Deacons have been around in the Church from almost the very beginning – check out Acts 6:1-7. The essence of diaconal work is captured in its name: “Deacon" comes from the Greek "Diakonia", which means “service”. So, does that mean a deacon is a servant?
Yes, that’s precisely what it means! Deacons do all kinds of things, but at the core, every deacon is a servant.
This servant role is worked out in a variety of ways. You will find deacons serving in hospitals, hospices, and jails. You will find deacons working in soup kitchens and half-way houses. You will find deacons ministering to the poor, the rich, and the elderly. Also, you will see deacons exercising their role in liturgy and formal proclamation of the Gospel. Weddings, Baptisms, wake services, preaching, benediction services – these are all part of the work of the deacon. And note this: the deacon does not view the “service stuff” and the “liturgical stuff” as two completely separate spheres of activity. The idea is that the corporal works of mercy and the liturgical acts are two aspects of service that inform each other. Ask a deacon- he’ll tell you what we are trying to say.
Typically, a deacon will operate on a part-time basis, earning his livelihood in a secular profession (and maybe raising a family, too). But, as Pope John Paul II pointed out, there is no such thing as a “part-time deacon”. A deacon, by virtue of his ordination, is a servant on a 24/7 basis, even when he is engaged in a part-time assignment.