A deacon is a clergyman who assists the bishop and priests. He is ordained, not to the priesthood but to service. He has a three-fold role of service:
Charity in which he is of service to the community.
Word in which he proclaims the Gospel and preaches.
Liturgy, in which he assists at Mass, is an ordinary minister of the Eucharist and baptism, witnesses marriages, leads the community in prayer, especially funeral services and the Liturgy of the Hours.
The deacon finds his identity not in what he does, but in who he is. Deacons minister in many different settings from the traditional parish to prisons, hospitals, convalescent homes, juvenile detention centres, shelters for the homeless or the abused, soup kitchens, police departments, and corporations. Regardless of where a deacon finds himself, it is there that he serves.
Deacons are the eyes, ears, hands, arms and feet of the bishop. Ordained by the bishop, they serve as the bishop directs. Usually this is in a parish setting, but it could be anywhere the bishop feels a need. Having received the same sacrament of Holy Orders that a priest or bishop receives, the deacon works in harmony with the priests and the bishop to build up the Kingdom of God.
Service as a deacon can take on broad meanings. One quickly finds that whatever one does it is diaconal service! As deacons we bring our ministry to the workplace. We bring the presence of Jesus to the markets where we shop, to the places where we play, to our families! Most bishops seem to love having deacons serve in marriage formation programs. But there are so many areas of service outside the parish that we have more opportunities than we could ever take advantage of.
And, of course, we must not forget our Liturgical role. This role is not the primary focus of our lives as deacons, but is secondary. It is important that the community see us ministering from the altar vested as a deacon, but this liturgical role flows out of and is a result of our other roles of charity and service to the community.