Husband wants to become a deacon


#1

My husband who is 33 is seriously considering becoming a deacon.We have one child now who is 3, but of course we are wanting more. I am looking for some input, advice, stories, comments, etc about anyone who’s gone through this process either as a deacon or their spouse.

I am worried about how time consuming the position is as well as that the Bishop can assign you to a different parish than where you are at. I am also concerned in regards to how much of the classes and meetings I am required to attend.


#2

Although I don’t have specific answers, I do have a reassurance.

The Church requires the consent of a man’s wife before he can be ordained a vocational deacon. This will NOT be a pro forma exercise, in that someone will get you to do something like quickly sign a piece of paper, and then be ignored. As in all things, when the Church asks for consent, she seeks informed consent.

Also, the Church is mindful that your husband has made a vocational choice already in his life – to be a husband. She is not in the least interested in anything that would put the fulfilment of that calling into jeopardy, particularly in administering the Sacrament of Holy Orders where it might do that.

And there’s not going to be anything happen about this quickly. The Sacred Canons, as well as requiring the consent of a married man’s wife before he is ordained a Deacon, require that he be 35 years of age.

Blessings,

Gerry


#3

The Diocese should have some discernment retreats and discussions. Contact them to find out. Some dioceses will not ordain a man until his children are much older. I know a man who was told that his primary responsibility is to his family. They felt the demands on his time from family , work and classes would have him stretched too thin. You’ll have to find out the answer to all your questions from your particular diocese.


#4

I’ve always thought that permanent deacons should at least have kids in high school if not moved out of the house.

Assigned to a parish, the deacon can have parish things to do every night of the week, and things to do on the weekends (preaching, baptisms, weddings). That doesn’t really lend itself to a father of young children, does it? Work is hard enough to juggle in the deaconate, much less the demands of a young family.


#5

My husband is about the same age as yours, and also cherishes a desire/ambition to become a deacon. He did look into the process a little and went to a diocesan discernment night. He found out there are a lot of preliminary requirements that he has not fulfilled yet, that he must do before he can even apply to be considered. One of those was that they literally want a multi-year history of working in ministry at the parish level on a volunteer basis. I am thinking the reasoning must be that if you can’t commit to that, then you can’t commit to being a deacon. (I can only speak to our own diocese…I don’t know what yours might want.)

So, we looked honestly at our life, with four children under 10 and another due in the next few weeks. He is also working full-time, of course, and I am working part-time. He is taking classes to work toward an accounting certification, as well. And then the kids have their activities, to which we must drive them all. We honestly can’t fit in anything else right now, much less something as demanding as the training to be a deacon. He did volunteer with the youth group and will be teaching RE classes this year, so that he could start working in the parish ministries and get that experience. He also helps the kids and I with the hospitality ministry (coffee and donuts after Mass) and I lector, so we are pretty involved at the parish level. Our daughter will be attending a meeting this week to look into becoming an altar server.

We decided that his desire to be a deacon will just have to wait. Our life is too full and busy right now for him to be able to really commit to it, and if we tried, we might end up shortchanging everyone. I have to agree with the comment above that it doesn’t seem to be a good fit with the life of a young father who is really committed to being involved in his family. Working at the parish level would fit in better, and of course, give him experience in the Church.

If we keep having children, God only knows when he might be able to commit himself to the training. It would be great to have younger men as deacons for many reasons, but I think that they will be rare just because of the other commitments those younger men have. Little kids and nurturing a marriage are very consuming all by themselves!


#6

Dear Maria,
I think this is truly awesome! Pray for your husband, and go through the discernment together. The Church wants wives of deacons to be part of the process, working together. I will pray for you both!
Gwen


#7

I just went through the process of discernment for the diaconate (not selected) after feeling and hearing the call again (after ignoring it for 14 years). Each diocese is a bit different, but the Church does have a set program. Our diocese could only accept 40 or so of the 120 who applied for discernment.

The Bishop assigns the deacon to whatever duties he wishes, which may or may not be to a parish. It can be very time consuming, but from the get-go, the first thing the diaconate leaders told us is that the priorities are family, work, church when it comes to duties. That said, many wives also said they had to rein in their husbands; being passionate takes over sometimes. Some wives were very involved with their deacon husbands, others were not, and other were involved in other church ministries.

I know of one deacon from our parish who had a small child when he entered the program, and had at least one or two more after. It is very much a personal decision between husband and wife in answering God’s call. In the end, if the wife does not consent (and your husband may not ever know if you do not, unless you tell him) via a signed letter, the man is not accepted as a deacon.

Your comment on the church wanting a long history of volunteer work is probably true; we alo have four kids, though two are older. We have done what we can within the church, usually teaching RE, but not a long, deep involvment. Also, part of the discernment process is filling out some personality tests/compatabilty tests, kind of like what is used during engaged encounter. Though we were told that these would not be used to rule anyone out, I didn’t wholly believe it. They have to use something subjective. But if it shows you and your husband have areas of disagreement you need to communicate on, and we do in several areas, I would think that the decision-makers would be looking at those areas being resolved first, before a man becoming a deacon.

Continue to pray for your husband; it is a tough decision. For me, it was the first time in 14 years I felt God again, and it is utterly humbling to think God wants you in that capacity. That said, it was tougher than I thought when I was not selected (diaconate leaders discern who they will accept into the program; it is not a sure thing because someone thinks they are called). It may well be your husband is called, but in God’s time - easier to say than to accept!

God bless - I’ll keep you in my prayers.


#8

deaconsplace.info/

You might like checking this site out, it is a website dedicated to supporting Permanent Deacons & their families. It can give you an idea of what may be required as a family, married couple, and of your husband. You can talk to some folks who have been there as well.

If your husband (and you by extension to support him) has been called to this, pray and ask Christ to guide you as it is He your husband & you would be answering. It may also be that while your husband is being called now is not the time to start the official process but to begin discernment unofficially.

:gopray2: Prayers as you move forward in this process together!


#9

One of the questions that your husband needs to answer is
"Why do I want to be a deacon". Many years ago I went to a discernment meeting together with my wife and there were about 20 men there with their wifes. One by one we were supposed to stand up and answer to the whole class why were wanted to become deacons. Some of the answers were :
“Well I like to help around the Church”
“I like to teach CCD”
"I like the respect that is given to the deacons"
and on and on.
I happen to be the last one to speak and my answer was that I was there to discern if it was a true calling from God or if it was just my desire. I found at that time that the calling was not for me. The priest said that that was exactly what it is; a calling from God.
Remember, the deaconite is not just some line of work, ambition, or desire, like wanting to become a lawyer, or a doctor, and if one gets tired of it simply switch. It is a lifetime commitment that one needs to make certain Our Lord is calling that man to. One will have to be obedient to the Bishop and to the priest he assigns that deacon to. Some good advise was given that he should go on discernment retreats. Remember too that the wife has to honestly from her heart agree for her husband to become a deacon. If I’m not mistaken in my diocese a man with little children is not allowed to be a deacon because his first priority is to his family. It may be the same thing everywhere. If it is a true calling from God, your husband should wait. God is patient. But is your husband patient enough to wait till your child is older. If he says and feels that he wants to be a deacon now, then I would have to say that it is not a calling from God, at least at the present time.


#10

Is he crazy!?!? He should be putting all his free time into nuturing his young family.

Give him a slap from leonie!

There’s a time for service to the Church and there’s a time for service to your family.


#11

I wouldn’t call him crazy, but I agree with the gist of your comment.

I’m 32 and also have young children. I have been leaning towards starting the discernment process also, but my wife and I have decided to wait until the kids are older. All I have to do is to look at the deacons in my parish and see how much time they spend at the Church. I still feel that I might have a calling, but I also know that my first obligation is to my vocation to marriage. If I don’t satisfy that, then I cannot satisfy another vocation.


#12

I should clarify: service to your family is service to the church.


#13

You are right in that family is a ministry.

The idea that family is the primary obligation, especially while there are young children, is also correct. After all, these men made vows, to their wives and to the Church, to commit themselves to the vocation of marriage. They cannot violate those vows in order to fulfull another vocation to the diaconate. They must be able to do both well, or they are violating both. And since the vow to the marriage comes first, the marriage and resulting children must come before any other vocation can be pursued. And children need involved, caring fathers. Look at our society…much of what we see is the price of absentee fathers, whether they were never in the picture at all, or they left, or they are technically there but not paying attention. Catholic families should be strong examples of just the opposite. I know in our household, it just don’t work without Daddy. He is SO important. I don’t neglect discipline, but it sure helps to have that guy with the booming baritone behind me when a child gets defiant. His character is much the defining character of the family itself. He can also be the peacemaker and soother when the tension between Mom and kids gets to be too much. Plus, I need caretaking too, and he does that for me. And then there is just the fun and love element. Daddy does fun so much differently from Mom. While Mom is saying, “Be careful!” Dad is encouraging climbing and tumbling and tossing the baby in the air. The boys have a strong, masculine role model who is completely invested in them becoming good men, and the girls have their first “best beau” whose eyes sparkle at their very existence, teach them how it feels to be valued by a man, and who will protect them against anything. This absolutely cannot be discounted and must not be lessened by anything, including service to the Church.

Service to family is indeed service to the Church, because of course, where does the Church get its new members? But it is different from institutional service to the Church establishment itself. I have struggled a lot with this balance myself, thinking I should be doing more for my parish at the same time I realize just how unavailable I am with so many young children. So, I have taken low-responsibility ministry positions, lectoring and helping with the coffee and donuts on Sundays. Those only require service once or twice a month. I am doing my part without shortchanging anyone. The parish gets another volunteer, and my family does not lose me in any way.

When all my children are old enough for me to be out of the house and have commitments that might take hours upon hours out of my week, then I will serve more. But for now, family comes first. And I think deacon candidates have to be the same way. I know how hard it is to think you have a calling but have to wait for it. I would love to become a midwife, but that has to wait because I made commitments to all these children of mine. I must be there for them first, then I can fit in the other stuff. It is absolutely painful at times when I think how far I could have gotten into that path if I had just started. But I know I can’t do it right now without shortchanging them. So while I understand the frustration and even pain involved for these men who really do feel that tug, they must sacrifice it to the good of their families for now. When their children are older, they will be more able to commit themselves as fully to a new vocation as they should…


#14

Thank y’all for your replies. He actually did a year in seminary to see if God was calling him to be a priest. He and his spiritual director thus discerned that wasn’t what his calling was to be. My husband has a Masters in Theology, he felt called to pursue this because while he felt he wasn’t called to the priesthood, he does feel called to be a deacon.


#15

Dear Dustyjewel,

Thank you so much for your honest reply. I am one of those “husbands” who has recently been feeling the pull to become more involved in the Catholic Church. I am a relatively new Catholic (4 years and counting) and during my present deployment to Iraq have involved myself as much as possible in the Catholic community. I serve as a lector, lay minister of Holy Communion, member of the choir and now leader in RCIA. Needless to say…after my conversion from a Protestant denomination I have fallen head-over-heels for the Roman Catholic Church. At times I feel like I can’t do enough. Your sobering reply reminded me that I can do more as a devoted Catholic husband and loving, ever-present Catholic father. Your words brought tears to my eyes as I sit here in Iraq thinking about the how much I long to be with my wife and Children. In two weeks I am headed home in expectation for baby number 3. Thank You and God Bless.

Aaron


#16

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