Dimensions of Formation
There are four dimensions of Deacon Formation:
- Human Formation is the foundation of the other three;
- Spiritual Formation informs the other three;
- Intellectual Formation enables the understanding of the other three;
- Pastoral Formation expresses the other three in practice.
Aspirancy and Candidacy: Formation Program
The goal of Human Formation is a fuller development of one's humanity so that the person of the deacon can be a bridge for communicating Jesus to his people. The capacity to relate to others is fundamental for a person called to be in service for the community. The whole being (body, mind, heart and spirit) is involved in formation: psychological competence, communication skills, maintaining one's physical well being, nurturing healthy relationships, and openness to the arts, sciences and politics of human life. Integrating all of this and more is essential to become a complete and holy person.
- Flexibility and openness, demonstrated by the ability to adapt to change and by the ability to be at ease with himself and others; coupled with a personal stamina which shows him to be a man of principles, conviction and empathy;
- Evidence of having made a personal decision to choose ordained ministry;
- A developed good sense of one's self-esteem and self-confidence with the maturity needed to be ordained;
- The ability to manage time and to administer his own life and the duties of ministry with efficiency;
- The ability to set limits and goals in one's life and make plans both for himself and for his ministry;
- The ability to be self-critical as evidenced by an internal sense of measurement and non-reliance on external approval;
- An appreciation of the need for recreation and relaxation seen in the ability to take appropriate days off and vacation time;
- An awareness of his own limitations and strengths and be willing to be formed;
- Have a healthy understanding of authority and obedience; and
- Non-involvement in substance abuse, sexual addiction, or severe psychological problems, the absence of any definable pathology.
The spiritual formation dimension of the Deacon Formation Program is rooted in the understanding that all people are made in the image and likeness of God. As Genesis 1:26 proclaims, God has spoken at creation, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." Deacon's spiritual formation is also rooted in the knowledge that God has formed all people. Again as Genesis 2:7-8 boldly proclaims, "The Lord God formed man out of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breadth of life." The spiritual life is a life drawing closer to God by always growing in awareness of God's creative intimacy.
This understanding is the foundational principle of the spiritual formation aspects in the Deacon Formation Program. The National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States (Washington, DC: USCCB) expresses this very eloquently: "The spiritual life is, therefore, dynamic and never static. The first goal of spiritual formation is the establishment and nourishment of attitude, habits, and practices that will set the foundation for a lifetime of ongoing spiritual discipline."
- A well-developed faith and an established relationship to Jesus Christ;
- An established devotion to Mary, the Mother of God;
- A regular routine of daily personal and communal prayer, demonstrated in recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, regular attendance at Eucharist, regular reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, reflection time on Sacred Scripture, and personal reflection time;
- An understanding of "the spirituality of the deacon" rooted in active service;
- An established pattern of on-going spiritual renewal demonstrated by attendance at annual retreats, regular days of recollection and other forms of spiritual renewal;
- An established pattern of prayer surrounding the Church's liturgical calendar as evidenced by regular reflection on the readings of the liturgical year.
Spiritual Formation includes:
- Recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours
- Assignment to a Spiritual Direction
- Annual weekend Retreats (spouses required)
- Six-day Canonical Retreat prior to Ordination
"The intellectual dimension of formation must be designed to communicate a knowledge of the faith and church tradition that is 'complete and serious' so that each participant will be prepared to carry out his vital ministry." (National Directory, para 118).
The theological program is predominantly taught by the faculty of Saint Mary's Seminary and University on 18-20 required class days per academic year (Saturdays 8:30 am—3 pm). A member of the faculty is the liaison with the Deacon Formation Team to facilitate the theological component of the formation program. The written work by the candidates is assigned, read, and evaluated by the Formation Team. This approach helps the team to assess more clearly each man's progress.
Intellectual Formation includes:
- Sacred Scripture
- Catholic Social Teaching
- Dogmatic Theology Catholic Morality
- Ecumenism and Inter-religious Dialogue
- Thorough knowledge of the Catechism
- Homiletics (theory and practice) written monthly homily in later years
- Two or three 5-page integrative papers per semester
- Church Fathers and Church History
- Fundamental Theology Canon Law
- Spiritual Theology Liturgy
- Christian Evangelization
The Ecumenical Institute which is part of St. Mary's Seminary and University works with the program to offer academic credit in certain circumstances for those who wish to continue their intellectual formation toward a degree in theology.; Additional academic work and cost is incurred by these candidates.
Pastoral Formation entails the development of skills and competencies that enable deacons to serve their communities well. It is the practical side of theology. Deacons must keep themselves aware of the challenges of the people they serve.; They should continue to enhance their pastoral skills by gathering new insights on how to minister and allowing themselves to be evaluated so that they can continue to be formed. They develop:
- Good listening skills and pastoral sensitivity;
- The ability to use various resources properly and to refer to others and to seek help from others who are experts in areas where one does not feel competent;
- A demonstrated sensitivity to ecumenical interfaith and social justice issues in the Church and in the world;
- A demonstrated ability to serve the needs of others;
- A demonstrated ability to make a commitment to diaconal ministry according to the tradition of the Roman Catholic Church;
- Competency in pastoral skills, especially in the proclamation of the Word of God and in leading worship;
- The ability to relate to a wide variety of people, e.g., adult women and men, teenagers, families, children, and peers;
- A demonstrated ability to work cooperatively and collegially with other ministers and to empower others to exercise their appropriate role; and
- Competency to work effectively with large and small groups.
Pastoral Formation includes:
- One-year supervised institutional internship (hospital, prison, outreach, nursing home, etc.) (8-10 hours per week);
- One-year supervised parish internship (not one's own home parish) (8-10 hours per week);
- Liturgical Practicuums (reader, acolyte, funeral, marriage, baptism and diaconal ministry at mass);
- Theological Reflection;
- Pastoral Counseling; and
- monthly written summary of internships.