Another important assistant minister at Mass is the deacon. In Catholic and Orthodox Churches a deacon is a cleric (and, nowadays, often a married man) who is ordained and so specially dedicated on behalf of the Church to a ministry of service. Of course, one important kind of service occurs at worship.
At Mass the deacon assists the priest, proclaims the Gospel and certain other litanies of prayer, issues a few directions and announcements to the congregation, and helps to distribute Holy Communion, especially offering the Precious Blood from the chalice. As one who has received the Sacrament of Holy Orders, he is authorized by the Church to preach as well. When a bishop is present, two deacons ordinarily stand on either side of him to honor and assist him.
You can tell a deacon from other ministers because, as one who is ordained, he wears a “stole”: a long thin band of cloth which signifies his office. The deacon wears this over one shoulder (have you noticed that a priest wears the stole over both shoulders?). Often on Sundays and on more formal occasions a deacon wears a sleeved outer vestment in the color of the day or season, called a “dalmatic.”
In the Diocese of Baton Rouge, in addition to seminarians who serve as deacon for a brief time right before priestly ordination, there are some 60 so-called “permanent” deacons. (Yes, within our clergy there are just about as many permanent deacons than active diocesan priests!) Assigned by the bishop to fulfill various ministerial functions, they offer great help in building up the kingdom of God in our midst.