Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It is with great humility (yet filled with excitement) that I write this first blog post regarding my journey towards ordination as a permanent deacon. As my formation is intrinsically linked to St. Dominic and Assumption Parishes, I want to regularly update you on my progress, and that of the 3 other men in the St. Paul Diocese who I am sharing this journey with.
We held our first formal meeting with Bishop Paul on August 25, 2014. As the permanent diaconate is an extension of the bishop’s ministry, our formation process often involves the bishop directly. However, as he is a very busy shepherd, he has entrusted Father Andrew as our Formation Council Chair as we move forward. Father Andrew will chair a council made up of several other diocesan resources (existing permanent deacons within the diocese, the Diocesan Pastoral Coordinator, etc) who will guide us through the 4 years of our formation program.
To give a very brief outline of the 4 year program, our first year is a discernment year, or propadeutic year. While it is the same as the other three years in that we have a standard course load at Newman Theological College (theological formation) and work on pastoral, spiritual, and human formation, the focus is on formalizing the discernment we have been doing prior to making a decision to seek ordination as permanent deacons. During this year, we are referred to as “aspirants” as we are aspiring to ordination. Upon completion of the first year, should our own internal discernment be in alignment with the assessment of the Formation Council, we may be formally accepted as “candidates”.
The following three years of “candidacy” are similar to the first year, in that we continue our studies at Newman Theological College as well as our pastoral, spiritual, and human formation. During these three years we will pass through the stages of Lector and Acolyte, prior to (God willing) ordination as a permanent deacon.
During our first meeting with Bishop Paul, we were introduced to the formal formation program as directed by the Holy See. We were introduced to the Divine Office, as Deacons are required to pray the Divine Office at least twice per day. Additionally, we had an opportunity to meet each other and our spouses, who have an integral role in our ministry (when I say “our” ministry, I mean the ministry of the deacon and his spouse, as it would not be possible for a married deacon to fully participate in his ministry without the active involvement of his wife).
Our next major milestone is on September 22, when we formally start our schooling at Newman Theological College. We will be taking 8 courses per year, each lasting 5 weeks in length (with a couple of weeks in between to prepare for the next course). Over the 4 years, there is a total of 32 courses, ranging in topics from Catechesis, Prayer, Scriptures, to the Sacraments.
As I mentioned earlier, I will not be successful in my formation without the prayers and support of the parish. As such, please pray for me, especially during the Prayer for Vocations. If you have any questions about the permanent diaconate, I am usually around before or after Mass and I am more than happy to answer any questions you have.