Frequently Asked Questions
1. Who is a Permanent Deacon?
The entire Church is called by Christ to serve others. In virtue of his sacramental ordination and through his various ministries, the deacon is a special witness to the service of God’s people. The deacon is a member of one of three groups, or “orders,” of ordained ministers in the Church: bishops, priests and deacons. Deacons are ordained to serve the People of God with the Bishop, the priests and parish staffs and to be a sacramental sign to the Church and to the world of Christ, who came “to serve and not to be served.”
2. What are these “various ministries” of the Permanent Deacon?
All ordained ministers in the Church are called to service of Word, Sacrament, and Charity. Bishops, priests and deacons exercise their ministries in various ways.
As ministers of Word, deacons proclaim the Gospel, preach, and teach in the name of the Church.
As ministers of Sacrament, deacons baptize, lead the faithful in prayer, witness marriages, and conduct wake and funeral services.
As ministers of Charity, deacons are leaders in identifying the needs of others and in calling God’s people into service to meet these needs.
No matter what specific ministry a deacon performs, it flows from his ordination. In other words, it is not only WHAT a deacon does, but WHO a deacon is that informs his ministry.
3. What is the difference between a permanent deacon and a transitional deacon?
A transitional deacon is a man who is called to the diaconate in preparing for the priesthood. The Second Vatican Council restored the Permanent Diaconate as an integral, stable and permanent ministry. There are more than 15,000 permanent deacons in the United States today.
4. May permanent deacons be either married or single?
A permanent deacon may be married or single. The Second Vatican Council decreed that the diaconate, when it was restored as a permanent order in the Church, could be opened to “mature married men”. This is in keeping with the ancient tradition of the Church, in which both single and married men were ordained into diaconal ministry. Also in keeping with ancient practice, if the wife of an ordained permanent deacon should die, he may not marry again. All single men who are ordained as permanent deacons must remain single, chaste and celibate.
5. What is expected of a permanent deacon’s wife?
The Church has determined that a married man cannot be ordained a deacon without the freely given, written consent of his wife. She is invited to participate in the formation program to the greatest extent possible. She will be required to attend several Aspirancy sessions, annual retreats, professional days and the psychological assessment. Her participation will enable her to give informed consent to her husband’s request for ordination should the bishop call him to it; it will also promote her own spiritual growth in discipleship and help to strengthen the bond within the diaconate community.
6. Is a Permanent Deacon ordained for the Parish or the Diocese?
Whenever a man is ordained, he is to serve the Bishop in the diocesan Church. Permanent Deacons are assigned by the bishop to parishes or institutions according to the pastoral need of the diocese. Normally, the deacon will be assigned to a parish/institution within an approximate 25 mile radius of his place of residence. During the ensuing years his assignment may be changed in light of the particular needs of the diocese and the permanent deacon.
7. How do I find out more about becoming a Permanent Deacon?
The best place to begin in discernment is with one’s pastor, who will work with the individual and at the proper time will inform him of upcoming information sessions.
8. What are the age requirements and expectations for application to the permanent diaconate program in the Diocese of Manchester?
The permanent deacon is, in most cases, a married man with secular employment. His main concerns are his family, his job and his ministry, in that order.
To become a permanent deacon, the applicant must approach formation convinced of his call by God to serve the Church as an ordained deacon. His response to a call to the diaconate is the primary consideration for eligibility. The Deacon Formation Policy Board will assist each applicant in the initial discernment of that vocation.
The church is deeply concerned about supporting marriage and family life. Therefore, due to the serious commitment of time that formation and ministry will involve, applicants with young children may be asked to pursue formation for the permanent diaconate at a later time.
Church law requires that the applicant be no younger than thirty-five (35) years of age at the time of ordination and therefore, no younger than thirty-one (31) years of age at the time he is accepted as a candidate for formation.
While there is no maximum age established for a candidate, the applicant’s health and suitability must be such that there is a good probability he will be able to serve in assigned ministry as permanent deacon for a period of fifteen (15) years. Therefore a candidate should be approximately sixty (60) years of age upon ordination.
9. What are the personal qualities sought in an applicant to the Permanent Diaconate from the National Directory and from the Diocese of Manchester?
The man must be a fully initiated Catholic, (i.e. Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist) for a minimum of six years. If married, he must be in a valid, sacramental marriage.
The applicant must be a US citizen or a legal permanent resident (Green Card) at the time of admission, with a working knowledge of English. He will have successfully completed high school and be able to handle college level course work.
He should possess financial security with a history of steady employment in a position that does not require frequent travel or re-assignment.
The applicant should truly desire diaconal ministry, believe that God may be calling him, and be able to demonstrate that he is a good Catholic Christian with leadership abilities.
He will be aware, however, that his call must be validated by competent Church authority.
The applicant must be a registered member of a parish of the Diocese of Manchester, who participates at Mass every Sunday and is active in the life of the parish. (Basic Norms for the Formation of Permanent Deacons, #33). The recommendation of the applicant’s pastor is a requirement of the application process.
The applicant “must be in a positive and stable marriage (6 years), if married, or in a mature celibate state of life, if single” (National Directory for the Permanent Diaconate #174 note 8). If married, his request for admission must have the full and enthusiastic support of his wife and family.
In summary, these are the qualities that may demonstrate a call to the Order of Deacons: sound faith; good Christian reputation; active involvement in the Church’s apostolate; personal integrity, maturity, and holiness; regular participation in the Church’s sacramental life; evidence of recognized, ongoing commitment to the Church’s life and service; participation in faith enrichment opportunities (retreats, days of recollection, adult education programming); a positive and stable marriage, if married, or a mature celibate state of life, if single; active membership in a Christian community; capacity for obedience and fraternal communion; and a deep spirituality and prayer life (National Directory for the Permanent Diaconate, #167).
10. How does the Selection Process work in the Diocese of Manchester?
Applicants can download the application from the diocesan webpage. New applications will be available in the Fall of 2016.
Admission to Diaconate Formation is a highly selective process involving many layers of evaluation and scrutiny. The selection is based not only on personal qualification but on the needs of our local church. Diaconate Formation is the continuation of the discernment process. It does not guarantee ordination as a deacon.
11. How many applicants will be selected for each class of Permanent Deacons in the Diocese of Manchester?
Approximately 12-15 applicants are selected for each new class. The recruitment of the next class of applicants is projected to begin in the Fall of 2016.
12. How long is the formation process leading to Diaconate Ordination in the Diocese of Manchester?
The quick answer is four (4) years: one year of Aspirancy and three (3) years of Candidacy (National Directory for the Permanent Diaconate, #205). The individual will be expected to complete eighteen courses: some online and most in the classroom environment. There will also be about five formation weekends annually and one weekend retreat annually. Formation for the Permanent Diaconate is, of course, an ongoing process even after ordination.
14. Once ordained, what are the expectations for a permanent deacon?
Since most deacons are not hired full-time by a parish, there is the expectation that he devotes approximately 8 to 10 hours weekly to diaconal ministry as outlined in a ministry agreement with his pastor. The permanent deacon’s ministry is normally part-time with no compensation expected. The parish to which he is assigned by the diocesan bishop will pay an annual assessment to the diocese for Permanent Deacon Continuing Formation and any approved expenses the deacon incurs in ministry. The permanent deacon is expected to comply with diocesan requirements for continuing education on a yearly basis.