As part of our ongoing contribution to the ministerial needs of our Church, St. Bernard’s offers formation for the Permanent Diaconate in partnership with the Dioceses of Rochester, Albany, Buffalo, and Allentown. This formation program is designed to be part of a concerted effort on the part of a diocese to form a man spiritually, pastorally, humanly, and intellectually so that he might discern and be formed for the sake of successful ministry as a permanent deacon.
Permanent diaconate formation at St. Bernard's has a rich history, dating back to 1969 when, keen to implement the Second Vatican Council’s vision, Venerable Bishop Fulton J. Sheen ordained the first permanent deacon in the United States - Deacon Michael Cole. Bishop Sheen’s successor, Bishop Joseph L. Hogan, further expressed his desire to have the permanent diaconate operative within the Diocese as soon as possible and asked St. Bernard’s (then St. Bernard's Seminary) to take a leadership role in forming the deacons. The first class of permanent deacons was ordained on April 17, 1982. Thus from the beginning with Bishop Sheen until now, the Diocese of Rochester’s permanent deacons have been formed at St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry.
Typically, five years are devoted to preparation for this sacrament. The Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies degree is used as the basis of the intellectual formation for a dicoese’s permanent diaconate program and each diocese customizes this degree program with specified electives and program completion timelines to meet their formational needs. St. Bernard’s is prepared to be a collaborator alongside the broader team of formators within each diocese to ensure that excellent intellectual formation is provided, which is also bolstered by the other three dimensions of formation. St. Bernard’s offers a robust academic advising program and is able to provide diocesean formation teams with intellectual reporting tools such as advising assessments, reporting, and regular evaluation meetings - all at the individual direction and request of each diocese.
This program is developed in accordance with the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States, a publication authored and published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
Those discerning a call to the permanent diaconate are encouraged to contact the Director of the Permanent Diaconate in their home diocese.
Those interested in learning more about the use of the Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies degree as the basis of permanent diaconate formation are encouraged to contact the Academic Dean or the Office of Admissions.