In a rare move, lay woman named as co-director of diaconate formation

From the Georgia Bulletin in Atlanta:

New formation leaders are overseeing the growing permanent diaconate in the Atlanta Archdiocese. And in a rare appointment, a woman now shares the responsibility for shaping the future deacons.

Penny Simmons, a retired bank executive and spiritual director in the deacon formation program, is one of the few women across the country to lead a formation program.

Simmons will team with Deacon Jose Espinosa to share the duties of the permanent diaconate formation.

The way Simmons sees it, deacons are going to minister to women and men, so why not have a woman in leadership in the formation process.

“It is a ministry to be able to form men who will be brought into ordained ministry,” she said.

The associate co-directors will be responsible for academic, pastoral and continuing formation of deacon candidates and deacons.

Permanent deacons are increasingly serving Catholics in the northern half of Georgia. Since 2010, 41 men have been ordained, with another dozen planned for Feb. 2. There are 153 active deacons in the archdiocese. Deacon Dennis Dorner is the overall director of the permanent diaconate.

The two new directors succeed Deacon Steve Swope, who stepped down after five years as the associate director of formation for the permanent diaconate. He wanted to spend more time with his family.

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