I feel that after years of prayer that I am being called to serve the church as a Deacon. I am unfortunately just 29 and understand that I have to be 33, which is what the Sacramento Diocese Says…Any advice on what I can do until I able to qualify. I’m actively involved in my church in several ministries. I was a confirmation teacher and just recently serving my church as an EM.
Just some more info I would like, the four years of formation that Deacons go through…Are those taken at an actual college or are they taken from the diocese? Would I have to stop working to go through these classes or to even become a deacon. Any help would be great.
I’m not a deacon but a deacon’s wife. As suggested, contact your diocese’s diaconate or vocations office because every diocese is different. Some diocese don’t call up classes every year and the length of formation is different for each diocese. My husband completed five years of formation. I have a friend whose husband is a deacon and it took him six years.
My husband took classes at our diocesan seminary along with other deacon candidates. They also had other coursework and ministry assignments during that time that included ministering at parishes, hospitals, jails, and diocesan offices. The classes are only part of the formation, staying in touch with advisors, spirtual directors, attending retreats and workshops, along with written work, and obviously a deep dedication to prayer. If you are married, your wife will be expected to participate by giving consent and attending various events pertaining to the formation process. Some dioceses require wives to attend classes along with their husbands, others don’t. Again your diocese can give you the best indication of what the formation is like.
Formal discernment – this year was meetings on different topics, marriage counseling, personality testing, etc.
Aspirants – Social justice, spirituality (four years), other subjects similar to seminarians
3, 4 &5 candidacy – Old & New Testament studies, Clinical Pastoral Training, Canon Law, CCC, Liturgy documents of the Second Vatican Council, moral theology, and many other subjects.
This formation process is very rigorous and getting more so by the year. As more deacons are ordained there is less urgency to get men through it and into the field, so naturally the need decreases so the Church is getting choosier. Some dioceses are requiring a bachelors degree now, ours is not.
I like the idea of younger men being ordained, although many do not. I was ordained at 44, the second youngest ever in my diocese. The youngest was a classmate of mine, 43 at ordination. We were ordained this past December. Most of the deacons in our diocese are much older, 60’s to 80’s, many already retired from fulltime ministry.
Anyway, good luck on your discernment. I do have a few suggestions, seek out a vocations retreat, depending on your bishop and how well you know him you can make an appointment to talk with him for counseling (some bishops are very open to this type of help, our bishop is), seek out a spiritual director, and seek out a deacon mentor to walk with you. Check with your diocese to find out who the coordinator of the permanent diaconate is in your diocese, he can help you with these issues.
If you have specific questions, please feel free to PM me. I’ll do my best to help you.
Thank you Dcn Lapey for that informative reply. I have another question (for you or others who may know), which is really for my own discernment, but which may be something the OP will need to take into consideration as well:
What are your thoughts on the advisability of pursuing ordination to the diaconate with small children? Are the two vocations compatible, or is it wiser to focus on my vocation as a father first, and put off the possibility of the diaconate for when they are older?
Clearly I’m not that far into my investigation of this, but whether I should seriously look at investigating further kind of depends on the answer to this question, in my case.
In my case, considering the time that I had to put in at work, I waited entering formation until my children moved out of the house. The amount of study time along with all of the formation events over the 5 years would have meant a lot of missing out on my children’s lives.
There are different schools of thought on entering formation with young children. In my experience my wife and I had two kids when we started, 14 & 11 year old boys. Along the way we adopted a 15 year old daughter. We now have a 19 year old boy, a 17 year old daughter, and a 16 year old son. My wife and I considered entering formation a few years earlier, but chose to wait for the kids to be a little older.
But I will tell you, I have no regrets about bringing the little ones along for the ride. They have benefited greatly from the education and formation we have gained. My oldest son is considering the seminary; I know that our journey and way of life has promoted that being an option for him. This journey has changed my family, both immediate and extended. So I would say yes, the two vocations are compatible.
Many dioceses require kids to be of a certain age, check to see if yours does. The decision may not be yours for now. If it is your decision, you and your wife that is, please keep in mind the extra time away from your family that is required of formation. There will be weekend retreats and possibly overnight stays for classes occasionally. We had class weekends; one weekend a month Friday night through Sunday about noon. My wife came with me to these weekend classes for the first three or so years. When we adopted the girl, she required a full time mom so my wife dropped out of the formation.
I would suggest that if you are able to enter with your children at a young age, don’t discount the opportunity because of the kids. They will be happy about this and be elated that you are working towards this goal. Let them be a part of it, you will see a change in your entire family that will bring you joy and peace. And if it seems to put a strain on your fathering and/or being a husband, you can always leave formation to continue at a later time.
As far as being in active diaconate ministry with kids at home, I will say that mine love the fact that their dad is “the deacon” at our home parish. My pastor is very understanding that I have a family and a full time job, so it works very well. We are working now towards liberating our selves from the need for me to make a big salary at my current job so I can work in ministry full time. We’ll have to learn to live on much less than we do now so it’s still some time away.
Anyway, yes this can be done with small children, but let that decision be made with much discernment either way.
Deacon Bill Ditewig (pilgrimsfootsteps.blogspot.com/) recently spoke to the deacons, candidates, and their wives in our diocese. He said that while in North America, the deacons tend to be older, in other parts of the world, they tend to be much younger. He said that here, we expect deacons to be older since that’s been our experience with permanent deacons so most men don’t consider the diaconate until they are older. I got the impression that he thought that younger men in formation was a better model. I believe that he was ordained at 40.
My husband was ordained just before his 44th birthday. When he began formation, we had child in high school, two in elementary school and had just given birth to our fourth. We’ve since had another child. The problem with trying to determine when your family is done, is that you don’t know! As Catholics open to life, you can speculate that you and your spouse won’t have more children in your forties (or beyond if the husband is older than the wife), but unless there are fertility issues, you can’t be sure. I suffered my second miscarriage last year so I know that there is that possibility, even as I approach my 44th birthday. Right now three of my friends are expecting. Their ages: 43, 45, and 48.
Our children are used to seeing their dad involved with service prior to his ordination, so becoming a deacon really hasn’t changed much. That’s all they know. By contrast, one of the deacon wives from our diocese said that after her husband was ordained, their adult children came to resent his ministry because he hadn’t been involved with service and charity prior to that, then all of the sudden, he was busy with ministry work.