The U.S. diaconate grew more in 2020 than in any of the last six years.
A recent survey conducted by the USCCB has revealed that the U.S. has more permanent deacons than anywhere else in the world. The study, titled A Portrait of the Permanent Diaconate, examined 145 arch/dioceses whose bishops belong to the USCCB.
The report revealed that there are an estimated 19,008 permanent deacons serving in the United States. Catholic Culture points out that a March report from the Vatican claimed some 48,238 permanent deacons serve the Church worldwide. This means that about 40% of the Catholic diaconate resides in the United States.
The city with the largest number of deacons, 852, was found to be Chicago. The Windy City’s deacons more than double the second place city, Los Angeles, where there are 426. The dioceses of Galveston-Houston, San Antonio, and New York each reported over 300 permanent deacons.
Age and ethnicity
The numbers dropped slightly once activity is taken into consideration. About one fifth of permanent deacons in the U.S. are inactive for various reasons. Of the remaining 79% of deacons who are active, about 95% are over the age of 50. We may soon see a surge in deacon retirement, as 35% are over 70 years old. Less than one percent of active permanent deacons in the U.S. are below the age of 40.
A resounding 93% of all active deacons in the U.S. are married. Widowers and divorcees made up 5% and only 2% said they were never married. The demographics show that the majority, 73%, of all deacons are non-Hispanic white. Hispanic/Latino was the next most likely demographic to become deacons, at 21%.
Overall the U.S. diaconate was found to be in a period of growth. In 2020, 587 new deacons were ordained, up from 383 in 2019 and 494 in 2018. While there were more deacons ordained in 2020 than in any of the last six years, the U.S. Church lost more than it gained. In 2020, 387 permanent deacons died, while another 410 retired from active ministry.