Holy Spirit prompting us to renew the permanent diaconate so that it can be a ministry of men and women that serves a synodal Church?

People often ask us what deacons can do. I want to share what has been offered by the Confederation of Latin American Religious (CLAR), as it articulates some of what is distinctive about the ordained ministry of deacons (a permanent vocation in the Church):

If there were women deacons, they could proclaim the gospel and offer the word of the homily, which edifies the community on the apostolic faith; they could baptize as “ordinary” ministers of baptism (and not, as now, with an extraordinary ministry by command of a bishop); They could coordinate and animate Christian communities in the absence of a priest, by mandate of the bishop, and—as ordained ministers—they would stand in an “ontological” relationship with the local Church and its bishop, sharing the ministry of building the community […]

Working for a ‘diaconal ministry of men and women together’ favors the maturation of a new ecclesiology: the diaconate is a ministry that, by its very nature, preserves the Church from the risks of clericalism and the temptation to return everything ministerial to the priesthood, to the sacraments, to a cult unrelated to life: it is the ministry that connects the Gospel with daily life in love and service. (Complete reflection in the original Spanish available here.) 

[Note: CLAR is a conference of women and men religious from South America, Central America and the Caribbean. To contribute to the global synod, theologians with CLAR prepared reflections on key themes emerging in the listening phase. You can find them here.]

Now, during this Interim Stage and before the second General Assembly of the Synod meets at the Vatican in October, we want to continue the synodal listening and hear from you!

Whether serving in parishes, prisons, hospitals, campus ministry, or immigration detention centers, deacons live the charism of Jesus’ diakonia by going to the peripheries and animating faith communities to walk with those suffering in their midst. What impact would it have for you, your discipleship, your loved ones or the people you serve if women were part of the order of deacons?

This is a question we want to deepen together on Monday, April 29, 4-6 pm ET (1-3 pm PT). Women, men, clergy, deacons, religious – all are welcome! We also will offer professional interpretation into Spanish. 

This virtual synodal forum for up to 1,000 people will include a listening presence from voting Synod delegates and features special guests including Deacon Geert de Cubber, the Synod’s only Roman Catholic permanent deacon and esteemed scholar on the diaconate Deacon William Ditewig. We will hear from women ministry leaders from the United States and Canada whose stories, experiences and examples give us living witness for what is needed and what could be possible for our Church in this third millennium. We will pray together and engage in a Conversation in the Spirit to keep noticing the stirrings of the Holy Spirit. 

We are delighted that some 25 Participating Organizations are joining with us in this discernment! Scroll here to see the list. As you consider joining us, are there 5-10 people you could bring along with you? Could you organize a watch party at your parish or school?  

In a fractured world in need of bridge builders, let’s gather on April 29th to pray, encounter one another through thoughtful listening, discern the stirrings of the Holy Spirit in our hearts, and imagine a hope-filled future for the coming generations. Register here today and see you soon!

Ellie Hidalgo

Ellie Hidalgo

Ellie Hidalgo is co-director of Discerning Deacons.

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“We raised so much awareness from our event, of both the ongoing Synod and of St. Phoebe and her ministry. Together, we learned of the power of the intercession of St. Phoebe, and how significant her feast day can be to carry the message of women’s roles in the Church.”
The Church of St. Francis Xavier
New York, NY
“The most meaningful parts of our celebration together included a standing ovation following the witness reflection, the power and strength of the reflection itself, and the procession at the start of mass. In the procession, young women carried in and presented symbols of St. Phoebe including an icon, the commission of St. Paul, a deacon’s stole and a pitcher of water to symbolize our shared baptism.”
St. Barnabas Parish
Chicago, IL
“Preaching on the Feast of St. Phoebe, and supporting and training other women to preach, was a joyful and invigorating experience. It is beautiful to see women claim the truth that they are called and gifted, and equally beautiful to see the People of God’s receptivity to women’s preaching, ministry, and leadership.”
Rhonda Miska
St. Phoebe Day Witness at St. Thomas More Catholic Community in St. Paul, MN; Founder and Co-convener of the Catholic Women's Preaching Circle; Catholic Women Preach Advisory Board Member

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