Can someone explain deacons to me? We have a married deacon who sometimes helps at mass and is in charge of young adult ministry. What education and training do they go through? What is the process of formation for them? What authority do they have? When do you go to a deacon for help with pastoral concerns instead of a priest, who is very busy--ever/never? I guess I'm kind of wondering how qualified they are and for what duties. Any information is appreciated. Are there some people who want to be deacons and then are turned away, just like priests?
I can do my best to answer you. Hopefully someone will help me out, but as a seminarian who has a permanent deacon both at my home parish and working at the seminary, I can give you some answers.
A deacon is an ordained clergyman. He can be married before ordination, but once ordained, he cannot marry. (If his wife dies and he has young children to raise, exceptions can be made, but this is not the norm) Deacons have some of the faculties that priests share: they can assist the priest with the mass (such as setting up the altar, purifying the vessels after communion, etc.) as well as preach, they can also preside at weddings, funerals and baptisms (someone correct me if I'm wrong there, I'm pretty sure). Obviously, a deacon may not offer mass or hear confessions.
The training for the diaconate varies from diocese to diocese. In our diocese, the deacons in training go through about four years of theology. Since most of them have families, they usually have a program where they go away for classes about one weekend a month, and read and write assignments in between. In addition, they take practical courses. For example, we have the deacons-in-training come to the seminary one night a week to have an informal class with our Father Rector, who answers their basic questions about liturgy, dealing with difficulties with parishioners, etc.
As a side note, deacons generally do not work full-time in their ministry. Most assist at weekend masses, as well as funerals, marriages, etc. Most have normal day jobs during the week. I know a deacon who is a lawyer as well as a seminary professor, and the deacon at my parish is the property manager at the seminary residence.
So, deacons (at least here in my diocese) do have a good deal of knowledge and experience. Maybe you would like to ask the deacon at your parish about his formation?
Oh, and you asked about qualifications. I think this is pretty standard: Yes, men do get turned away from the diaconate, as it is a calling, not simply a job. Here, men must be at least 35 years old (so as to make a mature decision) and they must have their wife's consent.
Hope my random assortment of information helps :)
In Christ and Our Blessed Mother,
Cominghome89 pretty much nailed it. The one thing that I would add is that deacons (along with priests/bishops) are also ordinary ministers of communion( as opposed to xtra-ordinary ministers of communion).
The previous posts did very well in explaining it. :) I just have an example...
My dad is in the diaconate program for the Archdiocese of Omaha, Nebraska. The program lasts 4 years, and involves many different topics and aspects of theology. My parents (my mom must attend as well) attend meetings/classes once a week during the year (not during summer). I know it varies from diocese to diocese, but that is how it works for our diocese. It really emphasizes the unity and importance that the wife has in the whole process as well. Throughout the year, there are also various retreats that my parents attend to help reinforce these ideas and values. God willing, my dad will be ordained a deacon in about 1 1/2 years. :)
I disagree with the requirement that the wife attend all classes. What if she has young children at home and it would be a hardship. What if she supports her husband but is not interested in taking classes. What does she get after taking all these classes?
I was in the Diaconate program for 3 years, until the arrival of child #5 made in impractical for me to continue.
It was a 5 year course of study at the local seminary, taking the same classes as the priestly canidates were.
Our wives were welcome to attend classes as well, but not required.
Here is our course of study
In addition, there were monthly formation days, focused on the spiritual development and continued discernment, as well as summer service projects.
In my diocese we are required to have one year of formal discernment, and four years of formation for a total of five years. I am at the end of five years, scheduled to be ordained next Saturday morning.
Our wives were not required, but very strongly urged to attend. My wife did everything I did for the first four years. We then adopted a 15 year old girl and she dropped out to be a full time mom. Had she continued she would have received a masters degree in catechesis. All of our instructors have been certified professors/teachers in their field.
My wife will probably receive partial credit for the classes she did complete successfully and get a basic catechesis degree.
Her being in the class next to me was key for me. I don’t think I would have finished the program had she not been with me.
When my husband was in formation I asked what I would get if I attended all the classes. They told me I would get advanced catechist certification, which I already had. At the time he was in formation there was no graduate credit for diaconate classes. So I chose to apply to the seminary for the MA program. I received an MA and he was ordained (without a degree). 15 years later he finally got his MAPS after returning to the seminary. Meanwhile I had gone on for another MA and a D. Min. So I was so glad I did not have to attend his classes. In fact years later I ended up on the diaconate faculty for awhile.