A man in formation writes: “I’m quickly becoming frustrated…I’m bored to death”

The following comment appeared today in a post on married priests.  I’d like to hear what deacon readers think:

I am currently in formation for the permanent diaconate.  I have often thought in the back of my mind that, at some point in the not-so-distant future, the door will open wider for a married priesthood in the Latin Rite, with permanent deacons an obvious source of potential candidates.  This post made me realize that I’m probably wrong.

While I thought that the permanent diaconate would be a way to serve the Church, I’m quickly becoming frustrated by the one-size-fits-all approach to formation in my diocese, which completely ignores the fact that I already have a graduate degree in theology from a reputable and accredited Catholic institution.  I just as well not have it as far as the diocese is concerned.  I am now repeating many of the courses that I successfully completed in grad school for the diocese’s formation program.  I am bored to death in most of my formation classes.

I also get the sense that permanent deacons are only reluctantly considered clerics.  In my diocese, transitional deacons may preach at Mass, but permanent deacons may preach at Mass only after completing an additional three years of post-ordination classes; even then, there’s no guarantee.  Additionally, priests, deacons, and those in formation seem to have little contact with one another, as if each group was its own separate club.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could come together once in a while to pray and support one another?  Have I invested my time, energy, and financial resources only to be able to do little more than I did as a grade-school altar boy?  I hope not.

Thoughts?

Comments

  1. deacon john m. bresnahan says:

    Frankly, I think that, in many respects, it takes a very great deal of patience and humility to go through most diaconate formation programs and persevere in the diaconate once ordained. On the other hand does the Church need more clergy who are lacking in patience and humility???Possibly that is our greatest challenge as deacons–to be examples of patience and humility.

  2. Deacon Steve says:

    I found at times that I was bored as well with some of the things we were being taught in formation. Other things I didn’t fully agree with. But over the 5 year process I found that it wasn’t just about the book knowledge, I could have done that in a year, but it was about refining and forming into what a Deacon should be. That is different for every person, as each deacon has his own charism and set of gifts that are brought to the table. I was glad for the time in formation, even when it was boring, because of how it changed and transformed me.
    As for contact with priests, deacons and others in formation, I am sure it is different in each (arch)diocese. We had a mentor couple, who were ordained and not part of the teaching staff, to help us through the program. Each formation class also had a journey couple, also ordained, who attended all the classes with us to help us out, especially with the more practical parts of the ministry. We were also encouraged to go to our deanery meetings to meet the deacons in our area, who were very willing to offer support as we journeyed through the program. Contact with the priests wasn’t a regular thing, other than we were to meet with our pastors on a regular basis.
    Remember that we are called to 3 main areas of service: Service at the Altar, Service to the Word, and Service to Charity. All three need to be in balance for the deacon to be effective and healthy. I am fortunate in that I am allowed to set my preaching schedule, but I humbily will not preach even when scheduled if the priest wants to preach. My pastor does request that I preach at times, like this year he asked me to preach for all 3 scrutinies so he and the associate pastor didn’t have to prepare for 2 sets of readings. Hopefully you will find that your pastor is approachable and willing to work with you to establish guidelines you can both live with.

  3. Deacon Rick says:

    Several thoughts on this posting. I have been ordained as a permanent deacon for over 14 years, and am fortunate to be in a diocese that does have deacons and priests meeting together. All deacons are invited to the yearly clergy conference and mingle and interact with the priests.

    I do have some observations about the posting above. The person seems to not understand about the calling to be a priest and the calling to be a permanent deacon. We are not wannabe priests who are left to serve only as deacons because we’re married. God has called us, our spouse, and children to a unique vocation in the Church. Perhaps reading The Deacon Reader by Deacon James Keating may help with understanding the historical roots of the diaconate and how it was restored during Vatican II.

    I do feel sorry for how his diocese requires additional training in order to preach, as one would hope that would be part of the formation process. I also feel sorry for the lack of collaboration that appears to be happening in his diocese between the priests and deacons, especially with regard to praying together. I hope he has brought these concerns to his pastor, not as complaints, but looking for more community among the clergy of his diocese.

    I am blessed with a wonderful pastor, who truly values the ministry of deacons, and a diocese that has priests and deacons meeting and praying together on various occasions. The best advice I can give is to pray for improved relations and if ordained, seek to be the best servant of the pastor and diocese he can. All the rest is on God’s hands.

  4. I have to admit that I found his apparent viewing as the Permanent Diaconate as a “farm team” of sorts for a married priesthood a tad short-sighted. I would think if this is what we’re here for, then we’ve all missed a very large point. The OP’s boredom may very well be the sign that this road is not the one he’s to be on at this time.

    That said, there are some real truths in his sensing that the Diaconate and the Priesthood are somehow two separate clubs. There are times when I wonder if “they” aren’t seeing “us” as a bother, and the grown up altar boys that others allude to. Like most things in life I suppose there are Priests who do…and Priests who don’t, and that my friend, is life.

  5. I’m in my second year of Candidacy, about five or six years into the formation process as a whole, and (God willing) with a year and a bit to ordination. We lost a couple of guys early on, whose frustrations were very similar to this writer’s.

    I’d ask my brother Candidate to look at his qualifications issue in the classroom slightly differently–how can he be of service to those of us around him who don’t have these academic credentials? Not by dominating class discussions, but perhaps by using his greater knowledge to support the discussion, to help the instructor teach more effectively. Our group is very diverse, with a couple of guys having advanced theology degrees and a couple with little education past high school or community college. Our guys with theology backgrounds have a positive effect on the group as a whole.

    As to his issue about clerical identity–our diocese does not encourage its permanent deacons to have a public clerical identity. (For example, wearing clerical collars and clothing, which we don’t do except in limited circumstances like prison ministry where it might be required by institutional rules.) We do have more of a collegial experience with each other and with our brother priests than the writer’s diocese apparently offers. I suppose we’re fortunate in that regard. But we’re actively encouraged not to get too wrapped up in separating our identities into an us vs. them clerical state.

    My biggest struggle in the formation process has been with my own arrogance and sense of entitlement. Maybe I’m filtering the writer’s thoughts through my own experience too much, and reading those qualities unfairly into his thoughts.
    But I know this: obedience is a tough spiritual path for middle-aged guys. I’ve been married a long time, and that has helped me a lot with understanding the obedience required of a deacon. I will need to be OK with whatever’s asked of me (as long as it’s proper and licit)–which may include acting like an “altar boy” if that’s what’s needed of me that day, or that year. Besides, what’s so bad about serving on the altar? An amazing privilege, yes? Writer, my prayers are with you. Hope you get to the other side of this.

  6. I am in the fifth year of my diocese’s five year formation process for the permanent diaconate. I would have to agree with Deacon John’s observation, and would add a couple of my own:

    1). Entering formation to the permanent diaconate with a hope that it would be a stepping stone to ordination to the priesthood is problematic. The vocation is not the same. Deacons are not “junior grade” priests, and even if the current discipline within the Latin Rite was relaxed, I would question whether most permanent deacons actually have a vocation to the priesthood.

    2). At the very beginning of my formation process, a deacon gave me some very sage advice: expect to be kicked out at any time. That got me thinking, what if I was asked to leave after 4 years of formation? Would all the time and money be wasted? It would if I was in formation for myself. However, maybe God was calling me to help form the OTHERS in the class. I would suggest that someone with his masters in theology would be in a great position to help his brothers in formation!

    3). Time will tell. I remember what I was like in the first couple years of formation, and it is amazing what God has done in just a few short years! One of my favorite reflections was penned by the Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin:

    Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
    We are, quite naturally, impatient in everything to reach the end
    Without delay.
    We should like to skip
    The intermediate stages.
    We are impatient of being on
    The way to something unknown,
    Something new,
    And yet it is the law of all progress
    That it is made by passing through
    Some stages of instability —
    And that it may take a very long time.
    And so I think it is with you.
    Your ideas mature gradually —
    Let them grow,
    Let them shape themselves,
    Without undue haste.
    Don’t try to force them on,
    As though you could be today
    What time will make you tomorrow.
    Only God could say what this new spirit
    Gradually forming within you will be.
    Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
    That his hand is leading you,
    And accept the anxiety of
    Feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.

    (http://www.xavier.edu/jesuitresource/online-resources/Ignatian-Prayers.cfm#slow_work)

  7. Southern Deacon says:

    I posted this earlier this week – “I have felt this for a while but never said it out loud (because it doesn’t change my ministry) but in the eyes or Rome and many of the bishops & priests, the diaconate is dead. . . .or so they wish & hope. They just haven’t figured out how to put the genie back in the bottle. They will do so by limiting or eliminating ordinations, restricting functions & rights (already happening), and distancing the liturgical role of the deacon (because that is what the public sees most). In an effort to diminish the order, they will continue to isolate it. I tip my hat to the bishops & priests that get the diaconate and are not afraid of it.”

    If the reason one joins the diaconate is to be a mini-priest or anything else other than a servant of Christ, you are making a mistake. It doesn’t matter if your priests or bishop likes the diaconate. It doesn’t matter if you can’t preach or assist at Mass. It doesn’t matter if you can’t be recognized by some outward symbol as a deacon. What matters is that you do the work of the diakonia of Christ. You do the work that each of us is called to do from the time of our Baptism, not the time of our ordination. You become Christ to others. Anything other than that doesn’t mean a thing.

    Would preaching at Mass, being respected and liked by bishops and priests, being recognized as part of the clerical team – would any of these be nice. Of course it would because it could make your work easier in some respects on the behalf of Christ’s mission on Earth and our mission to be a part of the New Evangelization. Do you need any of it – not at all. It may enhance your ability to access those who need to experience this message, but anyone and everyone can do it.

    I would venture to say that ordaining deacons into the clerical state, for some, might retard their ability of being part of the World around you. A sort of limbo if you were – - not taken seriously by your fellow clergy and not seen as part of the lay apostolate. But you have to choose where you want to remain and fight for it. Either way, ordination does not make or break the man who is centered correctly with Christ.

  8. pagansister says:

    Obviously knowing nothing about what the process is to become a deacon, I can only comment on what I read. Perhaps this fellow made the wrong decision and should leave the program. Also got the impression he felt he is just repeating what he has already been taught when he got his degrees, he knows it already etc. Think he should seriously think if this is what he really want to be. If so, then stop complaining and stick with it.

  9. “Above all, trust in the slow work of God….” I like that idea; and the rest of the quote as well!

  10. As an Orthodox Christian (ex-Latin Rite Catholic) I empathize. The Roman Church has treated the diaconate as strictly a stepping stone to the priesthood for so long that I don’t think there is any real sense of what to do with permanent deacons. In the Byzantine rite deacons have very real and integral liturgical functions. Indeed a liturgy without a deacon is like a movie sans the supporting actor. You can do it. But the sense of something missing is unmistakable.

    As for celibacy, I see no hope for any change in that discipline. In fact from what I have seen there is a small but growing movement in various quarters to attach a doctrinal rational to it. Some (not many… yet) have even urged that the discipline be imposed on the Suis Juris churches of the East.

  11. Deacon Herb G. says:

    I have been a Deacon now for over 12 years. Get through the formation process as best as you can because a lot will change once your ordained. I had a guy in my class who was a prefesor of moral etchics at a Catholic collage. The point is once your a Deacon a lot of things will happen that will be well worth the journey. There will be your good day’s and your bad day’s.
    For the most part you will be loved and respected by most people you come in contact with and a day will come along that you will lose count of the number of babies you baptized. Get a spirititual director to guide you and go on retreats. We are a seperate order however be humble and sit at the Lords feet and be ready as Jesus says to feed my sheep.

  12. Sadly it sounds as if studying for the diaconate is “one size fits all” instruction instead of individualized instruction based on the prior knowledge of the student. RCIA is often the same. I think priests used to meet with those who desired to become Catholic, but it seems that now everyone goes through RCIA — catechumens and candidates alike. There is a man in our parish who so wanted to be accepted into the diaconate program. I think he was told he was too old. Oh well, can’t be a deacon, but maybe a saint someday.

    Enough with that, just want to say that in our parish our deacons are held in high esteem and they do give homilies regularly. What I have read in the comments above surprised me as I feel that they are held in high esteem and valued for their service to the Church by both priests and parishioners.

  13. DeacSteve says:

    I am the formation director in my diocese and one observation that I would make is that requiring a man to take formation courses in subjects that he has advanced degrees in doesn’t make a lot of sense. We wrestle with this problem from time to time and we try to work to provide formation in other areas. The National Directory calls for formation in four dimensions: Intellectual, Spiritual, Pastoral and Human. If a man is clearly expert in an aspect of Intellectual formation making him take the class doesn’t benefit him or anyone else. In fact it could be damaging if his expertise exceeds that of the instructor!
    That said, formation is along all four dimensions, it isn’t an intellectual undertaking, it is a process of simultaneously being formed along multiple lines. Adjustments to his formation process may not speed him toward ordination but may perhaps aid his development in the other three dimensions.

    Another observation is that a man who is so significantly frustrated with the process of formation and who may be focused on preaching and liturgical actions is missing the vocation of the Diaconate in which we are called to be the “Living Icons of Christ the Servant.” Our Archbishop reminds us that the “liturgy of the deacon begins with the words ‘Go in Peace’”. Our work of Charity in the community and parishes is strengthened and sustained by our work of Word and Liturgy.

    I would urge this man to carefully reflect on his call. Starting from a position that as a permanent deacon he may someday potentially be called to the Prebyterate demonstrates (at least to my mind) a lack of understanding of the significantly vocations of Permanent Deacon and Priest. The position that he articulates helps to reinforce the incorrect belief that Permanent Deacons are want-to-be priests that happen to have a “beautiful impediment” in the person of their wives. We as deacons are called to this ministry, this service and this Office. If the source of his frustration emanates from the realization that he may not be ordained to the priesthood, may not preach as soon or as often as he would like and/or the collegiality that exists within the diaconate isn’t sufficient for him then the likelihood of a satisfying and fruitful vocation is pretty low.

    I cannot agree with Herb G. who recommends just getting through the formation process as best you can. That can be likened to “getting through the engagement process as best you can” even if it happens to be the wrong woman. It would be really awful to discover after ordination that maybe this isn’t your vocation.

    While I agree with his position that he should not be required to repeat courses that he has already successfully taken, I find from the limited information provided that a robust understanding of the vocation of the deacon is absent. A more critical reading of the National Directory could aid this individual in gaining a better understanding of “who” a deacon is in the eyes of the Church and to what he is called. That understanding would illuminate for him the profound differences in the diaconate and presbyterate from a vocational perspective. Without that clear knowledge any continuation in formation or service as a deacon if ordained will lead to greater and greater frustration, which of course fails to serve those to whom our ministry is directed, the People of God.

    As for some priests liking deacons and some not, I think that is simply life. There are priests I like and some I do not. Ordination does not supply the gift of indifference to human nature and actions. It does strengthen us in prayer and humility so we can more easily accept and serve all.

  14. MD Catholic says:

    Wow! Amen!

  15. Deacon Norb says:

    Hmm.

    At first, I thought just about every necessary point was already covered by other comments. I’d offer just a few insights:

    –At one time, in our various diaconate formation programs, the idea was taught that the married priesthood would soon be renewed in the Roman/Western Rite and that already married well-established and proven permanently ordained deacons would be the ideal candidates for that renewed ministry. I have not, however, heard that idea surface by any of the many formation directors I have known in almost twenty years. In other words, YES, we taught that once but NO, it is not in our current focus.

    –I also have an earned doctorate and I have been a deacon for over 33 years. Deacon Bill, who sometimes responds to this blog, also has his earned doctorate — although he has not been a deacon for as long as I. There are plenty more of us “professor-deacons” scattered around the country. I cannot recall being “frustrated” nor “bored” by the intellectual component of my own formation. I do recall being happily “affirmed” because the theologies of my instructors so much resonated with my own (much to the dismay of some of my classmates).

    –Finally, that issue of non-contact is not an issue where I live and minister. This coming Tuesday is our diocesan Chrism Mass and after it is one very large reception and formal dinner with bishops/priests/deacons intermingling very comfortably. Deacons are invited to staff meetings and to deanery meetings. Deacons are regular participants in our diocesan annual “Clergy Golf Outing.” I just came off of a retreat where a priest I knew was my partner as co-spiritual directors. I could go on and on.

  16. Apparently this person thinks that being a permanant deacon is simply a job and that he is merely going through job training.
    I read nothing here to indicate that this was a CALLING, rather than a decision made entirely by his own wishes, interests, and desires (and the whole married priesthood thing is kind of a tip-off).

    As for being “bored to death in most of [his] formation classes,” if one is actively engaged and asking questions and having discussions and helping the others (given the prior education), how can one be bored? That is, assuming that he is actively engaged, etc., and not simply sitting there. But one would think that a man who is called would naturally be compelled to be engaged as much as possible.

    So, maybe he is not called? It is no crime to not be called.

  17. I would respectfully submit that this man who has graduate training in the academics may well be a good tutor to some of the candidates in his class who may be wrestling with some of the conceptual material and may not feel comfortable admitting such to their professors. He’s not a lone wolf but part of a class, and it is a ministry of service to help others who are struggling. I don’t get that he has even looked beyond his own frustrations to see the needs of others.

    When I was a graduate student, especially in first and second year, the academics were beyond brutal and the attrition rate was very high. There was a code of honor among the grad students where upper level students would help the lower level students with their questions and difficulties. It was also that way within each class. That was part of the beauty of St. John’s University. We were all generous with one another.

    I would suggest that this candidate take that to heart. Perhaps he’s in that class to pull a few classmates through and save a couple of vocations. If advanced degrees aren’t used to help others, then they have little value.

  18. If I sound harsh in my tone here, sorry. I don’t mean to be.

  19. Deacon John says:

    I would respectfully submit that “frustrated man” may need to do more discernment on his call to the Diaconate. What I find more telling then anything is there is no mention of service. Service is the main call of the Diaconate. I would suggest that “frustrated man” expect nothing. He must try to empty himself of ego. No recognition from anyone, including some Priest. Prayers will almost always be said alone, including the Liturgies of the Hours. Visiting the sick will done alone. Preparation of the occasional homily will be done alone. It is when you see God in everyone you serve that you will realize that you are never alone. Recognition and acceptance will no longer have any meaning to you. You will want to spend more time in service and not crave the earthly things that feed the ego. I will prayer that you will discern where God truly desires you to be.

  20. He might want to reconsider if he is really being called or not. Ego is the biggest determining factor in my (humble) opinion and is he praying and building a stronger relationship with the Lord. (Period)What does degrees have to do with anything. I have degrees, we all have degrees! We have titles, we have position, some of us are literally rocket scientists. Some of us still live in 5000 sq.ft. homes and have lots and lots of money. Who cares?! Spare me, spare us all! You are here to SERVE. I’ll calm down now. Lord help me.

  21. Deacon Rich says:

    I was ordained just last year and I do appreciate the sentiments expressed in the comments. All I can offer the original poster is this. The role of the Deacon is still being defined and not well understood in many areas, and there is some concern in my Diocese as the aspirant class was cancelled this year at the last moment.

    Much of what takes place during formation is to intentionally test the humility of the candidate. If are trying to live out what you believe is a vocation that God has called you to (at least I hope that’s the reason), and you adopt the attitude that there is something that you are entitled to (in reference to your boredom or not feeling adequately compensated for your degree with some sort of different or I would imagine abbreviated trac), you will be disappointed. It’s a vocation of service which takes different forms but should always be approached with humility and gratitude or your ministry will not be successful. Being a Deacon is much different than being in formation, I would offer that you consider taking this time right before Holy Week to really pray about your vocation and ask the Lord for guidance. Perhaps having an honest talk with your formation director about your issues as it seems like a potentially serious problem.

    Ad maiorem Dei gloriam

  22. So long as anyone in Orders – or preparing for them – be he deacon, priest, even (or especially) bishop, focuses so primarily on himself and not the ministry, the emphasis/obsession is misplaced and dangerous, and and the person needs to evalute his readiness for the sacrament. If that fails to happen, then those responsible for formation – ultimately the bishop – must step in a lead the discernment (or dismissal) process.

  23. Jplacette says:

    As a candidate in the last year of formation I would like to add: it depends on one’s own perspective and what is expected by one’s diocese. We are blessed with a wonderful Cardinal, Daniel DiNardo, a wonderful Director, Dcn. Gerald DuPont and an wonderful Assistant Directors, Dcn Larry Vacllavik and Dcn. Freddy Ramirez and their team. We’ve had world class professors: Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson, Fr. James Anderson, Dr. Sandra Magie, Dr. Jeremy Wilkins, Fr. Charles Talar etc. (sorry guys couldn’t mention everyone). You get the picture. It has never been boring.

    My point is that if correctly formed, one comes away just feeling blessed. A Deacon is not a priest. I think of the Deacons as the out-reach ministers. And if it is done properly one does not have to wear a collar to be a first rate minister.

    And yes, I just pray that I can live up to it. Please pray for me, my wife and our fellow candidates and our families. We need it. We all need each other.

  24. As the wife of a Deacon I will say that during the formation process a man changes in many ways and by the time he is ordained he has grown tremendously in his spiritual formation and left much of his ego behind. Surely any individual entering the formation process knows what is ahead of him academically and I agree that this gentleman could be a tremendous help to others in his class who may be struggling academically. Being a Deacon is not just about being “book smart”. Actually, I really think that the academics portion is the least important. Transforming oneself into a servant is key. Once a man does that he will appreciate and welcome any opportunity to serve. This gentleman needs to give himself some time in formation to grow and discern. This won’t be the last time he finds himself frustrated with the process. But if God is calling him to this vocation, God will see him through it. My husband is extremely happy being a Deacon. Formation had many ups and downs. But that’s what formation is. Just when you think you’ve hit a low in formation, you’re up again because you realize that God has called you this life. You hopefully learn something from each experience and it is You who change!

    Since ordination, my husband has had people approach him asking for help with their personal faith struggles and marital problems, teens and young adults who need guidance, and the dying in nursing homes who are so grateful for his presence during the Communion Service and just spending time with them, to the joy of baptizing babies and coordinating the parish RCIA. All of this is what a Deacon does best – give of himself in service – and it is a tremendously blessed life for him and I must say for me as well as his wife. We have our days when we are extremely tired from doing God’s work. We are very blessed that we can do much of it together but we wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  25. Donal Mahoney says:

    When I left the Church there were no permanent deacons and the Mass was in Latin. When I returned 40 years later the Mass was in English and there were permanent deacons.

    The first two deacons I met were through my employment, which was not in a religious setting, and although they impressed me as businessmen they did not impress me as ordained clerics. Two others I later encountered at the three parishes I currently frequent did impress me as homilists. They are both excellent. However, I still don’t know what to make of permanent deacons but that is probably due to my background and an overwhelming respect for priests and the priesthood, even if a given priest can only mumble from the pulpit.

    I still think permanent deacons are in the process of defining their niche among the laity and it will fall to them to do so effectively. This blog helps if enough of the laity read it. But I suspect it will take quite some time to define the permanent diaconate in the mind of the laity.

    How deacons can gain additional respect, if that is what is needed, from priests and bishops is not something I can even begin to imagine. I know that print publications are on the way out but if deacons could manage to edit and publish a journal that would compete with Commonweal yet remain orthodox, that would be a true service. It would also provide a print pulpit from which to counter-punch the liberal manifestos that increasingly appear in America Magazine and serve only to confuse many Catholics while at the same time dismantling the image of the Jesuits. Lay deacons could tell the Jesuits what other priests and bishops are perhaps too timorous to say. Deacons could become the intellectual “Knights of Columbus” that the Church needs today to chastise the likes of McBrien and Chittister when they get on one of their errant rolls.

    In my mind, the permanent deacon, by virtue of his limited role, has something of a Protestant minister’s aura about him. Intellectually I know that is not true. But the deacon is caught in the middle–part cleric, part layman–and that does not strike me as a good thing. I always knew that I was not cut out to be a priest. And I know now that I would never have aspired to be a permanent deacon, and I mean no disrespect whatsoever for those who fill that evolving role so well.

    [Comment edited for length. -- Ed.]

  26. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    I would just add this thought: The formation period is one of discernment — on the part of the candidate and on the part of the Church. Just because a man wants to be ordained doesn’t mean that he will be. His call has to be confirmed and ratified by the Church.

    I trust and pray that those guiding this man’s formation are aware of his misgivings and complaints, and giving them due consideration in order to discern if this is really a vocation to which he is authentically called.

    God may have other plans for him.

  27. LoneThinker says:

    The diaconate has come a long way from its beginning as a way for seven men to stop the squabbling between the Hebrew and Greek families – so the apostles could concentrate on prayer and the Word! Give the Holy Spirit time to work His Grace through the vessels of clay that every one of us is. It might be good to listen to the of older priests who can tell you hair-raising stories of how the old-style dictator parish priests treated them. That was in what many today ecall as the “good old days” before the “heretical” Vat11 Council.
    So be glad, PD deacons and candidates you have your own home and family to which you can return. There are degrees of hell!

  28. The permanent diaconate is not the junior varsity for the priesthood. It is clearly a distinct vocation in and of itself. Preaching, while a component of ordained ministry is a very minor one, and the preparation both technical, spiritual and personal would seem to take away from the concept and duties of imaging Christ the Servant – whose words as a servant were never spoken. An authentic understanding of this vocation will not blossom for another century. As a matter of personal opinion, priests typically preach when they preside and likewise, deacons should typically preach when they preside at the functions proper to their office. If a fellow is focused on preaching as the central notion of being a deacon, then I bet serious discernment is in order.

  29. Complaints such as that atop aren’t very helpful, for we don’t know enough about the situation to conclude for or against this chap’s pov. But some side comments expressing “hope” for a change in celibacy catch my eye. One “hopes” for something seen as an improvement, right? and obviously a lot people think dropping celibacy would be an improvement. But would it?

    Celibacy is under enormous pressure these days, some bad (like the secular drum beat telling men that they aren’t really men unless they’re sexually active), and some good (like trying to heal, at long last, the Anglican rupture—and notice, that’s going to be a temporary accommodation, at least temporary per the long view of the Church). But, regardless of where the pressure is coming from, it does not surprise me to see defenses of celibacy going beyond the “disciplinary” and “practical” arguments that sufficed in earlier times. Pressure makes one think more deeply about issues, and if pressure against celibacy is making the Church think about deeper (theological) arguments in favor of celibacy, so be it. Let’s see where it goes.

  30. I would echo DeacSteve’s point above about the multi-faceted nature of formation. I already had a PhD. in theology when I went through formation, and the formation team made some very judicious choices about which classes I did not have to attend (Systematics, Historical Theology, Bible) and which I did (Canon Law, Professional Ethics). But when it can to my chaplaincy in a hospital during my third year of formation, I was just as clueless as anybody else — maybe more.

  31. Fiergenholt says:

    Dcn Fritz

    Thanks for your comment. Unless I am mistaken, both Dcn Norb and Dcn Bill obtained their doctorates AFTER they were ordained so their situation is not exactly parallel with the person commenting in the original article. Your’s obviously is.

    I do appreciate the comment late last night from Gerry Nadal about the idea of being a tutor/mentor for others in the class struggling with their work in candidacy. I have seen, however, formation directors who are very uncomfortable about anyone “not-approved” acting in any role like that. Must be some kind of a local thing.

  32. Wow, Tom M– great grace and wisdom in those insights. I agree that a lot of it may be the environment. We had a change in pastors at our parish, with the new pastor being much more open to the assistance of our deacon, and letting him use his God given gifts in serving the parish.

    I suspect that some of this will be a cultural change, hopefully with priests growing up who have been positively influenced by deacons along the way.

  33. “Either way, ordination does not make or break the man who is centered correctly with Christ.” Southern Deacon you get this exactly right. My husband who has been ordained for almost 6 years understood this from day one of formation.

    We had a formation team from hell who did everything they could to eliminate the more orthodox candidates. I really struggled with this, and I was concerned for my husband’s vocation. But my husband just kept saying, for four long years, “if it is God’s will, I will be ordained. If I am not chosen then I will keep serving Jesus Christ and His Church.”
    The deaconate is about service; it is not about status.

  34. Lawrence Cunningham says:

    I was one of the theology teachers for our deacon formation program. none of the candidates had any prior theological training so I do not know about the issues raised by the one who posted his frustration. What I did observe that the formation itself was an exercise in spiritual growth for those wonderful men. In addition, I had the good luck to be edified myself by their zeal. As Chaucer once said of the scholar: “gladly would he learn and gladly teach,”

  35. I hope this guy isn’t ordained. He’s going to be a problem for his priest and his parish.

  36. I would imagine that Diaconate formation programs would have the same four-fold dimensions as Lay Ecclesial Ministry programs, namely, theological, spiritual, human, and pastoral dimensions.

    If not, why not?

  37. Henry Karlson says:

    How do you know that?

  38. Deacon Brian says:

    I was ordained May 2011, Archdiocese of Newark, a class of 35 men who are now my brothers. Can’t believe it is almost a year !

    At our first interview we were told that the P. Diaconate was NOT a step towards the priesthood. This was fine with us. All except one of us was married. We like being at home with our families – and our pets. We had no interest in ever living in a rectory.

    As far as formation, it must be a one size fits all. My class included doctors, lawyers, a welder, accountant, mail man, and me, a traffic manager. I remember at our first class, when we were asked the question “whoever knows a lot about theology, raise their hand.” No one raised their hand. And the priest said “good, we all start at the the same place here.”
    Certainly there were times of frustration during formation. All teachers are different – some teach with real affection, others are more matter-of-fact. And that’s ok, for the Holy Spirit was working through all of them, whether they realized it or not.
    And yes, some pastors/priests do not have a respect for the diaconate that we would like them to. Others love deacons! Sacrifice and suffering – it’s all part of being a Christian.
    Many of us are blessed to be able to preach. I really enjoy it and I know it makes a difference in the lives of many souls in our congregation. It also helps me in my own spiritual journey. Some deacons do not preach with words. But the deacon’s presence on the altar, in the soup kitchen, in the hospitals, in the nursing homes, in their own homes – speaks more than words can ever speak.
    It is good for priests and deacons to come together and pray. If it is not happening in your parish, speak to your pastor.
    Being ordained a deacon is a grace from God. We should thank God – for all the good diaconal experiences we have – and for the not so good. It is all God’s plan, which can only be for the good.

    God bless !

  39. I can’t comment directly on the person’s frustrations, but it did make me recall something–
    I’m a woman, I teach theology in a Catholic university, and I have a mandatum. For the microsecond my diocese was ordaining permanent deacons, men and their wives were expected to do all the coursework. I asked my husband if he was interested in the diaconate (he would be a good one) but he wasn’t. We did think–were they going to make me sit through three years of classes? When I had been asked to teach one of the courses in the past??? I understand supporting vocation and forming community…but man, that would have been seriously awkward.

    The permanent diaconate formation program is on hiatus in my diocese. I do think most of the perceived problems with the permanent diaconate have to do with the quality and individual fit of formation. I’d support a regional system where prospective deacons obtain an advanced degree (preferably MDiv or similar) from a Catholic school of the diocese’s choosing. Make it an intensive summer residency program with extended work throughout the year. Make the formation–spiritual direction, etc.,–be the work of the diocese. Both diocese and the selected school work together in assessing the person and vocation. And before men say “I don’t have time to do a full degree”, I understand, but then you probably don’t have time to devote to the diaconate. Sacrifice starts now.

    Some of this comes from my experience teaching in a pastoral ministries M.A. program, where we had men who were already ordained deacons (they did their diocesan classes and formation) go to school on their own dime to make up what they missed in terms of doctrine and practice. Totally to their credit…but it makes me wonder what is happening out there in the local formation programs.

    my two cents….

  40. Diakonos09 says:

    When I entered formation I did so as an aspirant with an intellectual formation equal EXACTLY to that of a seminarian ready for ordination, with undergrad philosophy and graduate theology degree. In addition I came with 10 years experience of being on staff in a parish as a pastoral worker. I came with years of spiritual formation and direction under my belt from a local monastery, and with a long history of participation in programs and groups that promote strong emotional health. In other words…I came with extensive experience and preparation in ALL FOUR aspects of diaconate formation.

    One of my diaconal professors in the formation program had me submit a petition to the archbishop requesting that I only undergo the minimal required canonical formation (3 years I believe at the time, with installed ministries). The archbishop consulted with the program director as they never had a candidate come who had already been so well prepared. They honestly didn’t know what to do with me and ended up denying the petition and having me do all 5 years of formation. At first I was so disappointed and thought they were ignoring my education and experience. Ah…but now many years later I see that it was the finger of God leading me.

    Once you consent to discern a specific vocation such as the diaconate, formation becomes so much more than the four areas listed in the Directory. And as you go through the classes and the programs with this discernment in mind they are ever so different that when you went thorugh the same courses for your degree. Its the same material but seen with a different eye, reflected upon with a different heart, and pursued with a different focus. I was SO blessed that my archbishop denied my request. What he did advise me to do was to obtain a book that interested me (and was on my advanced level) on the topic of the semester (e.g., New Testament) and read this as my text for the course. Then he suggested I use this knowledge and my prior studies to add to the discussion and to assist any brothers in formation who may want to meet and learn more. It was a GREAT idea. AND I must say that re-studying these theology courses but with a new group of men gave ME the gift of new insights and deeper learning in different ways.

    I needed the whole 5 years to properly discern my vocation because formation and discernment are os much more than books and classes (without denigrating these at all!) I do agree with those who have posted about really theologically BAD formation programs (our was horrible in orthodoxy in mmany courses but not in all). I found that because of my prior theological education and the trust that was built between us, I was able to quielty and personally help guys who were misled by the unorthodoxy and steer them towards good solid authors and articles, etc. This has to be done rather covertly due to the agressive agend-izing of some program personnel (but not all).

    To the writer of the original post: perhaps God is calling you to be a leaven in your program and to do so with a grateful humble heart. I agree that the diaconate gets the short shrift but then…humility, hiddenenss and service are so much who we are (or should be). This doesn’t mean to ignore what you see is wrong (in theology or how deacons are treated) but try to see God’s hand leading you to help in reform. I find the Prayer of St. Ephrem the Deacon to be a GREAT daily prayer for us:

    O Lord and Master of my life,
    Grant not unto me a spirit of idleness,
    of discouragement,
    of lust for power,
    and of vain speaking.

    But bestow upon me, Thy servant,
    the spirit of chastity,
    of meekness,
    of patience,
    and of love.

    Yea, O Lord and King,
    grant that I may perceive
    my own transgressions,
    and judge not my brother,
    for blessed art Thou
    unto ages of ages.
    Amen.

  41. i have been a deacon for 22 years, at the time of my application/acceptance the head of the diaconate program suggested that i would not need to take all the classes (because of my background), i did not hesitate to tell him i wanted to go through the whole program with everyone else. there is a whole lot more going on during the classes than just information. relationships are made, friendships created, one gets a real flavor of the the diocese, i cant imagine one would want to be a deacon in a certain diocese and miss this opportunity to grow deeper in so many ways with the men one will serve with and the diocese one will serve with.

    with a little creativity on your part you can handle the classes, so i do not think that is a big problem. but the classes are the most time one will have to have actual contact with other deacons, candidates, teachers and priests and that is a very important experience. you also pray together, eat together, share and discuss many topics and personal issues and make lasting friendships. a few of us would come together during a free period to pray the rosary and have a “review of life” and we have kept this up for over 20 years.

    to the deacon who wrote the original post, i would say just chill out and go with the flow. use a little creativity if you are bored. you are in formation, so there is no problem with problems coming up……..it is how you handle them and how much creativity you use in responding to them. keep your vision wide and don’t let it get fixated on narrow concerns. if you do not learn this dynamic of creativity, adaptability, and flexibility…..you will freak out down the road when you get an assignment or a pastor that will be ten times worse than boredom you are experiencing now. if you do not think you can handle all this, just be grateful for the lesson and leave the program. for sure God will lead you to the place where you can use your talents for the good of others. but don’t give up at the first challenge, because there are many more coming down the road! i got you in my prayer and send you my love.

  42. Diakonos09 says:

    I think diaconate candidates having to earn an accredited degree as you say is an EXCELLENT idea and I believe that it would do much to promote what the original writer stated as seeing deacons as “less than” when it comes to clerical status and even preaching. In our archdiocese the cost to the candidates with wives is now at $2,000.00 per year (is single, $1,000.00) which is $10,000.00 total. I shelled out less than that for my Masters Degree in theology.

  43. daisy,
    See above, the line of his quote says, “I am currently in formation for the permanent diaconate.” That means he is not yet ordained.

  44. I have to say how deeply impressed and touched I have been by the replies of the various deacons and deacon-candidates to this man’s complaint. Clearly, you all want to serve God and His people very much. Thank you all for your service and God bless you all.

  45. I can identify with many of the issues, that were presented in the above postings, but I have to remind myself (many times) I AM NOT A PRIEST, even when I feel totally justified (in my mind) to say something to the contrary with the priests that are in my parish. I found it helpful to use the following Litany of Humility….It helps to put a proper prospective on things.

    Litany of Humility

    O Jesus meek and humble of heart, Hear me.

    From the desire of being esteemed, Deliver, me, Jesus
    From the desire of being loved, Deliver me, Jesus
    From the desire of being extolled, Deliver me, Jesus
    From the desire of being honored, Deliver me, Jesus
    From the desire of being praised, Deliver me, Jesus
    From the desire of being preferred to others, Deliver me, Jesus
    From the desire of being consulted, Deliver me, Jesus
    From the desire of being approved, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being humiliated, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being despised, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of suffering rebukes, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being calumniated, Deliver, me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being forgotten, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being ridiculed, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being wronged, Deliver me, Jesus.
    From the fear of being suspected, Deliver me, Jesus.

    That others may be loved more than I,
    Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
    That others may be esteemed more than I,
    Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
    That in the opinion of the world, others may increase,
    and I may decrease,
    Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
    That others may be chosen and I set aside,
    Jesus grant me the grace to desire it.
    That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
    Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
    That others may be preferred to me in everything,
    Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
    That others may become holier than I, provided that I
    become as holy as I should,
    Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

    Written by Cardinal Merry del Val, was accustomed to
    recite this prayer daily after the celebration of Holy Mass

  46. We do not need people with degrees. The degree may be a tool to help you in ministering. The Catholic church needs deacons who can truly minister to the people–not just a fancy homily or talk….and ministry is not about the minister…it is about the people. Look at why so many people are leaving the church…how is is that you as a deacon bring the people together, avoid cliques, truly be present the moment. Our priests of years ago who didnt have the fancy schooling were great – they ministered. Today the parish office is only open 35 hours a week while we are at work, some priests live as you and I, attached to things and not available to the people.

  47. Jeffrey Powers says:

    Just my 2 cents worth. I am in the final year of our Diaconate formation program, hoping to be Ordained in October. In your posting I hear an echo of a process that I went through. Here’s what I think may be a good place to begin reflecting and praying:

    It is not about what you DO as a Deacon. It IS about WHO YOU ARE as a Deacon.
    After all, most of the things Deacons “do” can be done by others.

    Even at this stage of formation I have discovered that my very presence at a meeting or an even has had an impact on others.

    As far as being a “glorified altar boy” – I am an installed acolyte. I am thrilled to be allowed to participate as the Angels do (Revelation) in service at the altar of the Lamb. How can any service to God be demeaning? Even if I am just standing there (as happens when we have a full compliment of Lectors, altar servers, a Priest and a Deacon). My PRESENCE makes a difference becasue of who I am and becasue of what I represent. Like the Angels in heaven, I stand in a long white robe glorifying God.

    I do not have an advanced degree – just a B.S. in botanical physiology with a minor in theology. I teach high school. When stduents see me at the Altar, they connect the Mass to their life in a unique way that may not have occurred to them otherwise. My witness of doing the dishes in the Parish hall, bringing Communion to the sick, serving the community of believers and non-believers in whatever way I can brings an element to the Chruch and world that allows God to speak.

    A vocation is for your benefit and the benefit of the community. it is where you belong, who you are in the core.

    My advice? Pray. Then pray more.

    May God grant us all the wisdom to discern our place and role, and give us the strength and courage to follow thorugh, for our salvation and for the salvation of the entire world. Amen.

  48. Deacon Steve says:

    Wow you have to pay for formation? We only were expected to pay for our books for the 5 years of formation. Before ordination we had to purchase our albs, the archdiocese provided the ordination stole. Any other stoles we bought or were gifts.

  49. Maggie, I agree with you. I get depressed at times reading this blog’s comments, but this particular group of comments was very heartening for me, as a candidate in formation. It was great to hear from everyone, but especially the candidates, deacons and deacon wives.

  50. Diakonos09 says:

    Yep we pay for it ALL. And it is a bone of contention, but what can you do? We have pointed out how other dioceses cover the cost since more deacons minister gratis. The worst part is (I think) that the wives have to pay full price…even for courses where they will have no active role such as homiletics. A priest from my fort covered all costs for my first year. I do not think a man would be denied or booted dut to unability to pay though. I guess they figure candidates are paying the salaries of those who administer and teach.

  51. From the initial post and through a number of comments to finally skimming the remainder of the combox, I did not see much reference made to the aspect of the deacon’s role as a minister of Holy Communion. The reason I bring this up is that it doesn’t require much effort to find philosophical kerfuffles on fori and blogs about the various aspects of the distribution and reception of HC. Namely a few: posture (including kneeling, standing, hands, tongue); procession (do the faithful process to receive, or do the celebrant and deacons process as Alter Christis to distribute); and, of course, the big issue that makes everyone uncomfortable, the “implied, grave necessary” prevelance of EMHC’s as Masses and attendances are consolidated as ordained priests’ and deacons’ numbers decline.
    I bring this up as to these eyes it seems a great deal of our ecclesiological and liturgical attitudes are informed or deformed by a lack of clarity and consistency among bishops to properly catechize the faithful about the fundamental centrality of the Eucharist as the beating heart of the Church, and the clerical and lay dispositions thereof concerning that centrality.
    Charisms are appointed to each of us baptized in Christ, and I would hope and pray that our ordained men (or maybe even future ordained women sub-deacons) would not expect or have pressed upon them a perceived notion that they minimize their strong charisms in order to cover the sacramental and official waterfront of duties.
    The example of Bl. Fr. Solanus Casey comes to mind.
    I just bring this up as I think a profound examination of the roles of celebrant/priest and deacon as ministers of HC first and foremost could be a benefit.

  52. Would you please explain what you mean by feeling justified in saying “something contrary” to reality to your parish priests? Rather than guessing what you might be saying, it would be better to hear from you. Thx.

  53. Ten thousand bucks would be a show-stopper for a lot of people, including us. That would have weeded out about 80% of the people in the formation program when my husband was going through it. I really hope that’s not going to be a trend. The idea of being on a “hardship scholarship” isn’t very appealing, either.

  54. I have to agree with you that advanced degrees are not what is needed across the board. Some deacons have a gift of academic achievement, which they bring to their ministry. Others have other gifts. I’m not saying that formation shouldn’t include solid theology and homiletics, and all the rest. Of course that is important. But it is possible for the formation programs to become elitist.
    One of the men in formation at the same time as my husband was an immigrant gentleman with only five years of formal education. English was not his first language. He struggled mightily. But with the help of the priest who was the formation director and his classmates, he made it. His perseverance in the face of hardship was an edifying example to the rest of us, who often take what we have for granted. This man has been in ministry now for over ten years; a great help to his parish which has many immigrant families.

  55. In the Archdiocese of Detroit men who would like to apply to be deacons must take 8 classes at Sacred Heart Major Seminary before they will be accepted into the program. So 18 credit hours at $375 and hour and registration fees and books: over $7000 before know if they are ever accepted to the program. There is a tuition credit of 55% for those who volunteer in certain ministries within their parish (it still is over $3000).

    Then there are two academic programs: Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies degree or “Undergraduate Intermediate Diploma in Diaconal Studies” which is 15 classes (40 credit hours).

    The Academic program at Sacred heart Major Seminary is fantastic, with some great professors.
    http://www.archdioceseofdetroit.org/SHMS/Academic+Programs+13375/Permanent+Diaconate+6001/Permanent+Diaconate+Program.htm

  56. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    So the inquirer has to spend 3k of his own money before beginning formation? Wow. That knocks out a lot of potential candidates right there.

    In Brooklyn, the program is subsidized by the parishes and the Annual Catholic Appeal. Even the deacons and candidates annual retreats are paid for by the parish.

    Dcn. G.

  57. I meant to say I hope that he will not be ordained. He seems to have a bad attitude now and it will only get worse. The deacon is supposed to be a helper. He’s supposed to be a servant. He is supposed to be useful. You don’t need a degree to visit the sick, run a funeral service, shovel the snow becuase the priest in 92 or to take the altar boys to the ball game. It sounds like this dude wants to play priest and that is going to be a danger.

  58. Diakonos09 says:

    DO seminarians need to obtain a degree in order to preach and teach? If deacon candidates have no need to do so then neither should seminarians. What is the difference? A deacon (in addition to works of liturgy and charity) is called to ministry of the Word which is primarily one of preaching and teaching. I am NOT sating that degrees make or break the deacon (or priest) but we should all be “playing on the same field”. If a man is not capable of academic studies he is not admitted to seminary for priesthood and this is considered one sign of lack of vocation to this state. Cannot the same be said of the deacon candidate? I think a big part of the problem is that for decades the deacon’s full ministerial role as be compromised and see to exist primarily (in lived reality if not only on paper) in works of charity/justice. If THIS was indeed the primary ministry of the deacon then certainly no authentic academic theological training would be required.

    If a man feels strongly called to works of charity but not academic study, then perhaps his vocation more truly lies in a religious community of brothers doing good works (if he is single) or as a layman actively engaged in some charitable association such as the St. Vincent de Paul Society or the San Egidio Community. Deacons will not be fully accepted into the clerical ministry as long as they remain “undeducated” academically.

    I thank God that some few diocese require deacons to recive their formation through a seminary or Catholic college-affiliated program. Our archdiocese is just now beginning to look towards this option since we have several Catholic universities in our area. We would not require attendance residentially at the campus but our course would be accredited. Candidates already are taught by seminary and college professors so it should be a somewhat easy transition (and we already pay $10,000.00 for 5 year formation so that should cover credit costs).

  59. Well, Detroit is suffering from the ills of that state’s economy, as well as the unfortunate money that its previous Archbishop lost on the financial ruin in Washington, DC known as the John Paul II Cultural Center. A (beautiful) building without a mission or audience. They have lost tens of millions on that, and can not find a buyer upon whom to unload it.

  60. Diakonos09:

    While I’m not in favor of the “one size fits all” approach to diaconate formation, may God bless you for not dwelling in resentment but rather bringing your light from under the bushel basket and your continued willingness to learn!

  61. Only a five year old deacon….many good comments…i hear in my head over and over again the words of my spiritual director…too much in the head…not enough in the heart…not just information…transformation…

  62. midwestlady says:

    When it comes to a discussion of the merits of academic preparation and personal characteristics, it’s not either-or. It’s both. One without the other is inadequate. Being a deacon is tough; best not to send them in unless they’re ready to live the vocation.

    On an entirely different note, I know quite a few deacons in the local area. Some of them are servants, good teachers and models; on other hand, some of them are full of themselves and in competition with priests. The former are a wonderful asset to the diocese, the latter no one really knows what to do with, to be honest.

  63. Actually the Knights of Columbus announced last August that they intend to purchase the JPII Cultural Center.

    http://www.kofc.org/en/news/releases/detail/jpii_shrine.html

  64. And the latter, unfortunately, outnumber and “outshine” the fomer, which explains (and perhaps justifies) the reluctance and reservation of many to engage not the ministry… just the “ministers.”

  65. I am a candidate for confirmation and am attending RCIA classes at my local parish, and I must admit that sometimes I find the material covered to be somewhat simplistic and rudimentary. Before converting from my Protestant denomination, I thoroughly researched Catholicism, as I wanted to to make sure that I had found the true Church of Christ. Only one week from confirmation, I am absolutely sure I have.

    That being said, I also realize that some of the people in the class don’t have the educational background or ability to research that the Lord has blessed me with (I hold 3 degrees, including a doctorate), and that a class taught at a level that challenges me would have little meaning to some of them. The plan of salvation isn’t complicated, it’s made to be understood by anyone in any station of life, and to unnecessarily complicate it with deep theological discussions would be counterproductive in that setting.

    I have found that, even though I’m not hearing much new information, I thoroughly enjoy the classes due to the interactions with my Christian brothers and sisters. I can get as much depth as I need by researching and studying on my own, and I can fellowship with good, wonderful people at the class. And having just attended confession for the first time, a deeply humbling experience, I find that all my knowledge and education still leaves me trembling before my God.

  66. Here is what Catholic Answers has to say about candidates and catechumens.

    http://www.catholic.com/documents/how-to-become-a-catholic

    I don’t think this is new information, yet it doesn’t seem to be what is happening in parishes across the US where virtually everyone who becomes Catholic goes through the RCIA and enters the Church at the Easter Vigil. Those who feel called to be Catholic must sometimes wait a year for the next Easter Vigil. RCIA is led by a deacon in our parish so perhaps some of the new deacons can address this need. I do know of one parish in the diocese at least that at one time had two different RCIA sessions per year. I don’t know if the parish continues to do it that way or not. What is the experience of others?

    As “jem” said above, getting to know one’s Christian brothers and sisters is very enjoyable. Perhaps though six months would be enough enjoyment! And by the way, “jem”, congratulations!

  67. Oh, I would suggest the diocese pay for at least a significant percentage of formation. There simply isn’t anything that is a free lunch.

  68. Wondering... says:

    Wow! I think that I ignited a firestorm. I am the author of the post which prompted this particular discussion (A man in formation writes: “I’m quickly becoming frustrated…I’m bored to death”). Yep, that’s me.

    Many of you have offered some great insight and words of encouragement, which I greatly appreciate. Others seem quick to judge, especially one who hopes that I will never be ordained. (Incredible that we have never met, and you are capable of determining my suitability for ministry.)

    I’d like to point out that my post was itself a response to Deacon Norb’s January 6 comments on Greg Kendra’s “Now, about all those married Catholic priests…” blog. In his posting, Deacon Norb wrote that “we were told by our priest-advisors-theologians that whenever married men would be permitted into priestly orders, the applicants would come from within the pool of experienced married deacons.”

    When I wrote, “I have often thought in the back of my mind that, at some point in the not-so-distant future, the door will open wider for a married priesthood in the Latin Rite, with permanent deacons an obvious source of potential candidates,” I was merely concurring with Deacon Norb’s observations about his own experience. For better or worse, I think that many of us were led to believe that a married priesthood was fast approaching.

    Let’s also not forget that for centuries, the diaconate in the Latin Rite had, in practice, become nothing more than a stop on the way to priesthood. Little wonder that people still want to make that connection. I don’t think that the Church has really figured out what to do with permanent deacons yet; hence, my altar boy comment. As someone else had pointed out, permanent deacons seem trapped between clergy and laity, not really belonging, in practice, to either.

    At any rate, to view my comments apart from Deacon Norb’s posting on the original January 6 blog entry regarding married priests is to view my comments out of context. They were a part of a different discussion.

    I do not have any expectation that I will ever be ordained a priest. In fact, I don’t feel called to priesthood and wouldn’t pursue it even if I could. That having been said, I do truly believe that the time has come for married priests, for a variety of reasons. Yes, there are excellent celibate priests. No, allowing married priests won’t solve all of our problems and would likely create a few of its own.

    Yes, I am bored with the academic classes in my formation program. Yes, I can help others in my class, “covertly” as one person wrote. I generally don’t say much in class, though, because I don’t want to come across as a know-it-all. As Ironic Catholic pointed out, it can make for awkward moments. The permanent deacon in charge of my formation does not have an academic back ground in theology. I do. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way, either. The fact is, however, that he’s not the kind of guy who likes to be challenged, and any comments in class from me are likely perceived that way. In the meantime, I languish away in class.

    Yes, the Holy Spirit guides us, but the Church is full of human beings and human politics. If you think otherwise, I’m afraid that you’re kidding yourself.

    Let’s pray for one another and our Church. (And for the handful of you who have been able to ascertain from a blog posting that I’m not called to the diaconate, know that I’m praying for you too.)

  69. Dear brother deacon Steve, I was late reading this comment of yours and was fixing to comment on it also but your comment was so much like what I wanted to say , I decided to just let you know that I thought it was so well put. We need to humble ourselves and carry our cross no matter what. May God bless you and yours, I love you in Christ Jesus.
    Your servant,
    Dcn. Paul R. Hinojos

  70. I also am currently in Deacon formation. It sounds like you definitely are frustrated. I would encourage you to pray about this and truly open your heart to the movement of the Holy Spirit. We sometimes become self centered and this blocks what God is try to accomplish in our lives. I am not implying you are such but it sounds as though you may need to open your heart. We have to take the I did this or that out of the equation. If not then we can’t answer his call. His call may be that you serve as a cleric. It may not be to preach. The role of a deacon is to serve. You may want to continue your discernment of your call and ask yourself why are you in formation. If it’s because you want to do what you want then maybe you should reconsider. Pope John Paul 2 said he was a servant of the servants of Christ. Jesus said he came to serve not to be serve. Think about it. Lastly, I would encourage you to speak to your spiritual director. I wish you well and God Bless you. My prayers are with you.

  71. Deacon Ron Horan says:

    I have been ordained for 34 years closer to 35 and I have sympathy with the one size fits all comment. I was ordained with men with graduate degrees, high school degrees and degrees in living life. Men of color and different cultures, the wisdom of our mentors was different expectations for different capabilities. They subscribed to the notion that a sacramental sign of Jesus Christ in all walks of life was identified and then the church signed them, that is ordained them. They were endorsed by their communities, convinced by their personal discernment and confirmed by our bishop.

    Over the years deaconate has been moving more and more to a seminary model and a liturgical presence vs. one of service. Historically that’s not what Deacons were or what they represent.

    The most disturbing change in the last few years recently was announced from Rome. I was taught that Deacons share the sacramental role of Christ with Priests; when they are reading the Gospel and Preaching. Rome recently announced that this is no longer so. Which according to some opens the door to womens ordination to deaconate.

    The point is our role is nothing if it isn’t forever changing. My advise to the bore men in formation, if you are ordained you will get to create your ministry where your gifts are best utilized and received. If you quit you could be diverting the plans of your God and that is a bad mistake.

    Be the best you can be and ask the Holy Spirit to use you. As his servant look to God for guidance in your ministry and remember that he uses many persons and methods to achieve his purpose.

    God be with You

    Dcn Ron Horan

  72. Deacon Kevin says:

    Hang in there, wondering… We will all be praying for you! We need all the questioning, challenging and faithful deacons we can get. The ironic thing is that although you have training in theology and are receiving more now, that may not be what is ultimately of most use to you once you are ordained, when you are dealing with people struggling with their faith and their lives, and how each informs the other. So pray, pray, pray and ask for humility, grace, and a sense of humor!

  73. Christopher says:

    I am not a deacon. I am just a simple man who didn’t answer the call to the priesthood. God still calls to me to this day. It is not to tease me. It is to tell me He is God, and I am His Servant. So He still Speaks to me. He still calls me to be Holy. And at times, He Speaks to me, His Words, His Wisdom, His Wishes. You are looking to far into your own Ego. God will make you whole & use your Earthen vessel if you but let Him. Even now He is speaking to you to let go, accept His guidance, & be His Word, His Thought in action. So pray for guidance & accept the Road is not always as you would have it, but it is still the road, & all paths ultimately lead to God, whether we wish it or not. He is the final judge.

  74. Dn. Dennis Dolan says:

    I too sat through a boring formation due to an already completed Theology degree. But I have learned (in 20 yrs of ordained ministry and 40 yrs of full time lay ministry) that when I am in a situation that I am not “getting anything out of”, it is because I am there to give something. In short, it ain’t always about me “getting”. That little insight has saved me much frustration.

    As to the future of married priest, people believed it was right around the corner 40 yrs ago. Forget it. It may happen or not in our life time. To me, that does not seem to be God’s plan. Call me crazy but all I know is what I see (God is the Lord of History, right? The Jew’s taught us to discern his will in “reading the signs of the times”). My point is that the Church has been feverishly praying for vocations for the past 40 years. God’s answer to those prayers was what no one was expecting or wanting nor still really knows what to do with -40,000 deacons. (Sounds like Him, doesn’t it?!) Unfortunately, rhe hierarchy is not accepting that large and obvious answer. (That too is right out of the patterns of the bible)

    The real issue is why did God send deacons? Grounded ministers? Ministry beyond the sanctuary? Meditate on it. The ancient documents identify the bishop’s ministry with that of God the Father, the presbyters with the Apostles and the deacons with Jesus! Sounds like the place to be to me!

    Be a deacon. If you are not in their sanctuary or in their bulletin there will be no problem. Find a soup kitchen, a prison, a group home or a reservation. Your problems will be over.

    Compare public (the People of God, the Faithful) reaction as sides are being taken between the hierarchy and the nuns in the current controversy. Choose your ministry accordingly. As one of the nuns put it, “When the institution gets you down, you can always serve the poor.”

    Try to discern what new thing the Holy Spirit is doing with this diaconate and be that. New wine- new wine skins. Move the ball down the field.

    Welcome to the revolution, Bro! ;-)

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  1. [...] to death” man in formationApril 18, 2012 By Deacon Greg Kandra Leave a CommentYou may remember this post from last month, from a man in formation who expressed his frustration over the classes he was [...]

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