Aspirancy and Candidacy: Formation Program Document
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.
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.”
“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.
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:
Pastoral Formation includes: