Saint Catharines Diocese

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Formation Program

 

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Deacon George Newman, the Director of the Office of the Permanent Diaconate formation in this diocese, excitedly characterizes the formation program as one in which academics, while very important, take a secondary role to the very important series of conversions which must take place in the hearts of the candidates if they are to be effective in this ministry.  It is a movement of a faith from one rooted in "the head" to one deeply rooted in "the heart".

In discussing the formation program with George, it became clear that, through no fault of our own, most of us probably ended our religious formation either at the end of elementary school, or at most, at the end of secondary school. Our faith, while strong, is the faith of the young and may not have matured significantly enough to allow us to serve others as they need, with the challenges of their lives today. A deacon must undergo several conversions leading to a balanced faith life, which will allow him to minister as a servant of Christ and of his bishop.

In what ways must we convert our immature faith to the faith of an adult? Some of the conversions, which require a deep personal participation are religious, socio-political, intellectual, and include moral decision-making and a psyche/affective conversion. This maturation process is a long, but very rewarding one which leads to an ability to better minister at the "heart-felt" level and to understand, recognize and live with the pain of others, while realizing that often there is nothing that we can do but listen, be present, and support the person as they deal with their pain.

More specifically, the program, which stretches over four years being from September to June combines academic, pastoral and ministerial formation. The candidate will undertake a program of study and homework every week with one weekend per month spent in a class setting with fellow candidates.

During each month of study the men will meet weekly in small geographic groups for, prayer, discussion and reflection on the specific topic of the month. On study weekends, the candidates and their wives (if the candidates are married) will meet to participate in communal prayer, study and shared reflection under the guidance of the resource person who has laid out the month of study. At each year's end, there will be a weekend retreat for candidates and their spouses.

A sampling of the topics covered during the formation process include; prayer spirituality and discernment; foundational moral theology; social justice issues; ministry to the sick or to the prison; Christology; the prophets; a study of the sacraments; the gospels; homiletics; ecumenism; sexual, medical and moral issues, as well as others.

(Curriculum Overview | visit)

In the middle of the first year the candidates petition the bishop to install them as candidates for Holy Orders.

In the second year of formation, the bishop will install the candidates as acolytes, commissioning them to distribute communion at Mass and take the Eucharist to the sick and housebound.

In the third year, candidates are installed as lectors and have the opportunity to exercise this role more effectively in the formation program. In the middle of the fourth year the candidates petition the bishop to install them as candidates for Holy Orders.  At the end of the fourth year, the successful candidates make a 5-day silent retreat in preparation for ordination to the Order of Deacon.

The program costs, except for the cost of books and travel, are covered by the diocese.

If you feel that you may have a call to the diaconate, please contact Deacon George Newman at the Diocesan Catholic Centre, 905-684-0154 or ask your pastor for pamphlets containing more details.  The first class will begin this September and a new class will begin every two years.

If you know someone who has the abilities and the gifts to be a deacon, approach him; ask him if he ever thought of becoming a deacon.  Most men who have become deacons have done so because someone identified them as a potential deacon, and told him so.

 

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