What is involved in becoming a Permanent Deacon?

There is an intense period of discernment and formation for those considering life as a deacon. Aspirants will normally receive four years of personal, spiritual, theological and ministerial formation prior to ordination.

The first of the four years normally spent in formation for the permanent diaconate in the Archdiocese of Sydney is a prop├Ždeutic period. While there will be some initial theological formation during this period, the principal emphasis is on discernment of the aspirant's call. Each aspirant will have a mentor, a spiritual director and a priest or deacon who supervises his pastoral placement. The aspirants will also be encouraged to be a community of support for each other and will take part in joint meetings and prayer with the Formation Director and other members of his team. During this period the aspirants will begin (or continue) regular spiritual direction and mentoring, be introduced to (or encouraged to continue) praying the Liturgy of the Hours and other forms of prayer and begin their pastoral placement.

Aspirants will normally obtain a theology degree from an approved Catholic institution. In some cases an alternative academic program might be determined (e.g. where the candidate already has theological qualifications and may only need to fill the 'gaps' in a few areas of study).

Due to family and work commitments, academic classes, formation meetings and pastoral placements will as far as possible take place in the evenings, weekends and/or holiday time and in some cases distance learning or on-line modes will be used.

Normally during his second year in formation an aspirant will, with the consent of the Formation Director, petition the Archbishop to be installed in the office of lectors. Normally during his third year in formation, he will, with the consent of the Formation Director, petition the Archbishop to be installed in the office of acolyte (if he is not one already). Normally, in his fourth year in formation an aspirant will, with the consent of his wife and the Formation Director, formally petition the Archbishop for 'candidacy' and ordination. The Formation Director will certify that all the requirements for ordination have been met. Having accepted an aspirant for the ministries of lector, acolyte or deacon the Archbishop will himself confer or appoint an auxiliary bishop to confer, that office or sacrament upon the aspirant. An ordinand would make a retreat of at least five days before ordination.

Each aspirant's progress in all four aspects of formation will be reviewed at the end of each year by the Formation Director and those concerned with diaconal formation, including mentors, pastors and professors; a report on this will be made to the Committee for comment and recommendations to the Archbishop. The Archbishop will normally meet with each aspirant at least once each year. He is free at any time to discontinue a person's aspirancy/candidacy for the permanent diaconate.

Formation of and support for deacons' wives

The wives of aspirants will be asked to participate in some aspects of the formation program jointly with their husbands and in certain sessions specifically for wives (and family members). It is hoped thereby that they will better understand their husband's vocation, be more willing and able to support it, and explore their own vocation.

The formation years for a deacon will require dedicating time and space to studies and assignments that would formerly have been available to the family. It is not just the husband who feels this burden but the whole family, and this will be taken into consideration.

"Just 'putting up with' inconvenience is hardly enough. In a good marriage the husband and wife will be sharing partners and so it only seems right that the wife would take an interest in the studies, read some of the articles and discuss them with her husband. The husband would do well to include his wife (and occasionally his children, according to their age) in his journey by sharing with them insights he may have that relate to them. I know that we did this and it was a great help to my husband and a renewal process for me."
A Sydney Deacon's wife

No candidate will be advanced to ordination without the full consent of his wife. Wives are asked to keep in contact with the Director and to be honest with him if they think the demands of their husband's formation or later ministry or other matters pose some danger to the well-being of the candidate, his family or his relationships.

Appropriate efforts will also be directed towards educating the children of the aspirants about the ministry their father is being formed for.