The National Catholic Review
Karen Sue Smith
The discussion continues
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For our July 20-27 issue the editors of America asked three writers to assess the modern diaconate. William T. Ditewig, who for five years directed the U.S. bishops' office on deacons, takes a look at the unique ministry of the deacon in "Married and Ordained." in "Looking Back and Ahead," Scott Dodge presents the theology behind the diaconate, and Greg Kandra offers a humorous account of his first two years of ministry in "A Deacon's Lessons."

Already there is a lively discussion of these articles on our comments pages. Just scroll down to the end of each article to take part in the discussion. In the coming days we will be adding more voices to the mix on this page. If you'd like to take part in the conversation, add a comment, or email webeditor@americamagazine.org. We ask that submissions be kept to 500 words.

 

Ron Hansen responds (July 27):

The adjective "busy" seems to be increasingly attached to "deacon" because while the priest's role is clearly demarcated in a parish, the deacon's role is more fluid, an open basket to drop obligations into, and the majority of us have full-time jobs and family concerns as well. The Vicar for Clergy in my diocese wisely instructed me to resist any task that interfered with my job or my marriage, and so far I haven't really noticed any pinching in those areas. I have noted only a loss of time in front of the television, which is not a loss I mourn. In the meantime, there are so many gains.  After presiding at my first wedding, I reported to my spiritual director the surprising ebullience I felt, and he said, "Yes; nobody ever tells you that celebrating the sacraments can be fun."

We are not overworked; we are overjoyed. 

Deacon Ron Hansen’s most recent novel is Exiles, about Gerard Manley Hopkins and “The Wreck of the Deutschland.”

 

Eric Stolz responds to Greg Kandra (July 23):

Deacon Greg Kandra's article was a humorous but insightful look into what he has learned since his ordination. So much of what he wrote rings true to me after five years as a deacon.

I too recall lying on the cold stone floor of the cathedral as the litany of the saints was sung at our ordination. It was so reassuring. All our patron saints, the patrons of our parishes and of the archdiocese were invoked: "Pray for us!" "All you holy men and women, pray for us." I still hear it today.

And in some ways we deacons are still lying on the floor, saying "Pray for us!"

When I was ordained I was aware that some priests refer to deacons as "liturgical flowerpots." What I have learned is that those are the same priests who who come into the sacristy and inform the deacon dismissively that they prefer to read the Gospel, so "you can do one of the other readings if you like" and take all the deacon's roles in the Triduum.  One priest has informed me, inexplicably, that he will never allow me to preach at "his Mass" if I am wearing a dalmatic. Go figure. I've encountered priests who seem to feel the deacon needs to be "put in his place" to preserve the priestly role. They make me feel like I am walking on eggshells.

And then there are the priests who are wonderfully affirming. They ask me to preach when they preside and we have great laughs over dinner. They encourage me to develop my particular gifts and constantly, fraternally, remind me of what I should be doing. They engage the assembly and encourage them to become involved the social justice programs I set up. They are unpretentious, have no agenda and seek only what will help the faithful to grow closer to the Lord. What a blessing these priests are! They make me feel like trusted co-workers in the Lord's field.

Some of my biggest supporters are religious women. We have an unspoken bond. They know what it is like to labor without recognition for the sake of the Kingdom, and I have much to learn from them.

At the dinner following our rite of the call to ordination, our archbishop said, "I'd like to tell you that you will be universally accepted by everyone, and that all priests will respect and love you. But that would not be true." Wisdom! Let us attend!

And when I share with my best friend some incident of what I call "priests behaving badly," he now knows not to ask why I put up with such insults, because he has heard the answer before: I do it for the people.

The people are marvelous. They are accepting. They are engaged and grateful. They will share with the deacon things they are hesitant to discuss with the priest. My married deacon friends all have experienced how parishioners seek them out discuss marital issues "because the priest just doesn't understand." Those who claim the faithful are not ready to accept a married priesthood should visit parishes with deacons.

"Shhh," I tell parishioners who thank me for my preaching and say it's better than the priests' because I weave in thoughts gleaned from real life and experience in the workplace. "Don't say that. Someone might take offense." They smile and nod and say "God bless you." It's our secret. And they go home happy and fulfilled.

In the end, it's not about our relationship with priests. And then again, it is. If we deacons are to minister in a church that still maintains structures of priestly authority and privilege, we have to navigate those structures as best we can. If the ministry of deacons is to flourish and touch the people, we need the assistance of good priests to do so.

Deacon Eric Stoltz ministers at St. Brendan Church, Los Angeles. With Deacon Vince Tomkovicz, he is co-author of the book "Ascend: The Catholic Faith for a New Generation" to be published by Paulist Press in November.

 

Scott Dodge responds to Greg Kandra (July 22):

Advice from someone with experience is always a valuable gift. So, I appreciate very much Greg Kandra’s “Seven things they don’t teach you in formation.” Two of his points touch on the area of preaching. Preaching is an updated feature of the modern diaconate. The consensus is that ancient deacons proclaimed the Gospel, but did not preach. In some areas they read patristic homilies in the absence of a priest. While I agree that an overly long homily is deadly to any message, I see nothing magical about seven minutes. Even though written about in a humorous vein, I think as preachers we have to confront people on fundamental Gospel values.  I also want to offer a contrary view to the predominant practice of homiletics, one that arises from my own experience, as ironic as that seem given my point.

After preaching at Mass one Sunday this past May I was shaking hands on the front steps of the church.  A man shook my hand and asked me, “Are you a deacon?” I answered that I was. He said, “Good homily.” I said, “Thanks.” He then told me that he and his wife were visiting form out-of-town and that, “Our deacons back home only talk about themselves.” The power of personal experience and story-telling in preaching is overrated by many preachers, especially by deacons who undoubtedly bring a unique and much needed perspective to the ambo.

There is a consensus that when used effectively these stories and experiences greatly enhance a homily. I believe storytelling and relating personal experiences too often pass for preaching instead of being seen as tools in the preacher’s toolbox. I readily acknowledge that this is not the kind of issue that lends itself to a singular solution. One certainly has to account for the differences between preachers and the communities they serve. This is not only true of the people of my diocese and those in the Diocese of Brooklyn—though New York City and Salt Lake City are rather far apart and not just geographically—but parishes within my own diocese.

Poor preaching is one of the perennial complaints of U.S. Catholics. In my experience, people are hungry for substance, for serious engagement with church teaching and the demands the Gospel makes on their lives. As preachers, too often we content ourselves with telling a story or sharing a personal experience to hammer home one singular point or theme from the readings, not connecting it to the other themes that emerge from the proclamation of word of God in the service of articulating a coherent  form of Christian life. A good example is preaching on a Gospel parable by telling a story. So, we have a story about a story.

Any authentic preaching of the Gospel challenges us. Our Lord taught us to pray for our enemies, especially his prayer as he was being crucified. Preaching takes courage. Prudence is what enables us to discern the difference between being courageous and being foolish.

 

Greg Kandra responds to William T. Ditewig (July 18):

From my observation post in the blog world, I’ve been fascinated, and somewhat dismayed, at how different dioceses approach the permanent deacon’s married state. In Brooklyn, where I live, the wives’ participation in our formation was strictly optional; all that was required was their support, their consent and, of course, their prayers. Elsewhere, I know, it’s radically different. In at least one archdiocese, wives are required to attend all classes, and take part in ministries; they are subsequently introduced with their husbands at the time of ordination as part of a “deacon couple.” (The implication, to my way of thinking, comes perilously close to something like a dual ordination–or at least, it sounds that way.) That approach more or less excludes spouses who (like mine) prefer to cheer from the sidelines, without actually getting into the game. Clearly, different places have different ideas of how to handle a married clergy.

And that’s something the church is still trying to figure out, I think. That, along with the precise role of the deacon in the life and ministry of the parish. When I first started serving as a newly ordained deacon in my parish, folks saw it as something novel and curious, and many would ask me after mass, “So, if you could, wouldn’t you like to be a priest?,” and they’d be smiling and bobbing their heads, expecting me to say yes. But in fact, I told them something else: “No thanks. I have a hard enough time now just being a deacon, and figuring that out.” What I didn’t explain to them was how hard it is to juggle a marriage, a job and a ministry. It’s tough enough with the limited sacramental workload I carry now; how that would be done as a priest is beyond me. Or, as a classmate said, answering the same questions at his parish: “Until they figure out how to have a married diaconate, I don’t think the church is ready for a married priesthood.” Amen. Taken a step further, I can only imagine the problems that would ensue if the married deacon were a married (or widowed or divorced) mother with children. The benefits to ministry would be immeasurable, of course.  But so, I fear, would be the problems.

This is all very much a work-in-progress–-we’re only starting the fifth decade of the restored diaconate, after all–and there’s clearly more work to be done.

Most likely, the Holy Spirit will sort it all out when he has some free time--in between dealing with the SSPX, the visitation of nuns, and the simmering disputes over whether American ears can contend with a liturgy that contains the word “ineffable.”

Karen Sue Smith is editorial director of America.

Comments

| 8/14/2009 - 11:02pm
I have read with interest, comments from Permanent Deacons concerning discrimination and hardships at the hands of priests.  My story is about priests who feel obliged to attempt to stop someone from becoming a Deacon.  Their efforts include refusal to baptize me in the Catholic Church.  There now is a "paperwork gliche", I was told the day after I had informed the priest of my calling to enter the clergy.  Previously, I had been informed I would be baptized during the Easter Vigil.  Little did I know when I had enrolled in the RCIA classes in Wyoming that I would receive this calling on Palm Sunday.  I only knew of my desire to become a baptized Catholic when I signed up for the "Catechism classes".  After a "walk of faith" which encompassed more than 2 1/2 years after the death of my eldest son, I had not only found solace in the Roman Catholic Church, the Catholic Bible, Catholic liturgy but then was overjoyed with a calling for the clergy.  What has ensued since that day has been nothing short of a nightmare.
There are members of this small Wyoming parish who were thrilled that they were to have their first Deacon Candidate in history.  But, I no longer maintain that I am a candidate from this parish. I do not attend Mass there on a regular schedule any longer, nor do I visit the chapel everyday as I had grown accustomed to doing. The missionary/ministry work which I perform at hospitals, nursing homes, schools and wherever Native Americans and indigent need comforting is done without the support of the local priest.  I no longer notify him of requests for communion by those unable to attend church. I no longer ask for Bibles or rosaries to deliver to those who cannot come to the church. No more do I volunteer as a lecturer when the parish bulletin asks for help. I have grown tired of the refusals.
I now tell those who are interested that my candidacy comes from the parish of St Thomas Aquinas in El Paso, Texas where I enrolled as a member in the fall of 2007.  I have not as yet notified anyone at St Thomas of my decision to enter the clergy but I am sure there will be no concerted effort to halt my efforts.  St Thomas is what a Catholic Church is intended to be.  A sanctuary. A place of great joy. A place of warmth.
In Wyoming, as usual, I sat in the front pew during the Easter Mass on Saturday night, knowing that the priest (whom I had considered a friend) would call my name to be baptized along with the others of the class.  To become baptized a Catholic had become one of the most powerful passions of my life.  Months before, my quest to be baptized had become a priority  when I enrolled in RCIA classes in Arizona, then Texas and now Wyoming,  On Palm Sunday, in the front pew, my life (my new life) made sense for the first time since the passing of my son.  At 59 years of age, while reading The New Jerusalem Bible, a new chapter in my life had opened.  But at the Easter vigil a few nights later, I watched as all those wishing to be baptized from the RCIA class stood in front of the congregation and were blessed by the Father.  My name was not called. It was a personally devastating experience.
I recovered somewhat by the next morning which was Easter Day.  As is my custom, I had planned to attend services in other churches that Sunday.  I enjoy being among Christians and also observing the actions of other religions.  By these methods, I know why the Catholic Church provides what I desire and also why other faiths do not.  Unfortunately I have found many Catholics who are disturbed over my attending other churches.  However, I have found few in other congregations who do not welcome a Catholic wishing to become a member of the clergy.  Mormons accept that I always wear a cross, Baptists seem to think they can convert me, Methodists greet me warmly and invite me to dine, Episcopalians look upon me as a brother.  Only Catholic priests seem concerned with someone who attends other services and invites people to attend a mass. At my invitation, there were people (new to the community) in the Catholic Chapel who watched the Easter Vigil (the most beautiful Mass of the year). They had never witnessed a mass beforehand.
On Easter morning, the disappointment of not being baptized the previous night, interfered with enjoying church services and I finally decided to discard my original plan of attending other services in the town.  I made a hasty decision to leave town and travel to the nearby mission. I was to arrive at the Mission shortly after noon and told one of the three priests in residence of my wish to "turn my life over to the church".  He knew me from my attendance at mass and invited me into the house he shared with two other Jesuits.  I was warmly welcomed and repeated my wish to "work" for the church and that my only desire was for a place to stay among the many vacant rooms of the Mission buildings. I needed no money nor food and hoped I could assist the aging priests in some manner while studying for my new calling. I requested that I desired to be baptized as soon as possible.
Soon I found myself eating lunch with two Jesuits in residence and a third Jesuit priest who had stopped by to visit.  It was a wonderful experience for an Easter Sunday. I was soon informed that all the priests and nuns from the area were attending a meeting in a nearby town and when they returned, a place for me to stay would be addressed. I felt that a long journey had ended and another was about to begin.
A few hours later, when the priests returned, I was informed there was no place for me at the mission. I was stunned. I repeated how I wished for nothing other than lodging but did not mention how I had spent some of the afternoon picking up litter around the grounds. I was informed that "an extensive background check" would need to be performed before I could be considered. When I mentioned that a google search of my name would yield sufficient information and I could furnish the phone number of William Wilson, former Ambassador to the Holy See, as a personal reference, I was told that was not sufficient.
There is much more to this story but suffice it to say that the Jesuit priests' enthusiasm was much diminished by an apparent conversation with the parish priest whose opinion of me seemed to change as soon as I professed to wishing to become a Deacon. You may google my name and judge for yourself whether my credentials are sufficient to withstand an extensive background search.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Frank Herlihy | 8/3/2009 - 11:35am
Today's deacon is expected to encompass many virtues/qualities as outlined in the "National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States."  The ideal deacon is presented.  If the candidate and thoses ordained lived up to the ideal there would be many "living" saints.
My observation from being a deacon for almost 18 years is that we have a church with a very human face.  Both the articles and comments reflect this.  I believe that there are truly holy and spiritual individuals who are the prophets of our time but like all prophets are not listened to as they challenge the status quo.  My hope and prayer is that God's Spirit is leading us along the way so that we become a church that mirrors Jesus the Christ in the way we act and in what we say, that - from my point of view - is what diakonia is all about.
 
 
Jerry Miller | 8/1/2009 - 7:58pm
I have been following this discussion with some interest. In my observations, I think that many fine young deacons are lost because of the family issue. In our class, one of the candidates and his wife had a child right after ordination. She became in many ways the class baby. Our diocese has always provided child care during formation.  My wife had to attend all classes. I do think that a simple certificate of completion is in many ways unfair to those who have attended.
The challenge comes afterword. It can be done.I do feel that each candidate and wife should have discussed children and time concerns during the formation period. In our case, my wife has chosen some limited ministry, so that I can do what I need to do. She has the power and authority to tell me when I am overextended(She has uses it.)
One hope that I have is that the deacon becomes a "normal" minister. The new guidelines are a start in that direction. The variance in formation needs to be addressed still. If a bishop temporarily suspends a program to review and bring it up to date then all candidates should be willing to work with the Bishop.
There is no doubt that becoming a deacon demands a different style of life. We are blessed as well as challenged to show others how to live as husband and wife, in the service of God. Our children are proof of our mutual love already. The way of the deacon and wife might be "foolish" according to our society, and yet a deacon and his wife can serve as powerful witness in the way of following in the footsteps of Christ.
Whatever your circumstance, say thank you that our loving God gives you the opportunity to be one of his servants. May the peace of Christ live in your heart.
Jerry Miller
 
 
 
Scott Dodge | 7/31/2009 - 11:12am
Bob:
I recommend James Monroe Barnett's 'Diaconate: A Full and Equal Order.' Another document that is a good source on the history of the diaconate is the International Theological Commission's 'From the Diakonia of Christ to the Diakonia of the Apostles.' Owen Cummings' book 'Saintly Deacons' gives vignettes of deacons in every age of the church.
Bob Yerhot | 7/29/2009 - 8:24pm

A coherent theology of the diaconate, I believe, cannot be developed without a clear, accurate understanding of the entire history of the diaconate, starting with the original seven who some say were the first deacons.

No doubt the diaconate as currently lived has its variances from the diaconate in the 1st century of the Church or the diaconate of the 12th century. Is today's diaconate the same calling of the Spirit as that to which were called the first deacons? Or the deacons described by St. Ignatius of Antioch and others? In what way has the Holy Spirit's calling remained consistent, and in what way has it changed? These questions seem inadequately answered today.

Perhaps more easily answered is how the Church's calling of men to this vocation has remained consistent and how it has varied.
As the Second Vatican Council strove to accomplish, we too need to return to our roots and accent it, all the while reading the "signs of the times" and respond.

Most of what I have read regarding the diaconate is a contemporary snapshot, a description of what it is now, with partial attention to its historical development. The entire period of time from about 800AD to the council of Trent goes largely unnoticed; at least I haven't been apprised of any good reading for this time period in the Latin rite.
Finally, what can the Latin rite Church glean from studying in earnest the rich history, theology and spirituality if the diaconate in the Eastern rite Churches, or the Orthodox Churches?

Ami | 7/28/2009 - 8:31pm

I have little first-hand experience with Roman Catholic deacons, as I left the RC church a couple of years ago.  

 

Nevertheless, I would like to comment on these glimpses into the minds of deacons.  First, as with priests, some of these men are more sexist than others. The comment about a woman with children having a hard time being a deacon (or a priest, one assumes) betrays the continuing legacy of patriarchy that plagues the Roman Catholic church.  Second, the comment that a married priesthood would not “work” because handling the (unpaid) diaconate with a family and a full-time job is enough of a challenge rests on an assumption that priests also have full-time, outside jobs (and a commute). Most priests don’t have a second full-time job as do deacons, so that is not a true obstacle to a married priesthood. And it would be very good for priests to learn what it means to walk a sick baby all night (and then go to work), oversee baths and homework, read stories, throw balls to the kids and teach them to ride their bikes, console a child being bullied or struggling to learn, take responsibility for buying and wrapping the gifts for all the birthday parties, not to mention for their own parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews, coach a team, etc. Are Catholic priests somehow less capable than rabbis, ministers, and priests of the Orthodox and Anglican churches – most of whom are married with children, and yet effectively serve their congregations?

 

Finally, the preaching.  Many priests are horrible preachers, many laity would be excellent preachers.  Telling personal stories to illustrate is wonderful (few Catholic priests do this) as long as there is also substance - neither pure anecdote, nor a dry, academic lecture.  Married deacons clearly have a different prism through which they understand the scriptures than do celibates.  So do women, one reason I now belong to a denomination that ordains women.  And even though one gentleman doubts that a divorced woman with a child could handle the diaconate, I know one divorced woman with a child who is both an outstanding priest, and an outstanding preacher. For example, her homily on Mary’s visit to Elizabeth reflected a lived understanding and perspective that no male – even married – would understand.  What a blessing for the Roman Catholic church to again have a married diaconate.  More blessings will come with a married priesthood, and the church will be even more enriched once there is a married priesthood that includes women.  The wives’ participation in their husbands’ ministry is simply another example of how women are kept in the background, impoverishing the church  -  the religious sisters, every woman who has ever volunteered to teach CCD etc, and now, every woman married to a deacon are among the church’s unsung heroes.  Let them come forward into the light, and the Roman Catholic church will enjoy a renaissance that is right now not even imaginable.

 

Scott Dodge | 7/28/2009 - 5:42pm
Mike writes- "I think deacons have always preached." He then proceeds to cite Stephen's words from Acts as proof for his assertion.
 
When we encounter St. Stephen preaching, it is not in the context of a liturgical gathering. Such an observation is not really relevant to the matter at hand because it is not exegetically possible to draw a straight line from the seven men set apart by the apostles to serve the Greek-speaking widows and even the ancient order of deacons, let alone the restored diaconate. A cursory look at Acts chapters 6-8 reveals that these seven are never called deacons, including Stephen and Philip. St. Ireneaus and other early church fathers did make the connection between deacons and these seven. Of course, the apostolic church was in no way as homogenous as the church is today, or would start to become in the 4th century, with the beginning of conciliar period. We see Paul using the term deacon and applying it to women and men in his communities. However, we do not get a clear picture from his letters as to what they did. Cutting to the chase: an examination of the 1917 code of canon law is enough to show that deacons have not always preached.
 
While it is clear that ancient deacons did not preach in every local church (probably not in most), there is some debate about whether deacons preached at some times and in some places.  There is no conclusive evidence that they did, at least not normatively. It may be even more shocking to learn that another feature of the modern diaconate- deacons being ordinary ministers of the sacrament of baptism- has not always been the case. Formerly, deacons could only baptize in emergencies and in the absence of a priest.
 
I don't bring these issues up to devalue the permanent diaconate. Examining these issues honestly is a first step to arriving at a coherent theology of the diaconate. In service to the order to which I happily and gratefully belong, I try to examine how the contemporary diaconate differs from the ancient order. Besides, preaching and administering baptism constitute large parts of my own ministry.
Mike Evans | 7/28/2009 - 2:03pm
Preaching! What got St. Stephen into trouble was preaching! He was so effective that they clamped their hands over their ears and ran about screaming. Then they stoned him to death. Meanwhile, Saul watched, but later became the bigest preacher himself.  I think we deacons can be so self-deprecating that we convince ourselves that we just don't count that much. I think deacons have always preached; it is the most natural response to committed discipleship and study of the scriptures - how could they remain silent? Perhaps then as today they had to pick and choose their spots, but they are called to preach by both words and example.
The concern about married life seems to treat it as a second class vocation. It is true of only about 95% of the world - so something about it should be considered normal and normative. We are not handicapped because we are married; we are gifted by the blessings of wife and family especially their support and encouragement along life's journey.
I work closely with other married and women faith leaders on many projects. I have found them all without question to be gifted and special and uniquely called to their ministries. We Catholics should be more attuned to who and how they are. No one is more holy, more pious, more called, more gifted nor more sanctified just because they are celibate.
 
Scott Dodge | 7/27/2009 - 1:06pm
One of the things I wanted to mention at the beginning of my response to Greg Kandra's article is that it is a unique feature of the modern diaconate that deacons preach. In the ancient church deacons read the Gospel, but likely did not preach. In certain areas of Europe it was permissible for a deacon to read a patristic homily after the Gospel in the absence of a priest. Expanding the circle of interpreters is a good thing for the church as deacons certainly bring a unique perspective.
It is good to remember that at Mass, deacons are extraordinary preachers. The presider remains the ordinary preacher.
GREG KANDRA | 7/23/2009 - 7:45am
Hi, Shawn!  Thank you for the warm words.
To your question: from what I've seen,  deacons who have younger children do have a harder time striking a balance and juggling the workload.  It's probably one reason why most of the men who go into formation are older, and a lot of them, retired.  (At 48, I was the youngest ordained in my class.  Most were in their late 50's/early 60's, with grown children.)  When guys in their 30's with young kids have asked me about the diaconate, I've warned them about the demands it places on the deacon's time, and the stresses on the family (especially during formation).   
It's quite possible that if the diaconate were to be opened to women, most of them would also be older, for similar reasons.
Dcn. Marion Jurewicz | 7/20/2009 - 8:32am
To whom it may concern;
         I am a regular subsciber to america magazine, and I would , I was very happy to read the three articles on the diconate. I found them all to very enlightening and informative, especially for the laity. They help put the diaconate in a more understable nature for all to understand. I would like permission to reprint them for our diaconate and diocesan community. How could I submit an article as a deacon on my ministry and how my parishioners mistered to me after the death of my son.
 
            Yours in Christ;   Dcn Marion Jurewicz
                                     St. Martin de Porres
                                      Warren Mi. 48093
 
Shawn Kazubowski-Houston | 7/19/2009 - 10:29am
Dear Greg,
I first want to qualify that I follow your blog, The Deacon's Bench, "religiously"! Thank-you for the marvellous work you put into your blog.
In addressing your response to William T. Ditewig:
First, I agree that the wife's participation in her husband's formation as a Deacon should be optional/voluntary; I am not uncomfortable with the concept of a "dual ordination" if the wife is willing. I feel that as married couples are already (ideally) fully collaborating in this grand project called life (i.e. community building, parenting), a married diaconate could only be enriched further by this beautiful collaboration.  
Second, I would like to pose the question to you: if you suggest that the problems would be immeasurable for a deacon who is a mother with children, why would that not also apply to male deacons who have children? Your response above portrays (perhaps unwittingly) the roles of husband/wife, father/mother in solidly dualistic terms (husband=public / wife=domestic). From my personal experience as a husband/father (and primary caregiver), I see these roles as more fluid, and the calling of marriage to be a "joint initiative" for life. 
Deacon Mike Talbot | 7/18/2009 - 3:32pm
Allow the perspective of a recently ordained Permanent Deacon, as I celebrate my 7 month anniversary!  I have encountered my fair share of misconceptions concerning the diaconate and my married state.  I still remember my first homily referring to a date my wife and I were on and seeing the confused look at many in the congregation.  Perhaps we need some local catechesis from the pulpit or parish bulletins.  But the confusion does not stop there.
Recently a visiting Priest from another country said to me we don't need Deacons; we have no shortage of Priests.  I politely responded that if we had an overabundance of Priests, the order of the Deacon is still necessary.  In most dioceses it is the Deacon who assist or runs the program at the nursing home, hospital, prison, adolescent facility, food bank, and I could go on.  The diakonia, the charism of charity and service allows the Permanent Diaconate to rightly take it's place among the ordained.  After all, being a Deacon is not really about what we do, all the tasks; it's who we are: service sacramentalized. 
Several weeks ago at a local meeting, the emcee was asked to introduce the clergy.  After introducing the Priests, seminarians and the nuns present, he moved on.  When reminded that I was in the room the look on his face spoke volumes, "is a Permanent Deacon clergy?"
From diocese to diocese Permanent Deacons differ in wearing clerical garb.  Some Bishops require the collar, others are ambivalent while others strictly forbid it.  Whatever the rule should be I'll leave to Bishops; I'm just suggesting uniformity for the Church.
Deacon Greg Kendra also points out the differences of the wives involvement and I must say I agree with him completely.  Whether my wife is super active or not in various ministries has little to do with my call; my diakonia.  And don't misintrept this statement.  Wives truly must be informed, involved and give consent.  My sacramental marriage happened decades before my ordination.  But don't judge either my fitness for orders or my service as a Deacon on what my wife does.  Again, too much emphasis on tasks, not enough on calling, office and sign.
The final misconception that I have encountered is how can you be a Deacon and work.  I use this opportunity to remind myself that the Deacon is always a Deacon.  The Deacon "hat" should not come off just because you are at work, or working in the yard or with the guys at a game.  That sacramenatal sign I talked about is not something you put on for Sundays and ministry and take off the rest of the week.  And oh yes, the Deacon does not get paid.  I get asked that all the time.
I too remind myself and others that our restoration is only 40 or so years old; a blink of an eye in Church history and in God's eye.  Therefore, we should encourage our Bishops and formation directors to consider uniformity without surpressing individual gifts and talents.  And we should pray for those entrusted with our formation, our continuing education and ministerial assignments.
I cherish the gift of my calling and my ministry as a Permanent Deacon for the Archdiocese of New Orleans.  I have been called to serve, not be served.