In the 'Time in Seminary' post, another question has been posed:
What is the time required for deacons who come from that same second background and increasingly take on many roles in the same parish? What would be the impact of having a priest out two years sooner versus having a deacon? What is the time required of a deacon?
Also, what exactly can the deacon do in the parish? Is there somewhere one can find this well spelled out? What can they do during the Mass with the priest? What Sacraments can they administer without the priest there?
The requirements for the formation of permanent deacons are of a bit more flexibility, I think, than the requirements for the priesthood. I know that there is a National Assn of Diocesan Deacon Directors (NADD), they might have the national standards, but I feel pretty confident that each diocese has slightly different aspects to the formation programs, based on need, numbers, and available resources.
Here in Cincinnati, prior to entrance into Deaconate Formation. the man is required to complete at least a two year program in the Lay Pastoral Ministry Program at the Athenaeum of Ohio/Mount St. Mary's Seminary. As they complete that program, they apply into a three year formation program for deacons. Here, we only run one program at a time, so they are only accepted once every three years. They meet during the academic year, every other weekend, for a long slog of classes. (I know they work when they are taking these classes.) They go through the same 'minor orders' that we do in the priesthood tract (Candidacy, Lector, Acolyte).
Again, things are different diocese to diocese, but here, deacons do not receive a salary from the parish unless they have a position in the parish, such as pastoral associate, DRE, etc. Many of these men have 'regular jobs' out in the world and just assist at the altar on Sundays. They may help with weddings and baptisms, too, as well.
What is the impact of having a priest out quicker rather than a deacon? Well, that comes down to what a priest can do versus what a deacon can do. A deacon does not have the charism to govern, like the priest, so he cannot serve as pastor. A deacon cannot confect the Eucharist, but is able to assist at the celebration of the Eucharist. When he does so, he does Form III of the penitential rite (if that option is used), he proclaims the Gospel and leads the intercessions, and prepares the gifts at the altar. He is the regular minister of the Chalice for communion.
He can preside at weddings, baptisms and funerals outside of Mass, performing the Sacrament of Baptism and witnessing weddings. He can bless sacramentals, and do Benediction with the Eucharist.
In the Church's eye, he stands with one foot in the sacred world, one in the secular world, hence why he leads the intercessions. He is supposed to be out among the people and know what their needs are.
There is more that can be said, I know a few of the permanent deacons here in Cinci read this humble little site, perhaps they can chime in?
(As a side note, Archbishop Pilarczyk has always said that there is one order of deacons, so that even though permanent deacons are addressed as 'Deacon' and transitional deacons (those on the way to the priesthood) are addressed 'Reverend Mister', here, we ordain them together, in one ceremony. This is the year, too, so please include in your prayers the men who are in their final year of formation for the Diaconate, too.)