The Gift of the Diaconate - Discernment and formation of diaconal vocations

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Home > Media > News > The Gift of the Diaconate - Discernment and formation of diaconal vocations
The Gift of the Diaconate - Discernment and formation of diaconal vocations

By Deacon Nick MacFarlane

For anyone considering a vocation to the diaconate, two questions immediately arise: How is such a vocation to be discerned? And what formation would be required?

The discernment of a vocation to the diaconate rests principally with the man himself and his bishop.  Both parties are assisted in their discernment.  The man himself will be helped in his discernment by those close to him, especially his family.  If he is married, it is essential that his wife discerns the call with him.  No married man may be ordained without his wife's explicit consent.  The bishop is also assisted in his discernment by the man's parish priest and by others he appoints to help in the process of discernment and formation. 

The discernment of a diaconal vocation takes several years, from before the first inquiry through the time of exploration of the vocation and then through the time of formation.  There are several stages. After initial enquiry, the man may ask his bishop to approve the commencement of formal formation. At this point, the man becomes an 'aspirant' typically for three or four years.  Towards the end of his formation, again with the bishop's concurrence, he may be enrolled as a 'candidate for ordination' and then eventually, should he and his bishop agree that he has a true vocation and is ready to become a deacon, he is ordained by his bishop.

During his time of formation, an aspirant to the diaconate typically undertakes four years of formation.  In addition to academic study of theology (usually a university degree), he will also participate in a program conducted by the Archdiocese (typically one Saturday a month) fostering his personal growth, deepening his spiritual life and equipping him with skills in areas like pastoral care, preaching, administration of the sacraments and the other liturgical roles of a deacon. If married, his wife is encouraged to also take part in this time of formation.

Let us all continue to pray that our part of the Church will be blessed with more deacons and enriched by their ministry.