As the infant Church began to organize & structure, the first thing they did was to replace the apostle Judas. The account is given right in the first chapter of Acts. The qualifications they set for one who could be considered was:
that the person had to be one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection.
So they proposed two, Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also known as Justus, and Matthias. Then they prayed, “You, Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this apostolic ministry from which Judas turned away to go to his own place.” Then they gave lots to them, and the lot fell upon Matthias, and he was counted with the eleven apostles. Acts 1:15-26
The next thing to organize was the establishment of the Order of Deacon. In Chapter six we read:
At that time, as the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table. Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them. Acts 6:1-6
From then on through first millennium the Office of (permanent) Deacon remained a viable part of the ordained ministry within the Church. But by the beginning of the second millennium it began to decline in use. At the Council Trent, 1563, a discussion on how to restore this office in the Church began, but at the Council's end, there was no further follow up.
This remained the state of this Office for the next 500 years, right up to our time, when Office of Permanent Deaconate was once again revived. The discussion began in Germany, in the ashes of the 2nd World War. Priests and laity, meeting and discussing, saw clearly that the Church would need much help to rebuild, and perhaps the deaconate would be of great benefit.
In 1962, at the time of 2nd Vatican Council a proposal was presented to Pope John XXlll, that restoring the Office of Permanent Deaconate be reconsidered.
In 1964, the dogmatic document of the Church, Lumen Gentium, had a very clear section on the deacons calling for the restoration on the diaconate."
Four years later, in 1968, came the first ordination ceremonies of deacons since the Reformation — fittingly, in Germany. Several other countries, including Colombia, followed suit, so that by 1970 there were almost 100 permanent deacons around the world.
The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops met in Winnipeg in 1968 and voted overwhelmingly to ask Rome for permission to restore the diaconate in Canada. By 1969 it was granted. As of 2013 There are more than 40,000 permanent deacons serving worldwide with approximately 1,000 in Canada
Essentially, it is a ministry of service and charity. The deacon serves the Church and the diocese in a designated service in a hospital, or prison, or other forms of charitable outreach. In addition, the deacon is assigned to a parish, as his liturgical base, where he assists the pastor, as needed, in liturgical ministry which may take the form of assisting at mass, preaching, baptising, presiding at weddings or funerals, or in other capacities within the parish.
As disciples of Christ and members of the Church, a deacon's ministry evolves in response to specific needs and his God-given talents. There are three dimensions of diaconal service: Ministry of Love and Justice, Ministry of the Word of God, and the Ministry within the Liturgy. They care for the disadvantaged, the bereaved, the divorced, the dying and the imprisoned, those pushed to the fringes of society by sickness and poverty, crime or age. Deacons prepare the faithful to receive the sacraments and to carry out their vocations as baptized Christians. With proper authorization they are able to preach, teach, counsel and give spiritual guidance. They assist bishop and priests in liturgical celebrations. They baptize, witness marriages and preside at funerals. Whatever they do, deacons are acting on behalf of the servant Christ. Normally, this service that the deacon undertakes on behalf of the Church is done free of charge and without pay. (From diocesan website - link)
Many acts of service are performed by non-ordained laity today with the grace God gives them. But as an “ordained office of service” the Permanent Deaconate is established as an institutional sign, that is visibly present in the Church, given as sign for all of us to see, encouraging us to recognize our own vocation to service in the Church.
Pray that God will continue to bless an prosper this ancient Office in Church today.