Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

New report details progress of diocese’s deacon formation program

the Inland Register

(From the March 18, 2010 edition of the Inland Register)

According to a written report submitted to both the Deacon Council and Presbyteral Council by Father Michael Savelesky, director of the diocese’s Deacon Formation Program, 19 men continue to make solid progress toward eventual ordination to the Order of Deacons.

The four-year formation program takes place at Spokane’s Assumption Parish, where Father Savelesky is pastor. This coming June will mark the half-way mark.

Normally, after the initial year of vocational discernment, the men in formation move from status as “inquirers” to that of “candidates.” Formation officials have decided to await the arrival of a new bishop for the Diocese of Spokane, because candidacy initiates a growing relationship with the diocesan bishop.

With candidacy each of the men in formation will be assigned a deacon or priest mentor to assist them with understanding the practicalities of diaconal ministry.

Following guidelines published by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), the program places emphasis on human, spiritual, academic and pastoral formation.

The focus this year has been on understanding the development of Sacred Scripture and its use in preaching and other liturgical settings.

The Spokane program’s report observes that formation continues on all levels. Every participant is required to be faithful to regular personal spiritual direction whose primary purpose is discernment of vocation. “The value of concentrating on discernment and personal identity/assessment in the first year of formation as called for in the guidelines has proved to be invaluable,” the report reads.

Critical elements in those early months of formation have been the administration of a Profiles of Ministry instrument which helped the men identify their preferred styles of service and interpersonal relationship. More importantly, a mental health professional and a psychologist have administered the Minnesota Muliphasic-II Personality Inventory (MMPI-II) to each of the men. In addition to screening for pathologies, the instrument also has provided insight into areas of personal growth and development.

Each of the men (and their wives, too, if they chose to do so) have been given the opportunity to write and present a Vocational Autobiography. In past cycles of the Deacon Formation Program this project has proved to be invaluable for participants in strengthening both a sense of vocation as well as renewed commitment to the Sacrament of Matrimony.

A special team has collaborated with Bishop Skylstad to identify and screen applicants for the Deacon Formation Program. The team has continued to monitor the progress of each of the men. With its primary task now completed, the Screening Committee now morphs into a Formation Team, which, according to the report, likely will include mentors for the men in formation. The original Screening Committee was comprised of Fathers Savelesky and James Kuhns; Deacons John Sicilia, Gonzalo “Chalo” Martínez, and Scott Brockway; and laity Laurie Stewart, Joan Leads, and Martin Weber.

Team membership will change in light of the new responsibilities of the group.

According to the report, eventual ordination to the Order of Deacon will come only after a demonstration of readiness on the part of the individual. No group ordination is anticipated. Although the program engages a class or group of individuals in formation over a four-year period, actual academic, liturgical and pastoral readiness are other matters, Father Savelesky said.

Even as the program moves its participants toward ordination after another two years of formation, interest in the focus of future programs has been made at the two Councils which received the report. A particular need is the identification of potential inquirers into the ministry of deacon from among those living in the rural parts of the diocese. In those areas there is unique need for ordained ministry to anchor the identity and life of the parish community.

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