VOCATION TO THE DIACONATE

IN THIS SECTION WE PRESENT A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PERMANENT DIACONATE, AS WELL AS INFORMATION ON THE DIACONATE FORMATION PROGRAM IN THE DIOCESE OF FALL RIVER.

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A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE PERMANENT DIACONATE

FROM THE EARLIEST DAYS OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH THE DEACON HAS BEEN INTIMATELY ASSOCIATED WITH THE MINISTRY OF THE BISHOP AND PRIESTS. IN THE PRIMITIVE CHURCH OF THE APOSTOLIC AND POST APOSTOLIC AGE, AS WITNESSED TO IN THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, THE DEACON WAS DESCRIBED AS A MINISTER IN THE LITURGICALASSEMBLY AND PREACHER OF THE WORD. THE DEACON PREPARED CATECHUMENS FOR ENTRANCE INTO THE CHURCH AND WAS A DISPENSER OF AID AND FOOD TO THE POOR AND DISTRESSED. THE VERY TERM “DIAKONIA”ANNOUNCES THE CENTRAL CHARACTERISTIC OF THIS ORDER, THE DEACON IS CALLED TO SERVICE. THE WITNESS OF SAINT IRENAEUS ALREADY UNDERSTOOD THE APOSTOLIC APPOINTMENT OF THE “SEVEN” MEN IN ACTS 6: 1-6 TO TAKE CARE OF THE GREEK SPEAKING WIDOWS AND ORPHANS AS THE INSTITUTION OF THE DIACONATE. SAINT PAUL REFERS TO DEACONS IN HIS EXHORTATION IN PHILIPPIANS (1:1) AND SAINT TIMOTHY LISTS THE QUALITIES AND VIRTUES WHICH ALL DEACONS ARE EXPECTED TO POSSESS AND EXERCISE IN THEIR MINISTRY (TIM 3:8-13).

THE WITNESS OF THE FATHERS OF THE CHURCH CERTAINLY ACKNOWLEDGES THE IMPORTANCE OF THE DIACONAL MINISTRY IN THE EARLY CHURCH. SAINT IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH SAYS THAT IT WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE TO HAVE THE CHURCH WITHOUT BISHOPS, PRIESTS AND DEACONS. HE SPEAKS OF THE DEACON SHARING IN THE MINISTRY OF CHRIST. THE DEACON IS A MINISTER OF THE CHURCH OF GOD. IN THE PATRISTIC AGE THE DEACON CONTINUED TO ASSIST THE BISHOP IN THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE COMMUNITY, PERFORMING THE SACRED RITES, AND PROVIDING CHARITY.

AFTER THE FIFTH CENTURY THERE WAS A STEADY DECLINE IN THE PERMANENT DIACONATE IN THE LATIN CHURCH. FROM THE EARLY MIDDLE AGES THE DIACONATE REMAINED ONLY AS A TRADITIONAL ORDER THAT MEN RECEIVED AS PART OF THEIR PREPARATION FOR ORDINATION TO THE SACRED PRIESTHOOD. THERE WERE OCCASIONAL EXCEPTIONS TO THIS RULE HOVER, SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI, FOR EXAMPLE, WAS ORDAINED A DEACON BUT NOT A PRIEST. IN THE SIXTEENTH CENTURY THE COUNCIL OF TRENT DIRECTED THAT THE PERMANENT DIACONATE SHOULD BE RESTORED TO THE LATIN CHURCH BUT THIS DIRECTIVE WAS NOT CARRIED INTO EFFECT. THE REALITY WAS THAT THE PERMANENT CHARACTER OF THIS ORDER WAS ABANDONED BY THE LATIN CHURCH FOR MANY CENTURIES.

THE PERMANENT CHARACTER OF THE ORDER, HOWEVER, WAS RESTORED AND RENEWED WHEN THE SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL (OCTOBER 30, 1963) CALLED FOR THE REESTABLISHMENT OF THE MINISTRY OF THE PERMANENT DEACON FOR THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH. ON 18 JUNE 1967, POPE PAUL VI CARRIED OUT THE DESIRE OF THE COUNCIL WHEN HE PUBLISHED THE APOSTOLIC LETTER SACRUM DIACONATUUS ORDINEM IN WHICH HE REESTABLISHED THE PERMANENT DIACONATE IN THE LATIN CHURCH. THE COUNCIL, IN ITS DOGMATIC CONSTITUTION OF THE CHURCH (LUMEN GENTIUM 29), ECHOES THE ANCIENT IMAGE AND CONCERNS OF THE NEW TESTAMENT WHEN IT SPEAKS OF THE MINISTRY AND NATURE OF THE DIACONATE:

“AT THE LOWER END OF THE HIERARCHY ARE DEACONS, UPON WHOM HANDS ARE IMPOSED ‘NOT UNTO THE PRIESTHOOD, BUT UNTO A MINISTRY OF SERVICE.’ FOR STRENGTHENED BY SACRAMENTAL GRACE, IN COMMUNION WITH THE BISHOP AND HIS GROUP OF PRIESTS, THEY SERVE THE PEOPLE OF GOD IN THE MINISTRY OF THE LITURGY, OF THE WORD, AND OF CHARITY. IT IS THE DUTY OF THE DEACON, TO THE EXTENT THAT HE HAS BEEN AUTHORIZED BY COMPETENT AUTHORITY, TO ADMINISTER BAPTISM SOLEMNLY, TO BE CUSTODIAN AND DISPENSER OF THE EUCHARIST, TO ASSIST AT AND BLESS MARRIAGES IN THE NAME OF THE CHURCH, TO BRING VIATICUM TO THE DYING, TO READ THE SACRED SCRIPTURES TO THE FAITHFUL, TO INSTRUCT AND EXHORT THE PEOPLE, TO PRESIDE AT THE WORSHIP AND PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL, TO ADMINISTER SACRAMENTALS, AND TO OFFICIATE AT FUNERAL AND BURIAL SERVICES. DEDICATED TO DUTIES OF CHARITY AND OF ADMINISTRATION, LET DEACONS BE MINDFUL OF THE ADMONITION OF BLESSED POLYCARP: ‘BE MERCIFUL, DILIGENT, WALKING ACCORDING TO THE TRUTH OF THE LORD, WHO BECAME THE SERVANT OF ALL’(LUMEN GENTIUM #29).”

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ARE YOU BEING CALLED TO THE DIACONATE?

BECOMING A DEACON INVOLVES A VOCATION FROM GOD; IT IS NOT SIMPLY ANOTHER VOLUNTEER JOB OR MINISTRY. THEREFORE, A PERSON BECOMES A DEACON NOT JUST OUT OF PERSONAL DESIRE OR INTEREST, BUT FOR THE COMMON GOOD OF THE CHURCH AS DETERMINED BY THE BISHOP. IT IS FOR THESE REASONS THAT THE SELECTION, DISCERNMENT, AND FORMATION OF DEACON CANDIDATES ARE RIGOROUS EFFORTS. THE ENTIRE FORMATION PROCESS IN FACT, IS A JOURNEY OF DISCERNMENT. THROUGH SYSTEMATIC OPPORTUNITIES FOR PRAYER, SPIRITUAL DIRECTION, FORMAL COURSE WORK, AND PASTORAL-SKILLS DEVELOPMENT, THE CANDIDATE IS ABLE TO REFLECT CRITICALLY ON HIS LIFE AND THE VARIOUS MINISTRIES TO WHICH HE MIGHT BE ASSIGNED. THIS PROCESS OF DISCERNMENT CONTINUES TO THE VERY MOMENT OF ORDINATION.

IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING A VOCATION TO THE PERMANENT DIACONATE, LEARN MORE BELOW BY REVIEWING THIS SECTION OF THE WEBSITE OR E-MAIL YOUR QUESTIONS TO DEACONFRANKLUCCA@FRPERMANENTDIACONATE.COM OR TO FRBOBOLIVEIRA@FRPERMANENTDIACONATE.COM.

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DISCERNING A VOCATION

THE DISCERNMENT OF A VOCATION FOR MINISTRY IN THE CHURCH REQUIRES ONE TO GAIN KNOWLEDGE, SEEK INFORMATION, CONVERSE WITH OTHER PEOPLE, AND BE SUSTAINEDIN PRAYER. THE PERMANENT DIACONATE IS A MINISTRY OF SERVICE AND CHARITY TO THE FAITH COMMUNITY THUS REQUIRING FROM THE DEACON A REAL COMMITMENT INVOLVING TIME, EFFORT AND HARD WORK. A MAN WHO BELIEVES THE LORD IS CALLING HIM TO SERVE THE CHURCH AS A DEACON IS CALLED FORTH BY THE BISHOP AND ORDAINED FOR THE CHURCH. THE DEACON MINISTERS ALONGSIDE PRIESTS AND BISHOPS WHILE ALSO MAINTAINING HIS OBLIGATIONS TO FAMILY AND CAREER.

BELOW IS INFORMATION ABOUT THE VARIOUS RESPONSIBILITIES UNDERTAKEN BY DEACONS AND THE DESIRABLE ATTRIBUTES FOR THOSE INVOLVED IN MINISTRY.

AREAS OF DIACONAL MINISTRY
1) MINISTRY OF THE WORD TASKS:
1.A. TEACH RELIGIOUS EDUCATION FOR ADULTS
1.B. TEACH RELIGIOUS EDUCATION FOR CHILDREN
1.C. CONDUCT INQUIRY CLASSES FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN THE CATHOLIC FAITH
1.D. PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL DURING MASS
1.E. DELIVER HOMILIES
1.F. GIVE BAPTISMAL INSTRUCTIONS TO PARENTS
1.G. LEAD OR ASSIST WITH MARRIAGE PREPARATION PROGRAMS
1.H. PARTICIPATE IN OR COORDINATE YOUTH MINISTRY PROGRAMS
1.I. ASSIST WITH CATECHETICAL PROGRAMS ON THE PARISH, REGIONAL, OR
INSTITUTIONAL LEVELS

2) MINISTRY OF SACRAMENT TASKS:
2.A. SERVE AS DEACON AT THE EUCHARISTIC LITURGY
2.B. DISTRIBUTE HOLY COMMUNION
2.C. TAKE COMMUNION TO THE SICK AND SHUT-INS
2.D. CELEBRATE BAPTISMS OUTSIDE OF MASS
2.E. LEAD PRAYERS AT FUNERAL HOME
2.F. LEAD PRAYERS AT CEMETERY
2.G. SERVE AS MINISTER OF EXPOSITION AND BENEDICTION OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT
2.H. WITNESS MARRIAGES
2.I. PRESIDE AT THE CELEBRATION OF MORNING OR EVENING PRAYER
2.J. PRESIDE AT FUNERALS OUTSIDE OF MASS
2.K. SERVE AS ADVOCATE FOR THE DIOCESAN TRIBUNAL

3) MINISTRY OF CHARITY AND JUSTICE (PARISH, REGIONAL, DEANERY, INSTITUTIONAL) TASKS:
3.A. VISIT THE HOSPITALIZED
3.B. MINISTER TO PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES
3.C. VISIT THE IMPRISONED
3.D. VISIT THE AGED AND HOMEBOUND
3.E. PROVIDE INFORMATION, REFERRAL, AND ASSISTANCE FOR THE POOR AND DISADVANTAGED
3.F. PROMOTE PARISH SOCIAL ACTION
3.G. MINISTER TO IMMIGRANTS AND REFUGEES
3.H. COORDINATE ADVOCACY EFFORTS IN LIGHT OF CATHOLIC SOCIAL TEACHING
3.I. ASSIST PARISH ORGANIZATIONS (SAINT VINCENT DE PAUL, LADIES OF CHARITY, ETC.)
3.J. MINISTER FOR AT-RISK CHILDREN (DETENTION CENTERS, GROUP HOMES, ETC.)
3.K. ASSIST WITH MINISTRIES DIRECTED TO FOOD PANTRIES, ETC.

BEHAVIORAL AND SPIRITUAL ATTRIBUTES
THE UNITED STATES CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS (USCCB) IN THEIR NATIONAL DIRECTORY ON THE FORMATION OF MEN TO THE PERMANENT DIACONATE IDENTIFIES BEHAVIORAL ATTRIBUTES OF EXEMPLARY DEACONS WHICH CAN ASSIST AN INQUIRER IN HIS DISCERNMENT:
• NATURAL INCLINATION TO SERVE THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY AND THOSE IN NEED;
• DEMONSTRATES PSYCHOLOGICAL INTEGRITY;
• HAS A CAPACITY FOR DIALOGUE;
• ABILITY TO SHARE ONE’S FAITH YET LISTEN RESPECTFULLY TO OTHER POINTS OF VIEW;
• CAPACITY TO LISTEN CAREFULLY AND WITHOUT PREJUDICE TO RACE, GENDER ORETHNICITY;
• GOOD COMMUNICATION SKILLS;
• SELF-DIRECTED AND COLLABORATIVE ACCOUNTABILITY;
• BALANCED AND PRUDENT JUDGMENT;
• GENEROSITY IN SERVICE;
• ABILITY TO LEAD, MOTIVATE, FACILITATE, AND ANIMATE OTHERS INTO APPROPRIATE ACTION AND SERVICE.

THE USCCB ALSO EMPHASIZES THE FOLLOWING SPIRITUAL ATTRIBUTES OF EXEMPLARY 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 (E.G., RETREATS, DAYS OF RECOLLECTION, ADULT
   EDUCATION PROGRAMMING);
• 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
• DEEP SPIRITUALITY AND PRAYER LIFE.

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ADMISSION PROCESS - 11TH DIACONATE CLASS BEGINNING 2023

WE CURRENTLY HAVE A CLASS IN FORMATION WITH ORDINATION EXPECTED IN THE SPRING OF 2023. SHOULD THE BISHOP APPROVE THAT WE BEGIN THE NEXT CLASS, THIS IS THE TENTATIVE SCHEDULE.

FOR THE 11TH DIACONATE CLASS, SCHEDULED TO BEGIN THE ASPIRANCY PHASE IN THE SPRING OF 2023, YOU ARE INVITED TO SUBMIT A PRELIMINARY APPLICATION.

PRELIMINARY APPLICATION PROCESS FOR THE 11TH DIACONATE CLASS

TO SUBMIT AN PRELIMINARY APPLICATION, PLEASE COMPLETE THE APPLICATION FOUND BELOW.

IN ADDITION TO THE APPLICATION, A LETTER, IN SUPPORT OF YOUR APPLICATION, FROM YOUR PASTOR IS REQUIRED. THAT LETTER MAY BE MAILED TO THE OFFICE OF THE PERMANENT DIACONATE, DIOCESE OF FALL RIVER, 121 MT PLEASANT STREET, NEW BEDFORD, MA 02740.

UPON RECEIPT OF THOSE TWO DOCUMENTS, WE WILL OPEN A FILE. ONCE THESE ITEMS ARE RECEIVED, PLEASE NOTIFY US BY MARCH 1, 2023 THAT YOU WILL PARTICIPATE IN THE ASPIRANCY PHASE IN MARCH-MAY, 2023 BY SENDING US A LETTER OF INTENT TO OFFICE OF THE PERMANENT DIACONATE, 121 MT PLEASANT STREET, NEW BEDFORD, MA 02740. (EMAILS AND PHONE CALLS ARE ALSO ACCEPTABLE.)

THE SCHEDULE FOR THE 11TH DIACONATE CLASS IS TENTATIVELY AS FOLLOWS:
ASPIRANCY PHASE – MARCH 2023 - MAY 2023
CLASSES BEGIN - SEPTEMBER 2023 (4 YEARS - TWICE PER WEEK)
CALLED TO CANDIDACY – JUNE 2024
ORDER OF READER – JUNE 2025
ORDER OF ACOLYTE – JUNE 2026
ORDINATION - 2027

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FORMATION PROGRAM SCHEDULE OVERVIEW

IN THE DIOCESE OF FALL RIVER THE FORMATION PROGRAM LEADING TO ORDINATION TO THE DIACONATE IS A FIVE-YEAR PROGRAM CONSISTING OF AN INITIAL PERIOD OF INTENSE DISCERNMENT AND STUDY OUTSIDE OF A FORMAL ACADEMIC SETTING [ ASPIRANCY ], FOLLOWED BY FOUR YEARS OF FORMATION WHICH ENCOMPASSES THE HUMAN, SPIRITUAL, ACADEMIC AND PASTORAL LEVELS.

[ FORMATION INFORMATION ]

THE SCHEDULE FOR THE 11TH DIACONATE CLASS IS TENTATIVELY AS FOLLOWS:
ASPIRANCY PHASE – MARCH - MAY 2023
CLASSES BEGIN - SEPTEMBER 2023 (4 YEARS - TWICE PER WEEK)
CALLED TO CANDIDACY – JUNE 2024
ORDER OF READER – JUNE 2025
ORDER OF ACOLYTE – JUNE 2026
ORDINATION - 2027



THE SCHEDULE FOR THE 10TH DIACONATE CLASS (WHICH IS CURRENTLY UNDERWAY) IS AS FOLLOWS:
ASPIRANCY PHASE – MARCH - MAY 2019
CLASSES BEGIN - SEPTEMBER 2019 (4 YEARS - TWICE PER WEEK)
CALLED TO CANDIDACY – JUNE 2020
ORDER OF READER – JUNE 2021
ORDER OF ACOLYTE – JUNE 2022
ORDINATION - 2023


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SO WHAT’S THE INITIAL ASPIRANCY PROGRAM LIKE?


The Basic Norms of the Formation of Permanent Deacons (USCCB) describes the propaedeutic (preparation) period as a time during which the ‘aspirants will be introduced to a deeper knowledge of theology, of spirituality and of the ministry of deacon and they will be led to a more attentive discernment of their call.”

The following sessions, constituting the Aspirancy Program of the Permanent Diaconate Program of the Fall River Diocese, have been designed to address these norms.

Please note:
Aspirants and their wives (if married) are expected to attend all Aspirancy sessions; if illness or family/work obligations do not permit attendance at a session, the aspirant is asked to inform the Permanent Diaconate Office. (Tel. 508-995-3700)
All sessions begin at 7:00 pm and end at 9:00 pm.
Each session begins with Evening Prayer or a Communion Service at 6:30 pm.


ASPIRANCY SESSIONS FOR THE 11TH DIACONATE CLASS

Session 1: Opening Session

Session 2:
· Presentation: Ministry and the Family

Session 3:
· Presentation: Ministry of the Word

Session 4:
· Presentation: History and Theology of the Diaconate Part I

Session 5:
· Presentation: Ministry of Liturgy

Session 6:
· Presentation: History and Theology of the Diaconate, Part II (45 minutes)

Session 7:
· Presentation: Ministry of Charity

Session 8:
· Presentation: Road to the Diaconate Part I

Session 9:
· Presentation: Presentation of the Psychological Testing Process

Session 10:
· Presentation: Road to the Diaconate Part II - Ordination to the Diaconate

Session 11:
· Presentation: Spiritual Direction and the Spiritual Director

Session 12:
· Test on the Knowledge of the Catholic Faith

Session 13:
· Psychological Testing including wives

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“Brothers, select from among you seven reputable men, filled with the Spirit and wisdom, whom we shall appoint to this task..."

Acts of the Apostles 6:3