This morning at 10:30 we will ordain our latest class of transitional deacons. They are called transitional as opposed to permanent because they are being ordained deacons with an eye toward being ordained priests.
Someone recently asked why they had to be ordained deacons first, a reasonable questions. There are two parts to the answer.
One is of course the hierarchical structure Christ gave to the church.
Second and more importantly, in my opinion is our theology of orders.
Deacons are ordained to serve. The scriptural foundation of their ministry is service, particularly to the needy. Theirs is not a leadership role in the church. Recent church documents clarified this distinction between priestly and deacon ministry. Contrary to the common perception, deacons are not "mini-priests"', nor should these men today see their deaconate ordination as simply a step on the way to something better. The limited liturgical role they have is tied to the ministry of service, the meaning of the word diakonia.
Why are priest first ordained deacons? Before one can lead as a priest or bishop, even as the focus of one's ministry shifts when one is ordained priest or even bishop, it must always remain rooted in service. Even the Pope remains a deacon, one who is called to serve and not be served. One of the many titles that can be used by the Pope is Servus Servorum Dei , the Servant of the Servants of God.
We pray for these men and all those ordained deacons, that service may remain throughout their lives the foundation of their every word and work.