Deacons on the Decline: U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Survey Reveals Lowest Count Since 2011

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations recently released its annual survey, A Portrait of the Permanent Diaconate in 2022: A Study for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Since 2005, the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA) at Georgetown University has conducted this survey which provides important statistics and forecasting trends on the state of the permanent diaconate in the Church in the United States.

Bishop Earl A. Boyea of Lansing, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Clergy, Consecrated Life, and Vocations expressed his gratitude for the service of permanent deacons in the Church: “Permanent deacons are essential to the Church’s ministry of love and service, especially to the poor and vulnerable. By virtue of their ordination, they give witness to Christ the Servant in the daily exercise of their work and ministry. I invite all the faithful to continue to pray for our deacons that they may remain faithful to their vocation of bringing Christ’s presence to all.”

The survey utilized contact information from the National Association of Diaconate Directors (NADD) and was sent to the Office of the Permanent Diaconate in the Latin and Eastern Rite (arch)dioceses and eparchies. In total, CARA received responses from 143 of the 183 (arch)dioceses/eparchies whose bishops are members of the USCCB and have an active Office of Deacons, for a 78% response rate.

  • The estimated number of permanent deacons in active ministry was 13,695 in 2022, the lowest amount since 2011. While the share of active permanent deacons in the Latin Church is forecasted to remain relatively stable (72%±3% in 2027), this trend is in keeping with the slow decline in the diaconate over the past several years.
  • The Archdiocese of Chicago had the greatest number of permanent deacons (868) followed by Galveston-Houston (361), New York (350), Joliet (322), and Rockville Centre (318).
  • An unusually high number of men (910) were ordained to the permanent diaconate in 2022. Since 2014, the estimated number of ordinations averaged 642.
  • Most active deacons are between 60-69 years old (41%) or aged 70 or older (36%).
  • Most permanent deacons are Caucasian/white (76%) followed by Hispanic/Latino (18%), Asian/Pacific Islander (3%), African American/black (3%), and Native American/other (1%).
  • Deacons fill a wide range of ministerial positions in the Church. The most common position is a parish ministerial position, such as a DRE or youth minister, (22%) followed by ensuring the pastoral care of one or more parishes (21%), a parish non-ministerial position, such as administration or business (15%), diocesan non-ministerial positions (9%), and hospital ministry (9%).

The full survey conducted by CARA may be accessed here.

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