Permanent Deacons are ordained ministers in the Roman Catholic Church. While their ministry is evident in many areas within the life of the Church, the main emphasis of their service is to the poor and marginalized. The Office of Deacon Formation coordinates all areas of a candidate’s preparation for ordained ministry. Following participation in the Institute for Leadership in Ministry, this four year process is a comprehensive formation program including academic, spiritual, liturgical, and social service experiences. This formation is done in close collaboration with the Institute for Leadership in Ministry, the Advanced Lay Leadership program, and Santa Clara University.
There are three stages in preparation for ordination to the diaconate. Rome and the National Conference of Bishops mandate stages two and three (aspirancy and candidacy).
The first two years are in the Institute for Leadership in Ministry (ILM). Admission to the ILM is by the recommendation of a pastor. Applicants recommended for diaconal discernment who already have substantial Catholic theological education must still participate in the ILM Saturday sessions.
At the end of the first semester in the second year of the ILM a student may be nominated by his pastor to the aspirancy stage. This nomination begins the formal application procedure.
Letters of recommendation are required from his pastor, at least two other priests, and a few lay people (outside his family) familiar with his ministry. The director of the ILM offers pertinent input.
The applicant, and his wife, fill out the required questionnaires, submit pertinent documents, and are interviewed by individuals designated by the Admissions and Evaluation Board. We will also speak with children still living at home.
The Admissions and Evaluation Board recommends applicants to the bishop for admissions to the aspirancy stage.
The Aspirancy: This one year stage begins the pattern of formation that continues until ordination. Aspirants take classes in theology. Early focus is on homiletics to help aspirants and the diocese discern an aspirant’s prospects for the essential task of preaching. Saturday sessions during the aspirancy year involve homiletics, spiritual and personal formation (including group work). It is a period of discernment by both the aspirant and the diocese.
In the Winter of the Aspirancy Year an aspirant may petition to be accepted as a candidate for the diaconate. The Admissions and Evaluation Board makes a recommendation to the bishop.
Stage three lasts three years. Candidates take classes in theology and participate in the formation program under the supervision of the San Jose Formation Deacon Program and its Admissions and Evaluation Board.
A recommendation for continued participation in the deacon program at the end the first candidate year includes a recommendation for the ministry of Lector that is received in December of the second candidacy year. During the winter of candidacy year-two candidates are evaluated and recommended for the ministry of Acolyte that is received in June of year-two.
A final evaluation and recommendation for orders occurs in the fall of the program’s final year.