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The permanent diaconate

The Church in Hong Kong will celebrate a joyous occasion on November 24 (this Saturday), when, after years of formation, three men will be ordained to the permanent diaconate.
The Diocese of Hong Kong, which ordained the first cohort of two permanent deacons in 1997, became the first local Church to restore the permanent diaconate within the Asian region. The permanent diaconate was revived by the Second Vatican Council in 1967. 
Since 1997, 28 permanent deacons have been ordained for Hong Kong. Together with the three slated to enter the ministry on Saturday, a total of 22 deacons are actively serving of the diocese, while five have retired.
In terms of vocations, the development of the permanent diaconate is significant. According to the statistics from the Holy See, there are currently over 40,000 permanent deacons around the world, with the overwhelming majority in America and Europe.
The Holy See has set out certain requirements for the formation of permanent deacons. In addition to theology and philosophy, they are expected to undergo considerable training in parish pastoral work, charitable services and spirituality. 
In order to have a better understanding of the permanent diaconate, the diocese commissioned the Catholic Studies Centre of the Chinese University of Hong Kong to conduct a survey. The findings, released last year, found that parishioners and people engaging in pastoral ministry, in general, accepted permanent deacons. The survey also pointed out that the diocese should continue with this ministry.
The survey pointed out that over 90 per cent of the respondents agreed that the diocese should continue to accept laypeople as permanent deacons. Among those engaged in pastoral ministry, 60 per cent enjoyed getting along with them while over 70 per cent welcomed their service at parishes. Slightly more respondents felt that permanent deacons’ main ministry starts firstly in the Church followed by society in general.
The survey also indicated that since permanent deacons have their own jobs as well as family life, this enables them to more easily related to the difficulties and challenges of living in the secular world with parishioners, and to help people to integrate their faith into their daily lives, in balancing work, family and.
It should also be noted that the permanent diaconate has an important function: service. “The ministry of permanent deacons shares a more important role in charitable work—however, this does not mean that it belittles the permanent diaconate because charitable work itself is also an important part of the Church” (Survey Report, in Chinese, p.16). Therefore, permanent deacons normally engage in various charitable services, such as visiting prison inmates, providing pastoral care in hospitals, hospice care,and pastoral services in industry, as well as pastoral services at airports and ports.
With regard to the permanent deacons’ social engagement, the survey said that “it is necessary to strengthen the formation of Church social teaching so as to enable them, together with the laypeople, to serve the disadvantaged in society and to speak out on social justice issues” (p. 184).
In view of the fact that Hong Kong is troubled with various problems such as poverty, an ageing population, shortage of doctors and nurses and overly exam-oriented education system, it is hoped that permanent deacons can commit themselves to social services, and disseminate the gospel and bear witness to faith as servants, while bringing the realities of society to the Church community. SE