Deacons offer fresh hope for vocation crisis

Deacons offer fresh hope for vocation crisis Brett Lockhart QC was among 9 men ordained as deacons in the Diocese of Down & Connor.

The diaconate in Ireland could help encourage vocations to the priesthood, a newly-ordained deacon has said.

Prominent lawyer Brett Lockhart QC, who with eight other men was ordained a deacon earlier this month in Belfast’s St Peter’s Cathedral told The Irish Catholic that as the diaconate flourishes in Ireland, there will be a “better environment for vocations generally”, adding that it’s up to parents to encourage children to become priests.

“The crisis will be over when the parents of Ireland decide they want their children to be priests again. And that’s something that at this stage is lacking. Vocations have really dwindled,” Mr Lockhart said.

His comments come in the wake of new annual Church statistics published by Fides, which show that while the total number of priests has decreased globally, the number of permanent deacons in the Church has increased by 1,057 to 46,312.

Big impact

Mr Lockhart, who converted to Catholicism 20 years ago, said he thinks the diaconate has been “very successful” and that it’s had “a big impact” in dioceses across Ireland, but that it will take time before it becomes normalised in parishes. This is partly because, he said, Ireland only introduced permanent deacons in 2011, which is quite late in comparison to countries like Germany who introduced it in 1969.

“I think it’s going to take longer in Ireland than people think, but invariably it will happen,” he said, stressing that the model of the diaconate is unique and distinct from the ministry of priests.

He added that the diaconate offers parishioners the chance to serve the Church at time of religious disillusionment in Ireland. “…I think it’s another way people who are serious about their Faith can serve the Church. I think a lot of people in particular want to seize this as an opportunity to be involved at a time when the Church is in crisis in the west.”