CHR Comment: Charlotte Allen summarizes the historic service of women deacon(s/nesses) in view of Pope Francis’s announcement about a possible commission to study whether there might be modern deaconesses. Allen points out that deaconess service was not like that of the male deacons. They mostly did charitable work and served other women, especially at Baptism and in nunneries.
A root of such service may be connected with the enrollment of widows as described in 1 Timothy 5 where older women whose families could not support them were supported by the church while also serving. They are described as abiding in prayer and performing good works (vv. 5, 10).