Path of a Permanent Deacon
A man who feels called to the Order of deacon should discuss this matter with his pastor and over a period of time they should discern the movement of the Holy Spirit in the candidate’s life. The candidate must be well known to the pastor and the members of the parish community. He must already be involved in the life of the parish in its ministries, outreach programs, or education programs. His commitment to the parish and the Church should be evident in his constant participation and support of the parish. He should be recognized by the community as a witness to pastoral charity, a life of prayer, a man faithful to the Church’s teachings, and should live a life consistent with the values and commandments of the Gospel. The pastor should meet with a candidate’s wife in order to discern the level of her support for her husband’s intention to peruse ordination to the diaconate.
As many candidates for the permanent diaconate are married and have families, efforts are made to include spouses in the formation program at all levels. The involvement, commitment and approval of a spouse are essential for a candidate’s acceptance into the program and in the success of living out the diaconal vocation.
Each candidate, as part of the application process, goes through a screening process, undergoes a rigorous interview process, psychological evaluations and is required to provide over seven independent references from a wide variety of sources. The application process for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is coordinated and implemented by the Director of the Office of the Permanent Diaconate.
- Be a resident of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati and a Catholic male in good standing in the Catholic Church and fully initiated in the faith and, if a neophyte, must have lived the faith for three years prior to application.
- Be at least 35 but not more than 69 years of age at the time of ordination.
- May be either single or married. If single at the time of ordination the candidate will make a promise to remain celibate for the rest of his life. If married the applicant must be able to give evidence of being in a stable and growing marriage relationship, and his wife must be willing to support her husband actively through formation and ministry.
- If divorced and remarried, have obtained a declaration of nullity or a canonical dissolution of the prior marriage. If more than one declaration of nullity (including lack of form cases) or canonical dissolution of the marriage is needed (for husband & wife), the man may not be considered for the diaconate. If a man marries civilly prior to having obtained a declaration of nullity or a canonical dissolution of the prior marriage, he may not be considered for the diaconate.
- Never have procured or helped another person procure an effective abortion.
- Never have undergone an effective vasectomy nor will the applicant’s wife have undergone an effective tubal ligation.
- Never have been involved in any activity that would be unbecoming to the clerical state or that would bring scandal to the Church.
- Be keeping the needs of his family as a priority.
- Be at least a high school graduate and be able to complete the academic requirements of the formation program.
- Be physically, psychologically and emotionally sound and be able to function without the need for constant support or counseling.
- Have demonstrated ability and a willingness to minister to the needs of fellow parishioners and to the wider community.
- Be endorsed by his present pastor and parish pastoral council.
- Will have completed (minimally) the theological and ministerial requirements for obtaining a certificate in lay ministry. (Education is evaluated on an individual case basis).
- Emotional maturity
- Personal integrity/ appropriate self- knowledge
- Demonstrate a personal commitment to growing in Christian holiness/ an active prayer life/ participation in the Eucharistic and Sacramental life of the Church
- Generosity for service already being demonstrated
- Good physical and psychological health (both candidate and wife, if married)
- Ability to work in a team/ works well with people
- Clearly demonstrates an ability and willingness to lead
- Good communication skills (both as a speaker and as a listener)
- Ability to speak publicly and proclaim the Gospel effectively
- Ability to articulate and explain the moral and doctrinal teaching of the Church effectively
- Need in the community for his service and leadership
- Acceptance by the Christian community as evidenced by his ministry in the parish
- He must show an acceptance and personal commitment to the teaching of the Church
As with seminary formation, diaconate formation involves many components.
The first stirrings of a vocation to the diaconate are often explored at a personal level and usually begin with seeking information about the diaconate and formation. Here, an individual initially reflects upon the nature of his perceived call. Primacy must be given at this time to the spiritual dimension, and central to this is spiritual guidance. Pope Francis refers to the “art of accompaniment” as steady and reassuring, encouraging growth in the Christian life. The individual’s pastor and others on the parish staff are particular resources at this time.
Because the majority of those who inquire about the diaconate are married, they should be directed to pay particular attention to discussing their possible vocation with their wives and families. The initial information and conversations with their pastor and others should assist and encourage these discussions. For a married man, the support and consent of his wife is required. Therefore, both spouses need to make sure that support and consent, even at this early stage of discernment, arise from an informed understanding. Careful consideration must be given in those rare cases where an applicant to the diaconal formation program is in a mixed marriage or a disparity of cult marriage. If the applicant is accepted into the program, this situation may require additional preparation for the participant and his wife. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, The National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States, Second Edition (Washington, DC: USCCB, 2021), 98-99)
Any man who is considering a possible vocation to the permanent diaconate should contact the Director of the Office of the Diaconate to discuss his discernment and receive guidance on the process to be followed.
Upon completion of the initial inquiry process, the diocesan bishop may accept some inquirers into aspirancy. The aspirant stage is primarily a time to discern the capability and readiness of an aspirant to be nominated to the diocesan bishop for acceptance as a candidate for diaconal ordination. The aspirant stage of formation ordinarily lasts two years.
The aspirant stage is a distinctive program that provides for a thorough discernment of a diaconal vocation. It includes an appropriate initiation into diaconal spirituality; supervised pastoral experiences, especially among the poor and marginalized; and an adequate assessment of the aspirant’s potential to be promoted to candidate formation and ultimately to ordination. The aspirant stage also provides an environment in which the wife of a married aspirant can be appropriately prepared to give her consent to his continuation and, more essentially, to ascertain her compatibility with her husband’s diaconal vocation and eventual ministry. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, The National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States, Second Edition (Washington, DC: USCCB, 2021), 106-107)
In the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, aspirancy includes two components: intellectual formation through the Lay Ecclesial Ministry Program at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary and School of Theology, and retreats and meetings with current deacons and wives and other aspirants and wives over the course of two years prior to candidacy.
Candidacy is a time of continued discernment for the candidate, his wife, and the Church. Candidacy concentrates on the development of the human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral dimensions of candidate. Readiness for ordination is assessed annually by both the candidate and formation personnel to ascertain what level of achievement the candidate has reached in his understanding of the diaconal vocation, its rights and its obligations, his growth in the spiritual life, his competency in required diaconal knowledge and skills, his practical experience in pastoral ministry, and his witness of human and affective maturity. If he is married, a discernment of his wife’s readiness is also to be made. In accord with the Code of Canon Law, the candidate stage of diaconal formation must last at least three years. (United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, The National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States, Second Edition (Washington, DC: USCCB, 2021), 117-118)
In the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, deacon formation takes place at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary every other weekend during the normal academic year. A new formation cohort begins every three years and ends with the ordination of the candidates to the Order of Deacon.
In order to be accepted into the Permanent Diaconate Formation Program a candidate is expected to have successfully completed a certificate or degree in Pastoral Ministry, or have received an equivalent level of preparation. This takes place during the Aspirancy phase.
During diaconate formation, classes take place on alternating weekends during the school year. This takes place during the Candidacy phase.
The weekend includes 10 hours per weekend of formation, beginning Saturday at 9 am and ending Sunday at 12 pm.
Introduction to the Missal and the Liturgy of the Hours
Themes in Scripture
Mary and the Saints
Theology of Baptism/Confirmation
Preparation of Couples for Marriage
Preaching at Baptism/Weddings/Funerals
For more information, contact:
Deacon Mark Machuga
Director of the Office of the Diaconate
Office 100 East Eighth Street
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202
Contact Deacon Mark