At that time, as the number of disciples continued to grow, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution.
So the Twelve called together the community of the disciples and said, “It is not right for us to neglect the word of God to serve at table.
Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task, whereas we shall devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.”
The proposal was acceptable to the whole community, so they chose Stephen, a man filled with faith and the holy Spirit, also Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism. They presented these men to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them.
The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly; even a large group of priests were becoming obedient to the faith. (Acts. 6:1-7).
“To Serve Tables”
So what is this describing? Well basically it’s another example of the Church, during the Easter season, giving us a window on the early days of Christianity, on the birth of the Church as described in the book of Acts. And just like we’ve seen Peter preaching and the administration of the Sacrament of Baptism, so now, from the Acts of the Apostles, we get a description of the origin of the Sacrament of the Diaconate, of the first level of what we call Holy Orders. So what was the origin of this? Well what happened was there were two factions in the Jerusalem Church. There were the Hellenists (this was a word for Greek speaking Jewish Christians; like Jews who lived in Jerusalem but who spoke Greek) and then the Hebrews, who were were Hebrew or Aramaic — that is debated — speaking Jewish Christians as well. And these two different linguistic groups are struggling with one another because some of the widows of the Greek speaking ones are being neglected in the daily distribution of food and clothing and things like that, which would be particularly important for widows because they didn’t have any source of income.
So they are bringing this to the apostles and the apostles basically say “look, our apostolic ministry of the word and prayer is taking all of our time. We need men who will be appointed to assist us with particularly the ministry of charity.” In other words, ministering and serving those who were poor or who were in need. So they choose these seven men and they lay hands on them and appoint them to that task.Brant Pitre – Catholic Productions (Click to read more)
The early Church had a great need for deacons to serve those in need of basic necessities like food and clothing. This gave the apostles the time to focus on praying and preaching to spread the good news of Jesus. The need for deacons continues today, to serve and support Churches around the whole world.