God is calling each of us to serve one another in charity and love as Pope Francis regularly speaks to this call. For some, there is a particular invitation to serve Christ and the Church in ordained ministry. The permanent diaconate, restored at Vatican II, is a ministry of service that is open to married and single men.
The Inquirer in the Permanent Diaconate comes from many backgrounds and cultures; different social and economic backgrounds; however, there are traits and charisms that call these men to a ministry of service.
We start by looking to Jesus Christ; he was never one who took praise (“no one is good but God alone” Lk 18:19) or wanted to take credit for his good works (“see that you tell no one” Mt 8:4). He was a man of prayer (“when you pray, go to your inner room” Mt 6:6) and a man of many virtues of being non-judgmental and caring for all; and yet a man of action, who lived among us to share God’s message.
A deacon should enjoy people and be men of compassion, especially to the poor.
In most cases, a deacon is married. So he should exhibit not only a joyful person but a joyful husband and dad (if he has children). In short, the deacon should live the gospel and live a sacramental marriage.
Also, the men in formation are also going to be college students, taking college-level theology classes. The academic class will be one night a week (January-May, August-December) for six years. The first year is only academic, but the last 5 years are academic and one Saturday a month (10 months a year) dedicated to spiritual, human, and pastoral formation for the couple (if married). The future deacon is one who is capable of college-level theological studies, good with their time as demands increase, and is open to personal growth: Spiritual formation (him and God), Human formation (him and God and self-reflective), and Pastoral formation (taking what he learns and moving to heart and then to his hands).
The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston starts a new class for the Permanent Diaconate every 2 years. During these intervals, we offer two Informational Sessions that present the details of the Permanent Diaconate and the Formation Process that repeat continuously for the two years. To attend the first session, it is important to talk to your family and your pastor.
Download the Pastor Nomination Form from our Website and meet with your pastor to fill out the form and send it to the Office of the Permanent Diaconate.
You and your wife will be invited to attend the first Information Session. This first session lasts 2.5 hours and should both present the information on the program and answer your initial questions.
The next step is to continue the discernment process focused on your wife and family.
“True discernment is more than just thinking about something. Discernment involves action. It also involves a decision. And the very first decision is whether it’s about my life and my vocation or whether it’s about God’s will for my life and my vocation.” - Fr. Mike Schmitz
Overview of Formation
“With the help of the Holy Spirit, to form the man into the best possible deacon God has called him to be”.
The formation for the Permanent Diaconate in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is a six (6) year process. Understanding that a deacon is to be a Minister of Charity, a Minister of the Word, and a Minister of Liturgy, the formation is built around the person, the knowledge, and the spirituality of the potential future deacon. During this time, the formation is focused on 4 areas:
- Spiritual – the relationship between God and man
- Human – the relationship of man with all others and the ability of man to reflect on himself
- Academic – the scholastic knowledge developed and taught by our church
- Pastoral – ability to convey the message of God in the way that the person in front of you needs; ability to bring others closer to God
The first two years are called the Inquiry Years. As part of the discernment process for the Inquirer Couple, the first two years give the deacon couple an introduction to formation and allow the Formation team time to get to know a little about this potential deacon. This period of formation includes weeknight Academic classes (optional for the wife) and one Saturday a month (for both the man and wife, …excludes June and July) focused on Spiritual, Human, and Pastoral Formation. During this time, the inquirers and their wives will be put in small discussion groups and assigned a Mentor Couple (deacon and wife) to walk with them. Toward the end of the second year, with advice from the Admission Team, the Archbishop (Cardinal DiNardo) will determine whether to accept this couple into formation (years 3-6)
If the decision is to continue formation, the next 4 years will be higher level Theology courses, continued Saturday formation, retreats, increases in participation in the parish, and three years (years 4 - 6) of social ministry (e.g. hospital, correctional system). In addition to the ever-important area of spiritual formation (e.g. forms of prayer, spiritual readings), there will be many classes he will need to be an effective deacon, for example: homiletics (3 classes), sacramental celebration, canon law. The emphasis for these last four years is to provide the knowledge and formation to be the best deacon God has called him to be; while maintaining a healthy and growing marriage and family life. These last four years will also include spiritual formation specifically for the wife during occasional Saturday formation and on the weekend retreats.
Words from Pope Francis
From the Special Session on the Permanent Diaconate - May 29, 2016
“To be faithful servants, you can’t be stingy with your time, but give it generously even at the most inconvenient moments.”
“One who serves is not a slave to his own agenda, but ever ready to deal with the unexpected, ever available to his brothers and sisters and ever open to God’s constant surprises. “Don’t worry about the timetable: have the courage to look past the timetable.”
Francis reminded Deacons to imitate the Lord himself, who is “meek and humble of heart” and Who lived to serve. Similarly, like Jesus, the Pope urged, be patient, kind and present.
Being ready to serve, he also noted, requires a healthy heart: “a heart healed by God, one which knows forgiveness and is neither closed nor hardened.” The Pope encouraged them to pray daily to be healed by Jesus and to grow more like Him.
Formation and Your Family
Currently, 95%-98% of the men in diaconate formation are married. Men in formation (married or single) have careers, hobbies, parish ministries, prayer-time, and most important: families. The reality of limited hours in the week, means the man must understand how to manage his time, watch his priorities, and then integrate his activities to a fulfilling life on God’s path.
For men who are married, I am reminded often by our Shepherd (Cardinal DiNardo) as to the importance of their first vocation: marriage. From the initial discernment, a man’s wife and family should be involved. As the discernment proceeds for the 6 years in formation, your wife and family continue to be the primary consideration. Because new diaconate cohorts start every two years, some men recognize the need to address a family matter (e.g. child that needs attention or a parent that needs special care) and ask to suspend his formation for two years and join the next group.
The formation of permanent deacons in Galveston-Houston includes special classes dedicated to the couple and classes dedicated to the overall formation of the wife. It is important that the man and his wife grow throughout the process.
Formation and Your Parish
From the beginning, the progression to the Permanent Diaconate should be an outgrowth from a man’s ministries in his parish. Most inquirers come with experience in one or many of the following areas:
- Charity (Minister to the homebound or hospital, food pantry, visits to the incarcerated)
- Liturgy (EMHC, Lector, Sacristan, Music)
- Word (Catechist, RCIA, Adult Ed)
The formation process for the Diaconate then potentially extends the man knowledge in our rich Catholic faith, explores areas of Spirituality and Theology, and provides insight and formation into Sacraments and Liturgy.
The Pastor begins the process by meeting with the couple; and then, if he chooses, nominates the couple for consideration to the Diaconate. The Pastor also becomes part of the formation process from the introduction to Ordination and beyond.
Starting in year 3, there will be an increase in ministries in the parish, where the candidate becomes a more integral part of the parish. As the man becomes installed as Candidate, Lector, and Acolyte, his focus will move to the different areas of the parish.
Lastly, the parish becomes a place for the diaconate candidate to grow in his ministry, with feedback, encouragement, and prayers from the Pastor, parishioners, and staff.
The age of the man entering the inquiry process for the Permanent Diaconate should be between the age of 30 and 57 (he must be 58 or younger when the first class begins).
Many men in our current cohort are between the ages of 38 and 48; some have small children, but the couple has family and friends who can take care of the children when they are in formation.
Even though many deacons continue to serve into their 80’s, the retirement age for deacons in our Archdiocese is 70, so the Archbishop would like men ordained before they reach the age of 64. With a 6 year program, the man should be 58 or younger before beginning the process.
We encourage those who exceed this age, who may be a vital part of their parish and offer many years of service to our Archdiocese, to consider being a catechist (Word), an acolyte (Liturgy), or be involved in Pastoral Care Ministry in the hospitals or correctional system (Charity).
Whereas the first two years of Inquiry are basic theology courses, the next four years include college-level theology classes. Reading assignments are typically 100 pages a week, there are presentations, research papers, and written tests (occasionally oral tests).
Whereas a college degree is recommended, a minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent (e.g. GED) is required, before registering for the first class.
Before registering for the first class, the Inquirer and his wife (if married) must be either a Permanent Resident (aka Green Card) or a US Citizen.
Time for formation for the permanent diaconate should include time at seminary (weeknights and Saturdays), study/homework time, special assignments, and retreats. Remember, for most, this is going to be added to your normal life of family, church ministry, and careers. The numbers below may vary depending on your reading speed and study habits. It does not include travel time and miscellaneous time like traffic and time to eat.
Inquiry year 1 – Classroom: 2.75 hours a week for 16 weeks in the Spring and 16 weeks in the Fall. For many people 3-4 hours of homework time per hour in the classroom.
Inquiry year 2 – Classroom: 2.75 hours a week for 16 weeks in the Spring and 16 weeks in the Fall. For many people 3-4 hours of homework time per hour in the classroom. ALSO, one Saturday a month for 10 months: 8:30 am to 5:15 pm. For many people, 5-10 hours of homework for Saturday classes.
Aspirant & Candidate years (yr 3-6) – The Academic classes will increase in requirements, the Saturday classes will continue for the couples, but an increase in parish duties, social ministry (e.g. hospital, correctional system), and annual retreats will be added.
Forms and Documents
Pastor Nomination Form (English and Spanish)
Deacon Nomination Form (English and Spanish)
Deacon Dominic Romaguera
Director of Admission and Scrutiny