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This webpage introduces the Deacon Formation Program for our diocese. Here you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions, links to the formation calendar, and specific information about the three phases of formation: Inquiry, Aspirancy, and Candidacy.
You are also able to access specific information about the components of the formation program.
If you have any questions or comments, please contact the Director of Deacon Formation.
Click here for prayer for vocations and those in formation.
Table of Contents
En Español (DIRECTORIO NACIONAL PARA LA FORMACIÓN, MINISTERIO Y VIDA DE LOS DIÁCONOS PERMANENTES EN ESTADOS UNIDOS)
Do you think you might be called to the Diaconate?
The purpose of the Deacon Formation Program is to help men discern if they are called to the diaconate, and to help prepare them for that ministry. For questions concerning deacon formation please contact Deacon Frank Agnoli at 563-888-4257.
Because one year in the diocese's Ministry Formation Program is a prerequisite for deacon formation, those men who are questioning the possibility that God might be calling them to diaconal ministry in the Church should enroll in the Ministry Formation Program. For questions concerning the Ministry Formation Program, please call 563-888-4242.
Click here for information concerning the Ministry Formation program.
Videos on YouTube...
From the US Bishops (about 2 1/2 minutes): Bishop Octavio Cisneros of the Diocese of Brooklyn outlines how serving as a permanent deacon is an important response to God's invitation to help others.
From Salt & Light (about 28 min.): Hear from deacons and their wives about diaconal ministry, with host Pedro Guevara Mann.
What is "discernment"?
Maybe it is easier to begin by saying what discernment is not! It is not an event, though there may be times when we are more intentional about discernment--especially when it comes to questions of vocation--than others. It is not decision-making, though discernment often includes a decision. Discernment, rather, is learning to listen with the ears of our hearts. Discernment is a way of life--to which every Christian is called.
Discernment is about relationship: about acknowledging God's presence in our individual and communal histories, about recognizing God's presence in our daily lives, and about trusting in God's abiding presence into the future.
There are times, however, when we need to enter into a process of more intentional discernment against the "background" of being attentive to God's presence. In those times, David Lonsdale ("What is Discernment" inPraying, Nov-Dec 1993, pp.34-36) mentions that we need to pay particular attention to:
What is "formation"?
Formation refers to a gradual and ongoing process of transformation into the pattern of Christ and his ministry. Formation is marked by:
Information from the St. John's University School of Theology & Seminary Spiritual Formation Program, the Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity, and the Vincentian Institute of Pastoral Studies.
Who decides what formation involves?
The guiding document for the formation of deacons is the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States. Published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2005, it may be accessed on their website by clicking here.
The Directory calls for a comprehensive program of formation addressing four key areas: the Human, the Spiritual, the Intellectual, and the Pastoral.
Would you say some more about these four areas of formation?
According to the National Directory:
Human formation refers to growth in the human virtues, in the capacity to relate to others, in affective or emotional maturity (including psychosexual maturity and health), and in the ongoing formation of one's conscience (§108)--in order to help the minister be a bridge rather than an obstacle for others in their encounter with Christ (§109).
"The first goal of spiritual formation is the establishment and nourishment of attitudes, habits, and practices that will set the foundation for a lifetime of ongoing spiritual discipline" (§110). Spiritual formation is focused on assisting the candidate to be rooted in the attitudes and example of Christ the Servant, for that is to whom he will be configured sacramentally at ordination (§112).
Intellectual formation focuses on imparting to the candidate a "complete and serious" knowledge of the faith and the Church's tradition in order to help make him a more effective minister, a reliable witness and truthful spokesman for the Church and the Church's teaching (§118).
In baptism, all are called to share in the priestly, prophetic, and royal (servant-leadership) offices of Christ. The pastoral dimension in diaconal formation builds on the many ways the candidate has already lived his baptismal call to holiness and seeks to help the candidate develop those capacities and skills necessary for diaconal ministry. The National Directory specifically names the following skills: "how to proclaim the Christian message and teach it, how to lead others in communal celebrations of liturgical prayer, and how to witness to the Church in a Christian service marked by charity and justice" (§127). Likewise, the National Directory highlights the following qualities: "a spirit of pastoral responsibility and servant-leadership; generosity and perseverance; creativity; respect for ecclesial communion; and filial obedience to the bishop" (§127).
Who is in charge of formation? Who decides who gets to be a deacon?
The Director of Deacon Formation is Deacon Frank Agnoli. He may be reached at 563-888-4257 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, a whole team of individuals is involved in formation: In addition to Deacon Agnoli, Deacons Bob McCoy and David Montgomery -- and their wives -- form the core Deacon Formation Team. Father Thom Hennen, Vocations Director for the diocese, serves as our spiritual director. In addition, mentors, spiritual directors, and faculty presenters -- as well as the applicant's pastor, parish, and family -- are key members of the formation process.
The Director and the Admissions and Scrutinies Committee advise the bishop regarding admission into and continuation in the Deacon Formation Program. The final decisions, however, are his.
What are you looking for in possible future deacons?
Here are the basic qualifications that we are looking for in men discerning a call to the diaconate:
I think I am being called to the diaconate. What do I need to do?
First of all, make sure -- if you are married -- that you have talked about this with your wife (and family). Second, you will want to have a conversation with your pastor, since he will be an important part of the discernment and formation process.
If you have not completed Year I in the two-year basic Ministry Formation Program, you will need to do so before admission into Candidacy. Please call 563-888-4243 as soon as possible to find out more about this program. You can also visit their webpage for more information.
Take a look at the information posted under "Inquiry" below.
And, finally, please contact the Director of Deacon Formation (or 563-888-4257) with any questions you might have and to talk more about the application process.
During the Year of Inquiry, men and their families begin to more intentionally explore the possibility of a call to the diaconate. Just as the possible applicants begin to get to know the Church and the diaconate in a more specific way, so, too, does the Church begin to get to know these men. Here are some resources that those interested in exploring the diaconate might find helpful:
Aspirancy is "primarily a time to discern the capability and readiness of an aspirant to be nominated to the bishop for acceptance as a candidate for diaconal ordination" (National Directory, Â§182). In addition to classroom sessions that focus on spirituality, prayer, and discernment, time will also be spent in ministerial assignments and in meeting with a deacon-mentor and priest-spiritual director.
According to the National Directory, the "Candidate path in diaconal formation is the occasion for continued discernment of a diaconal vocation and immediate preparation for ordination" (Â§204). The study of theology and related topics becomes a central part of the four-years of Candidacy. Pastoral field placement, parish ministry, and meetings with one's mentor and spiritual director continue.
According to the Directory, "[t]he goal for this path in formation is to responsibly address the various aspects of a deacon's ministry, the development of his personality and, above all, his commitment to spiritual growth" (#239). This phase of formation is divided into two parts: the initial three years after ordination and life-long formation.
Post-Ordination Formation is the responsibility of the Deacon Personnel Director.