Permanent Diaconate Formation

About the 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 five 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.

The Formation 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, Pastoral Care II
  • Ministerial Leadership
  • Pastoral Formation – Field Education (Three Summers)
  • Liturgical Preaching
  • Course in Spirituality (Non elective)
  • Course in Christian Scriptures (Non elective)
  • Capstone Seminar (Non Credit)

II.   Certification for Designated Ministry Courses

  • Ministerial Ethics
  • Diaconate Discernment I (Aspirancy Year)
  • Diaconate Discernment II (Aspirancy Year)
  • History and Theology of the Diaconate I (First Year of Candidacy)
  • History and Theology of the Diaconate II (First Year of Candidacy)
  • Canon Law I (Second Year of Candidacy)
  • Canon Law II (Second Year of Candidacy)
  • Liturgical and Pastoral Practicum I (Third Year of Candidacy)
  • Liturgical and Pastoral Practicum II (Third Year of Candidacy)

III.   Special Diaconal Formation Workshops and Seminars

  • 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
  • Orientation to Formation
  • Study Skills
  • Transition from Formation to Ministry I & II
  • Introduction to Liturgy of the Hours
  • Advanced Liturgy of the Hours and other Prayers
  • Collaboration and Conflict in Ministry
  • Preparation for Rite of Reader
  • Preparation for Rite of Acolyte
  • The Ministry Team and Parish Dynamics
  • Oral Interpretation of the Scriptures
  • Homiletics Practicum
  • Deacon as Servant Leader and Diaconal Discernment

IV. Formation Requirements

  • “Shadow a Deacon” Experience
  • Retreats
    • Three annual retreats
    • Canonical retreat
  • 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 five 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 sixteen 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 the Diaconate check out the resources below:

Diocese of Rochester- Office of Permanent Diaconate
Frequently Asked Questions