The pre-ordination formation of a deacon prepares him for some of the demands placed upon him in his early years of diaconal ministry. It does not, however, fully prepare him for responsibilities he may be asked to assume as additional challenges and opportunities for service are presented. To keep pace, growth opportunities need to be available for the development of deacons to meet the increasing challenges in their respective ministries.
Continuing education and ongoing formation offerings are designed to prepare deacons for more effective service in current assignments and to provide opportunities for deacons to increase their theological knowledge and pastoral skills for more challenging and satisfying work in ministry.
Deacons are expected to devote 20 hours annually to continuing formation. Participation in workshops or continuing education activities related to the deacon’s specific ministry may fulfill some of the 20-hour requirement, but each deacon is responsible for taking advantage of the programs offered or promoted by the Ongoing Formation Committee of the Deacon Personnel Board.
Each deacon should make sure he continues to form himself within the four pillars of formation: Spiritual, Human, Intellectual and Pastoral. Though there are components of all four in each activity, a balance of all is needed.
Spiritual Formation is a life long task for all Christians. As leaders in Christian communities, deacons must be attentive to their spiritual formation. Deacons, by virtue of the Order, have committed themselves to prayer, whether that is Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours or other liturgical and devotional moments.
As disciples of the Lord and called forth from the community, deacons should embrace a simplicity and generosity of life. One’s lifestyle of simplicity coincides with the principles of Christian stewardship. Deacons grow in simplicity of lifestyle through regular and prayerful reflection on their lives.
Each deacon should have a Spiritual Director with whom he meets regularly to both challenge and encourage his journey of discipleship. The director can further one’s call to simplicity and prayer. The Division of Clergy Personnel maintains a list of available Spiritual Directors.
Spiritual renewal is fundamental to the full realization of the diaconal call to service and ministry. Retreats play a significant role in this renewal process. Deacons are to participate in an annual retreat to renew their faith and their commitment to ministry.
The Deacon Personnel Board of the Archdiocese of Baltimore will sponsor retreats annually for deacons. Deacons must participate in at least one Archdiocesan sponsored Deacon Retreat every third year. Participation in the Archdiocesan sponsored retreat does not preclude participation in other retreat opportunities.
Accountability for deacon retreat participation is the responsibility of each deacon. Every deacon is personally responsible to fulfill his annual retreat obligation as well as his required participation in the Archdiocesan sponsored retreat every third year.
In an effort to insure accountability toward these requirements, the Deacon Personnel Board’s Annual Information Form will ask deacons to indicate their retreat activity from the past year.
Human Formation aims for the fuller development of one’s humanity so that the deacon’s humanity can be a bridge for communicating Jesus. Of special importance is the capacity to relate to others which is fundamental for a person called to be in service for the community. The whole being is involved in formation including the body, mind and heart: 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.
It is paramount that one has a sense of self and how he is perceived. When individuals are able to see and appreciate their impact in various situations, they can learn from that knowledge. Each deacon will have a periodic review of his ministry as set forth by the Division of Clergy Personnel which will facilitate the process for the deacon.
Each deacon must have an annual physical to assure that his health is maintained. Neglect of physical health compromises ministry. Deacons as public persons representing the Church should keep themselves fit since the body is a ‘temple to the Lord.’ When one’s lifestyle is not in moderation, it is difficult to call others to such balance of life.
A deacon must keep himself apprised of the many dimensions of life that affect the people he serves. Life is full of many factors well beyond our control but having knowledge of them allows the deacon to minister more effectively. Some of these are: anthropology (gender differences); sociology (demographics of the area); fine arts (expressions of human experience); sciences (shape whole communities).
A deacon’s attendance at events to which deacons are invited should be a priority. Those events include but not limited to convocations, day of recollection, attendance at deacon funerals, ordinations, Chrism Mass, etc.
Convocation/Day of Recollection
It is part of the meaning of ordination that a man is brought into the ordo or body of ordained ministers. A communal element is thus essential to ordination and to the exercise of ordained ministry. The mutual support and fraternity of deacons are not just sociologically or psychologically useful; they are integral parts of the meaning of their vocation. [Canon 275.1] In an effort to foster this diaconal ministry to one another, the Deacon Personnel Board will annually sponsor events which further enrich the deacon and the deacon community. These gatherings are designed to provide time for common prayer, fellowship, support, reflection on and celebration of the call to diaconal ministry.
The deacon, by nature of the Sacrament of Orders, is a visible sign of Christ’s Presence. He should be attentive and present to the community even beyond the times the community is gathered for liturgy. These events could include funeral rituals, youth events, social events, fund raising, etc.
By virtue of their ordination deacons and priests share in the sacrament of Holy Orders. Therefore deacons should take advantage of the times the presbyterate of the Archdiocese is gathered with them: such as ordinations, Chrism Mass, educational opportunities, area clergy meetings, etc.
Deacons should take advantage of opportunities to exercise diaconal leadership and presence beyond the ministry site. The deacon is a leaven within society whether at work or in the local community. The deacon may want to be a chaplain with the police or fire department. He may want to be on boards of local social outreach endeavors. [Canon 278.3]
Theology has often been described as ‘faith seeking understanding.’ The knowledge gained through study and the practical wisdom that comes from experience combine to enhance a deacon’s effectiveness in ministry.
Deacons must make themselves available to the many offerings of the Office or local institutions of learning as well as internet learning. Throughout their ministry, deacons must revisit the fundamental assumptions of faith to reflect upon them anew.
Life experiences continue to change with the world’s new insights into moral and theological issues. Deacons must keep themselves well read beyond their initial formation to know what are the questions of today regarding medical moral issues, ecumenism, social justice teachings, etc. Deacons should avail themselves of the many periodicals, journals and publications that pertain to their ministry.
Pastoral Formation entails the development of skills and competencies that enable deacons to serve their people 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. Those skills include but are not limited to: Preaching, Presiding at Liturgy, Proclaiming the Word, Pastoral Counseling, Catechesis, Learning Foreign Language skills, Conflict Resolution, Parish Management. Each active deacon should schedule ten hours of the expected 20 hours per year in a program or event that furthers his competency in one or more of the above areas of pastoral ministry.
Each active deacon will have available to him an annual allowance from his ministry site to afford ongoing formation. The amount is determined by the Division of Clergy Personnel and shared with each deacon and ministry site. This money is in addition to any reimbursement entitled to the deacon for exercising his ministry such as mileage reimbursement.
Each retired deacon is to receive the same allowance from the ministry site from which he retired if he continues to minister or reside there. If the retired deacon is providing ministry to a different ministry site, the deacon should ask that ministry site to budget for the annual allowance. In the event that either ministry site is unavailable to budget the money, the Division of Clergy Personnel will subsidize the deacon to any Archdiocesan sponsored event.