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The Leadership Style of Permanent Deacons: Servant and Transformational Middle-aged Ministers

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Although active in their local community and congregation mobilizing faith formation events, liturgical services, and community social action programs, little is known on the leadership style of permanent deacons (frequently married and middle age), ministers in the Roman Catholic Church. In the present study, 1,997 men (M age = 57.52 years old; SD = 4.44) from three generations of formation cohorts residing across seven U.S. geographic regions completed social desirability and multi-dimensional measures on servant and transformational leadership attributes. There were no significant differences (controlling for social desirability) by generation cohort and/or geographic region among self-reported servant and transformational leadership styles by deacons. Results suggest that U.S. Catholic deacons, regardless of their age or residence, self-identified as compassionate, engaged leaders who transform members of their parish to achieve the best they may become.

For the first 1000 years of the Christian faith, the deacon was a vital and active member of the clergy (see Ormonde, 2004, for more details on the history and role of deacons). These ordained clergy serve roles similar to, yet different than, priests and pastors (Barnett, 1995; Collins, 2003; Keating, 2006). Within the Roman Catholic denomination, the permanent deacon does not continue formation toward becoming a Catholic priest (Ditewig, 2007), but is a cleric in his own right. Catholic deacons traditionally serve in ministries of "word, sacrament, and charity" (Ditewig & Tkacik, 2010). On the surface, the ministry of word generally means reading the Gospels (Holy Scripture) at the Catholic Mass and affirming the role of teaching and engaging in the study of Holy Scripture. Sacramental ministry may include baptizing members into the Church, prep and presiding over weddings, wake services and funerals, blessings of people, objects, and places, and distribution of Holy Eucharist. Above all, the vital role of the deacon is as ministry...