Permanent Diaconate - Diocese of Rochester


Frequently Asked Questions

About Permanent Diaconate

The Curriculum

Frequently Asked Questions

He is a man of faith, who is called from the community that already recognizes his dedication to service. He makes a lifetime commitment to serve the people of God by proclaiming the Word, assisting and presiding at Liturgies, and ministering in the areas of charity and social justice. A permanent deacon proclaims his availability to the community by addressing present and emerging needs of the Church. He may serve out of the context of a parish ministry and/or one of several ministries constituted to help the poor and disenfranchised, the lonely and weak, the sick and dying. The bishop assigns all deacons to a ministry. In the letter of assignment, specific duties and responsibilities are delineated.

The short answer to this question is no. Most deacons have a full time secular job. They normally dedicate a minimum of 10 hours per week to their ministry assignment. Deacons graciously work as volunteers in their assignments. The unique contribution of the permanent deacon is his representative Christian witness in the everyday world of family, work and civic life.  

Candidates must be men of strong and active faith and have a demonstrated record of service in the communities in which they live, work and worship. A man must be at least 35 years of age and no more than 62 years of age at the time of ordination. He must be in good health, emotionally mature and have stable relationships. Men may be single or married. Single men take a vow of celibacy at ordination. A married candidate who is subsequently ordained, and whose wife dies, may not remarry.  

There is a four-and-one-half year program of formation studies. The formation program consists of courses in scripture, theology and pastoral studies; spiritual and formational experiences; and field education. Saint Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry at 120 French Road in Pittsford, conducts this program for the Diocese of Rochester.  

If married, a candidate must have the wholehearted support of his wife and family in his desire to enter the formation program. Wives are invited to attend classes and other events throughout the four years of the program.Their support and that of other family members, particularly children, is vital to the process. Both formation and diaconal service require adjustments on the part of all family members.  Support is given to help candidates balance family duties and family time with their formation responsibilities.

The process begins with a day of reflection for interested men and their wives, which is held in late spring. Those who decide to apply complete an application. The application includes an autobiography, family information, education background and references. Applicants and their wives are interviewed in the fall. Also, at this time background checks are completed. The bishop notifies applicants of his decision regarding their application in December. The first year of formation, which is called aspirancy, begins in late January.


For more information about formation contact:


Deacon John Brasley, Director of Deacon Formation,

Office of Deacon Personnel, 1150 Buffalo Road, Rochester, New York 14624
Phone 585.328.3228 ext. 1237 or email

Diaconate in the Diocese of Rochester

Back to Top

About Permanent Diaconate

The Diocese of Rochester intends to recruit and form appropriate men for the Permanent Diaconate according to the Basic Norms for the Formation of Permanent Deacons (Congregation for Catholic Education 1998) and the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States (NCCB 2005). The Diocese has adopted for diaconal formation the graduate school of theology model which “incorporates one or more parts of formation from diocesan staff and resources, while one or several parts of formation, such as the intellectual and/or pastoral, are provided and supervised by…a graduate school of theology” (National Directory 261). Saint Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry is home to the diaconate formation program.


The diaconate is, with the episcopacy and priesthood, conferred through a special outpouring of the Spirit in the sacrament of Holy Orders, which is, with Marriage, one of the sacraments at the service of communion within the Catholic Church. All of the aspects of the formation program must be understood as parts of a multi-leveled sacramental preparation program.


The goals of this sacramental preparation program are to assist the aspirant/candidate to discern in depth what God’s particular call to him might be, to enable the aspirant /candidate and his spouse to enter upon the particular tasks and responsibilities of this sacrament with informed consent, to receive worthily the particular grace of this sacrament, to acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to the performance of these tasks and responsibilities and to take up his role in the order of deacons within the general diocesan ministerium. Most commonly four-and-one-half years are devoted to preparation for this sacrament.


While remembering that it is the husband who is in formation, the wife of the aspirant/candidate should be involved in the formation program in appropriate ways in order to insure her informed consent to the husband’s reception of the sacrament of Orders, to strengthen her awareness of the husband’s diaconal vocation and to help her to accept the challenges and changes that will take place should her husband be ordained (National Directory 138-139). The goals of this program, therefore, extend in their own way to the spouse.


Formation for the Permanent Diaconate takes place on three integral paths: the aspirant, the candidate and the post-ordination ministry. The aspirant path is followed during the first three semesters of this program. This is a period of intense inquiry for the man and his family. At the end of this time of discernment and education, the aspirant decides whether he should proceed in the program, if so invited by the Bishop after consultation with those responsible for his formation.


Throughout the candidacy years, the candidate and those responsible for his formation discern together the appropriateness of this ecclesial ministry for him and his family and make recommendations to the Bishop who remains responsible for calling him to orders. Following ordination he enters upon the post-ordination path of formation, where he seeks to persevere faithfully in sacramental grace through ongoing activities to deepen his experience of being conformed to Christ the Servant.


There are four dimensions, which give content and direction to each of these formation paths. These dimensions - the human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral – illuminate aspects of the aspirant’s/candidate’s life and call for growth, development and conversion.  These four dimensions of the formation paths are focused through several perspectives that have been determined by the Bishops of the United States to be particularly relevant to the ministry of deacons in our country - family life, multicultural sensitivity, social-justice advocacy and an ecumenical/inter-religious spirit. In the pages to follow we will offer policies and procedures for the implementation of this complex sacramental preparation program.


For more information about formation contact:

Deacon John Brasley

Director of Deacon Formation, Office of Deacon Personnel,
1150 Buffalo Road, Rochester, New York 14624
Phone 585.328.3228 ext. 1237  or Email

Diaconate in the Diocese of Rochester

Back to Top

The Curriculum

A total of 15 graduate courses in the following areas will be taken during the aspirancy and candidacy paths. (This list is current but subject to change.)

I.    Graduate Courses



  • Orientation to Theological Studies
  • Spiritual Formation


  • Intro. to Hebrew Scriptures
  • Intro. to Christian Scriptures
  • Church and Ministry
  • Theology of Trinity
  • Worship and Sacraments
  • Moral and Social Teachings
  • Pastoral Care I
  • Ministerial Leadership
  • Pastoral Formation – Field Education (Three Summers)


  • Pastoral Care II
  • Liturgical Preaching
  • Special Topics in Spirituality
  • Letters of Paul


  • Graduate Colloquium (Non Credit)

II.   Certification for Designated Ministry Courses


  • Orientation to Formation
  • Ministerial Ethics


  • Diaconate Discernment I
  • Diaconate Discernment II
  • Introduction to Liturgy of the Hours 
  • Advanced Liturgy of the Hours
  • Preparation for Candidacy


  • History and Theology of the Diaconate I 
  • History and Theology of the Diaconate II 
  • Collaboration and Conflict in Ministry
  • The Ministry Team and Parish Dynamics
  • Preparation for Rite of Reader


  • Cultural Diversity
  • Special Topics
  • Oral Interpretation of the Scriptures
  • Preaching Practicum 
  • Preparation for Rite of Acolyte
  • Liturgical and Pastoral Practicum I
  • Liturgical and Pastoral Practicum II
  • Transition from Formation to Ministry I
  • Transition from Formation to Ministry II
  • Deacon as Servant Leader in Solidarity with the Poor


  • Formation Seminar I: The Dimensions of the Formation of the Permanent Deacon
  • Formation Seminar II: Diaconal Participation in the one and triple munus of Christ
  • Formation Seminar III: Family Life Perspective
  • Formation Seminar IV: The Rite of Ordination 

IV. Formation Requirements


  • “Shadow a Deacon” Experience
  • Retreats
    • Three annual retreats
    • Canonical retreat prior to ordination
  • Annual fall setting goals
  • Annual spring self-evaluation
  • Portfolios

 V.  Post-Ordination Path

Courses to be taken in these areas during the three-year internship period:


  • Hebrew Scriptures
  • Christian Scriptures
  • Theological Anthropology
  • Mariology
  • Church History
  • Preaching

VI. Delivery of Curriculum

The graduate courses are offered late August through early May, on one evening weekly, over a four-and-one-half year period.


Pastoral Formation – Field Education is offered during three of the summers. 


Other courses, workshops and seminars are delivered at gatherings of the formation community on eight Saturdays each year.


Wives are invited to participate as much as their schedules will allow. There are monthly mandatory sessions presented over the years of formation that will help to prepare them to give their informed consent for their husband’s ordination.


For more information about formation contact:

Deacon John Brasley
Director of Deacon Formation, Office of Deacon Personnel,
1150 Buffalo Road, Rochester, New York 14624
Phone 585.328.3228 ext. 1237 Or Email


Diaconate in the Diocese of Rochester


Back to Top