In 1970, there was one permanent deacon serving the U.S. Catholic church. That year Paul McArdle was ordained a deacon at Sts. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake, Mich. Until he died in June at age 76, McArdle served in a number of ministries, notably running a school in Belize and as a full-time pastoral assistant in the Brownsville, Texas, diocese.
Much has changed in 40 years.
Today if one types "deacon" into a database of stories from Catholic News Service and NCR, the results from just the last 12 months bring up these hits:
* Deacon Leroy Behnke is director of communications for the Lubbock, Texas, diocese.
* Deacon Bill Toller and the Sandwich Ministry of Holy Cross Parish, Springfield, Mass., hit a milestone in May after making their 100,000th sandwich in the parish's ongoing efforts to feed the homeless.
* Deacon Oscar Chavez of Yuma, Ariz., plays guitar and leads singing in the Southern Arizona Correctional Release Center.
* Deacon Rodrigue Mortel is director of the Missions Office for the Baltimore archdiocese.
* Deacon Patrick Moynihan of the Rockford, Ill., diocese, last year moved with his wife and family to Haiti.
* Deacon Charles Rohrbacher is an iconographer at the Catholic Cathedral of the Nativity in Juneau, Alaska.
* Deacon Tom Lambert of Chicago has been in ministry to people with mental illness since the 1980s.
Dioceses with the greatest number of permanent deacons Diocese Number of deacons Catholics per deacon Chicago 646 3,619 Trenton, N.J. 442 1,772 Galveston-Houston 383 2,945 Hartford, Conn. 355 1,816 New York 316 8,154 San Antonio 301 2,309 Phoenix 298 2,371 St. Louis 270 1,994 Los Angeles 261 16,001 Cleveland 256 2,942 Rockville Centre, N.Y. 252 5,927 Boston 245 6,060 Atlanta 242 3,099 Joliet, III. 228 2,863 Philadelphia 225 6,482 St. Paul/Minneapolis 224 2,790 Santa Fe, N.M. 215 1,444 Toledo, Ohio 211 1,465 Newark, N.J. 210 6,279 Orlando, Fla. 202 1,972 Cincinnati 201 2,369 Note: Figures are for the most recent year available as of March 2010. Source: CARA
Today, some 16,350 permanent deacons are serving the U.S. Catholic church in just about every conceivable ministry, according to the most recent data compiled by the Washington-based Georgetown University research institute, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, or CARA.
All U.S. dioceses now have permanent deacons, and 21 dioceses have more than 200, according to the report "A Portrait of the Permanent Diaconate: A Study for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops 2009-2010." Chicago with 646, Trenton, N.J., with 442 and Galveston-Houston with 383 have the greatest number of permanent deacons. Hartford, Conn., New York, and San Antonio, each have more than 300 permanent deacons.
Active deacons who are financially compensated for their ministry Compensated Compensated Among all full-time part-time compensated Hospital ministry 8% 31% 22% Entrusted with the pastoral 32 10 19 care of …