Deacons: move beyond parish, take on larger ministry

GOOSE CREEK—Deacon William T. Ditewig believes the diaconate must know about their past in order to move into the future.

The deacon, who has a doctorate in theology and was ordained in the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., said his brethren need to move beyond their current role of parish-centered duties and take up their former mantle as a diocesan representative of the bishop.

“In history, the deacon was very clearly … the bishop’s man,” Deacon Ditewig said.

He spoke about “Highlights on the Diaconate: Past, Present, Future” at an education day May 21.

The retreat was held at Immaculate Conception Church in Goose Creek, with a registered attendance of 91 aspirants and their wives plus 108 permanent deacons and their wives, according to Cathy Roche, administrative assistant with the diocesan office of diaconate.

Father Edward W. Fitzgerald said they included the 53 current aspirants because they are so close to the final steps of becoming deacons. He wanted the men to hear about the history and meet those who are already ordained.

The annual education day is a time for deacons to gather socially, discuss their ministry, and share ideas and programs, said Father Fitzgerald, who is pastor of Divine Redeemer in Hanahan and director of the diaconate office.

“All these men … are good souls and are doing a tremendous amount of work in spreading the Gospel message,” the priest said.

Deacon Ditewig urged the diaconate to take on parish assignments plus a diocesan-wide ministry, and called for the ordained ministry to come full circle, back to their original role in the church.

“Being a deacon is a call from God, just like being a priest,” he said.

Young men who hear the call should answer promptly, and never be discouraged from it, or feel like they should wait until their children are grown or they are retired, he said.

The idea that the diaconate is for older men has resulted in an aging ministry in the United States, Deacon Ditewig noted, where the average age is 64, compared to low 40s elsewhere in the world.

The deacon also spoke about the new Roman Missal as it pertains to the diaconal role in Mass.

To read his blog, “Deacons Today: Dalmatics and Beyond,” visit