Permanent deacons offer a unique witness to lay people, priests and bishops as well as a constant reminder of the Christian vocation to charity, said Archbishop Charles Chaput this week.

“With laypeople, they often share the experience of marriage, families and secular jobs. With priests and bishops, they share the vocation of ordained ministry — a sacramental configuring to the work of the Lord,” the archbishop said in his latest column, published in the Denver Catholic Register.

The archbishop’s comments coincide with the convention of the National Association of Deacon Directors, which is being held in Denver, from April 19 to 22. “It’s a privilege for us to welcome them,” the archbishop said.

“It’s a privilege for priests and bishops to serve alongside our deacons and draw strength from their unselfish witness of charity,” he added. “Deacons embody a special commitment to servanthood as a keystone of the entire ordained ministry.”

The archbishop explained that diaconal ordination is the “first and foundational part” of priestly ordination, “where the person ordained is configured to ‘Christ, the servant’ who comes to serve and not to be served.”

He conceded that many Catholics today have no memory of the Church before the Second Vatican Council, when there weren’t any deacons.

“One of the key reasons the U.S. bishops advanced in asking the Holy See to restore the permanent diaconate after Vatican II was to provide an ‘impetus for the Church to adapt herself to the changing needs of society,’” the archbishop explained.

While the ministry of deacons is often taken for granted today, the archbishop said, the faithful must “remember that without them…the Church would be a far weaker and much less effective leaven in the world than she is.”

“In the midst of so many challenges facing the Church in our day, our permanent deacons are another reminder that Jesus Christ is with us — always,” he stated.

He commended the work and commitment of Deacon Jim Doyle and other deacons in the battle against two bills that seek to lift the statutes of limitation on sex abusers in the Church — House Bill 1090 and Senate Bill 143.

Deacons have worked hard to prevent these bills from “selectively and retroactively punish the Catholic community today for events that happened decades ago and in which the vast majority of Catholics played no part,” he said. “In doing so, they’ve taken up an important task of their vocation: serving Jesus Christ by defending their parishes and their Church.”