SIX married men are being ordained by the Catholic Church in Ireland this week.
Bishop William Crean will ordain the men as permanent deacons in the Diocese of Cloyne at a special Mass this Sunday, September 24, in Co. Cork.
Acknowledging the decline in those signing up to become priests in Ireland, he said the diocese's new deacons should not be seen as a replacement for the priesthood.
"It is encouraging that we will have our first permanent deacons ordained for the diocese," he said. "Although this takes place in the context of falling numbers of priests, it would not be correct to see the diaconate simply as a replacement for the priesthood.
"The fullness of the Church’s ministry is seen in the co-operation of bishops, priests and deacons with the people of God in a co-responsibility which includes a variety of gifts and a variety of roles."
Scroll down to see who Ireland's six new permanent deacons are...
The history of the diaconate goes back to the Acts of the Apostles in the Church’s earliest days, when the Apostles chose seven men to assist in the care of the faithful.
Over the centuries many of the tasks of the deacon were undertaken by priests and by monastic and religious communities.
The diaconate became a final stage on the road to priesthood, while always maintaining its distinction as a separate order.
However for the last 50 years permanent deacons - those not destined to become priests - have served the Church throughout the world.
The Bishops of Ireland began the process of introducing permanent deacons in Ireland in the 1990s.
The first were ordained for the Archdiocese of Dublin and the Diocese of Elphin in 2012. The diocese of Cloyne first accepted applications in 2013.
Bishop Crean added: "Deacons hold a special ministry within our Church which is to complement, but not to replace, the contribution of our priests or that of the ministry of lay people who serve the community of the Church in an increasing number of ways.
"Deacons are called to assist and encourage both priests and the lay faithful.”
The men, ranging in age from 40-52 and including an accountant, a sales assistant and a cabinet maker, will be ordained deacons for service in the diocese in Saint Colman’s Cathedral in Cobh.
A permanent deacon - who can be married or single - is different to the priesthood, but it is still a participation in the sacrament of Holy Orders.
Traditionally they work closely with a diocean bishop and focus on three areas including assisting at the altar to celebrate the sacraments, leading people in prayer and helping the poor.
Permanent deacons continue in their secular employment and are responsible for their own upkeep and the upkeep of their families.