Following the closing of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI formally implemented the renewal of the diaconate. In his apostolic letter Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem, he reestablished the Order of Deacons as a permanent ministry in the Catholic Church. Deacons receive the Sacrament of Holy Orders and are members of the clerical state in the Roman Catholic Church. The bishops of the United States voted in 1968 to petition the Holy See for authorization to restore the permanent diaconate. The bishops presented the following reasons for the request:
- To complete the hierarchy of sacred orders and to enrich an strengthen the many and various diaconal ministries at work in the United States with the sacramental grace of the diaconate
- To enlist a new group of devout and competent men in the active ministry of the Church
- To aid in extending needed liturgical and charitable services to the faithful in both large urban and small rural communities
- To provide an official and sacramental presence of the Church in areas of secular life, as well as in communities within large cities and sparsely settled regions where few or no priests are available
- To provide an impetus and source for creative adaptations of diaconal ministries to the rapidly changing needs of our society
In August 30, 1968 the Apostolic Delegate informed the United States bishops that Pope Paul VI had agreed to their request. The latest edition of the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons promulgated in December 2004, outlines four dimensions in the formation of deacons. Those four areas are:
- Human Dimension – participants “should therefore cultivate a series of human qualities, not only out of proper and due growth and realization of self, but also with a view to the ministry.”
- Spiritual Dimension – establishment and nourishment of attitudes, habits and practices that will set the foundation for a lifetime of ongoing spiritual discipline.
- Intellectual Dimension – “ a deacon be a knowledgeable and reliable witness to the faith and a spokesman for the Church’s teaching and be prepared to carry out his vital ministry.”
- Pastoral Dimension – “to initiate the aspirant and candidate into the sensitivity of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus, who came to serve and not be served. It should strengthen and enhance the exercise of the prophetic, priestly, and servant-leadership functions—deriving from his baptismal consecration.”
FAQs: Permanent Deacons
Q. Who are some of the men who have answered the call to be deacons in the Diocese of Sioux Falls?
A. Here are profiles of some of our permanent deacons:
- A 57 year-old Native American man who spent his professional career working on various reservations for the Bureau of Indian Affairs, was anticipating retiring and returning to the reservation in central South Dakota. He wanted to serve the people and share the Gospel of Christ with them. Ordained in May 2007, he now lives and works full time on the Crow Creek Reservation for the Church. He is married, a father and grandfather.
- A 68 year-old man who has been an FBI agent, a high school and college teacher and a police chief in a mid-size South Dakota community. Now retired, he works in a parish in Sioux Falls working in pre-marriage instruction, home-bound ministry, in the Catholic grade school, witnessing marriages, officiating at wake services and funerals. He is married and a father and grandfather. Ordained on May 27, 2000.
- A 59 year-old man who works full time at the local Cenex Cooperative. His diaconal ministry involves general parish ministry including officiating at baptisms, wake services and preaching. He is married, a father and grandfather. Ordained on January 26, 1991.
Q. I am interested in becoming a deacon, what do I have to do?
A. You should follow these steps:
- Pray about your interest in becoming a deacon.
- Visit with your pastor about your interest in becoming a deacon.
- Contact Deacon John Devlin in the Office of Deacon Formation, 605-988-3715 or firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment and visit about becoming a deacon.
Q. What is the process for becoming a permanent deacon?
A. The following is an outline of our typical process:
- After the initial interview, if you are married, an informational visit will be set up with you and your spouse.
- If you are still interested you will be sent an application packet to fill out and return within a specified time period. This includes the need for a complete physical.
- After the completed packet is received, and you have had an opportunity to discuss with your spouse, a formal interview will take place with the Director of Deacon Formation.
- If that interview is satisfactory and you are still interested, an interview will be scheduled with the Committee on Admissions and Scrutinies. The Committee will make a recommendation along with the Director of Formation to the bishop on whether or not an individual will be accepted into the Aspirancy Program.
- At all points along the process the spouse must agree in writing to support her husband and is also required to attend all classes and retreats.
- The Aspirancy Program will be 1 year in length and meets 1 Saturday per month and ends with a 3 ½ day Silent Retreat.
- After the retreat, the aspirant decides if they want to apply for candidacy to the Diaconate.
- If affirmative, they are interviewed by the Committee on Admissions and Scrutinies and along with the Director of Formation, will make a recommendation to the bishop.
- If accepted by the bishop, there is a Rite of Candidacy and they are formally admitted as a candidate for the diaconate. The candidates and spouses meet 1 weekend a month for 3 years and conclude each year with a Silent Retreat.
- After the first candidate year, they are interviewed by the Committee on Admissions and Scrutinies and along with the Director of Deacon Formation, a recommendation is made to the bishop, if acceptable, the candidate is installed to the Ministry of Lector and begins the 2nd year of candidacy.
- After the second year, they are interviewed by the Committee on Admissions and Scrutinies and along with the Director of Deacon Formation, a recommendation is made to the bishop, if acceptable, the candidate is installed to the Ministry of Acolyte and begins the 3rd year of candidacy.
- During the third year of candidacy, the candidate writes a letter requesting ordination, and the spouse writes a letter supporting her husband’s request. The candidate is required to make a 5 day pre-ordination retreat. After an interview with the Committee of Admissions and Scrutinies and the Director of Deacon Formation, a recommendation is made to the bishop on ordination. If acceptable, the candidate will be ordained to the Permanent Diaconate.
- After ordination, there is a 3 year post-ordination formation program that is required.
Q. Are there any books that I could read on the diaconate?
A. Two excellent books to read if interested in the diaconate are:
- 101 Questions & Answers about Deacons: William T. Ditewig
- The Emerging Diaconate: William T. Ditewig