Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Director of Deacon Formation outlines new program; to begin this fall
the Inland Register
(From the June 12, 2008 edition of the Inland Register)
At a special information session held at Spokane’s Assumption Parish May 18, the Diocese of Spokane took an important step toward the formation of more permanent deacons for the service of the local Church.
Father Michael Savelesky, pastor of Assumption and director of the diocese’s Deacon Formation Program, addressed a gathering of interested men and their spouses. He was assisted by Deacon John Sicilia, Director of Deacons, and Father James Kuhns, a retired priest of the diocese.
“The formation of the deacon is an on-going process of deepening personal conversion to the way of Jesus and enriching knowledge and skills placed at the service of others,” Father Kuhns told attendees. “The program features four intertwined dimensions: human, spiritual, academic and pastoral – all of which focus on preparing the deacon for the formal ministries of Word, Liturgy and Charity.”
Father Savelesky explained that individuals would be accepted into the formation program through a step-by-step application process. Applicants first must be approved to participate in a five-month long Inquirer Phase, which provides participants with general information about the importance of lay ministry in the Church, the history and identity of diaconal ministry, and lays the foundation for further formation.
An additional five months will constitute an Aspirant Phase. Individuals accepted into this introductory stage of formation will undergo rather intense personal screening.
A third phase – Candidacy – will provide three years of formal formation for diaconal ministry.
The over-riding goal of the first year, said Father Savelesky, is discernment of a genuine vocation to diaconal ministry.
“Pursuit of the diaconate must be motivated by more than a mere desire to help or to do,” he said. “It certainly cannot be motivated by a desire for clerical position and influence.
“As with a vocation to the priesthood, the diaconate cannot be a platform for championing personal causes, ideology and piety,” said the Formation Director. “The deacon in his person is a sacrament of service, a living bridge between the marketplace and the mission of the Church. All the baptized are called to serve, but not all are called to be this sacrament.”
The formation program must be congruent with guidelines promulgated in 2005 by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, and must be at least four years in length.
During formation, every participant will be assigned a spiritual director to assist him in the discernment of his vocation. The participant also will consult with a mentor to assist him with practical matters associated with service and ministry in the Church.
Those ordained must be at least 35 years of age or (normally) no older than 70. If a participant is married, his wife must indicate her support at every stage of application. She also is strongly encouraged to participate extensively in the actual formation program.
The revised Deacon Formation program will begin in the autumn of 2008. In the meantime, a screening committee composed of priests, deacons, deacon wives, other laity, and a psychologist will address the critically important task of accepting participants into the various phases of the program. A formation team, separate from the screening committee, will oversee the program as it progresses.
Some 50 men have expressed interest in the Deacon Formation Program, according to Father Savelesky. Screening candidates and limiting the number of program participants (if only for practical reasons) will be a challenge, he told the group.
In a letter sent later to all participants in the May 18 meeting, Father Savelesky wrote, “It goes without saying that not all who apply can be accepted, given the limitations of resources, space availability, formation techniques, etc. In addition, the pastoral and ministerial needs of the Diocese also will influence the selection process. The service of God’s people is the vocation of all the baptized; the inability to meet criteria or to receive an eventual call to ordination to the diaconate should never be interpreted as rejection by the Church to the exercise of that fundamental call.”
A Deacon Formation Program manual is available – as well as an application form for the Inquirer Phase of the program – through Father Savelesky’s e-mail: DFP@dioceseofspokane.org.
Applications for the Inquirer Phase are due Aug. 1, 2008.