home page links quotes statistics mission statement success stories resources Lighter Side Authors! Search Page
Posted May 25, 2006

When the first two diaconate studies were conducted by the United States Conference of Bishops, the diaconate had increased substantially between the first in the 1980s and second in the early 1990s. However, the median age also increased 10 years]. The recent CARA report highlights and turn in the direction the diaconate might be taking. It is on the decrease in numbers. This raises questions: have new, more stringent requirements either discouraged or eliminated possible candidates? Is the diaconate being overshadowed by lay ecclesial leaders? Is it on the decrease due to being less than effective?

Deacon Candidates Decrease, Aspirants Increase

The number of permanent deacons in the United States has grown steadily since the restoration of this ministry in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council. According to the 2005 Official Catholic Directory, the 195 dioceses and eparchies of the United States have a total of 14,574 permanent deacons.

This year, CARA obtained enrollment data from 170 of the 192 known diaconate formation programs.

For 2005-2006, these 170 programs reported a total of 1,942 deacon candidates and another 1,080 aspirants - men who are in a period of discernment prior to entering diaconate formation.

The number of deacon candidates is down 18 percent from the 2,378 reported last year, but the number of aspirants is up 6 percent from the 1,017 reported last year.

The ten largest diaconate formation programs enroll more than a quarter of all deacon candidates. Together, these ten programs enroll 496 deacon candidates and 94 aspirants. They will together ordain 114 new deacons this year, nearly a quarter of all deacon ordinations.

Age, Race, and Ethnicity of Deacon Candidates

Nearly half of all deacon candidates are between 50 and 60 years of age. Another third are in their 40s and 15 percent are over 60.

More than three in four (76 percent) of deacon candidates are white, 17 percent are Hispanic/Latino, 4 percent are Asian, 3 percent are African American/Black, and less than 1 percent are Native American or other.