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