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June 25, 2020

Diocese Announces New Permanent Diaconate Formation Program to begin in 2021

Deacons in the class of 2010 prostrate themselves before the altar during the Rite of Ordination.

Deacons in the class of 2010 prostrate themselves before the altar during the Rite of Ordination.

Bishop Ronald W. Gainer has announced that a new class of the Permanent Diaconate Program for the Diocese will begin at the start of next year.

The bishop extended his invitation to pastors to nominate men who wish to consider the Permanent Diaconate.

Approximately 20 men – and their spouses, if they are married – will be admitted to a year of aspirancy (exploration and discernment) beginning in January of 2021. The program will last a total of five years.

Participants will be selected taking into account projected needs of the parishes, ministries, and geography of the Diocese.

Nominees must be faithful Catholic men, between the ages of 35 and 62, Catholic for at least three years, in a valid and stable marriage of at least seven years (if married), and known to the pastor of their parish. In addition, they must possess an undergraduate degree, or its equivalent, be able to undertake graduate level studies, and be gainfully employed.

Applications for the Permanent Diaconate will be accepted until September 15, 2020. A rigorous interview process will lead to admission to the program, which is anticipated for 2021-2026. Applications must be obtained from the pastor after an applicant’s initial discussion with him; they cannot be obtained directly from any Diocesan office.

The Diaconate is an order of the Catholic clergy open to married and single men. As such, the Permanent Deacon is a member of the Church’s hierarchy, who is configured to Christ the Servant through the Sacrament of Holy Orders.

In the Diocese, there have been three previous classes of deacons ordained for service: 1978, 1983 and 2010. The 42 men in the first program were ordained by Bishop Joseph Daley at St. Patrick Cathedral in Harrisburg in June 1978. A second class of 28 was ordained by Bishop William Keeler in June 1983, and a third class of 23 men was ordained by Bishop Kevin Rhoades in May 2010.

The current class of 35 candidates, whose formation program began in 2015, is expected to be ordained on Sept. 12 of this year.

Virgilio Centenera, a candidate in the class that will be ordained this fall, recalled when he applied to the program.

Deacons assist with the Holy Oils during the Diocesan Chrism Mass in this file photo.

Deacons assist with the Holy Oils during the Diocesan Chrism Mass in this file photo.

“I can recall as I sent in my application for the diaconate I wasn’t really sure what lied ahead, but as always I put it all in God’s hands. As I’ve learned over the years, whenever I do that I am blessed in ways I couldn’t even imagine,” he said.

Reflecting on the program, he said “These five years have allowed me to learn my Catholic faith in a unique way that has allowed me to appreciate its wisdom, its beauty, and the manner in which our faith is an expression of the truth of our lives. In doing so, it has opened my eyes to view the world through a different lens, a lens which will provide answers yet to be asked. Secondly, the process has allowed me to form bonds with a special group of men, a group that I can truly call brothers. This special bond is one that I hope will form the foundation for the brotherhood I join through ordination.”

The word “deacon” comes from the Greek word diakonos, meaning “servant” or “minister.” Becoming a deacon is a vocation, that is, a calling from God.

A deacon is an ordained minister of the Catholic Church. They can perform a variety of roles in the Church. During Mass, as Ministers of the Word, they can proclaim the Gospel, preach and teach in the name of the Church. As ministers of Sacrament, deacons can baptize, lead the faithful in prayer, witness marriages, and conduct wake and funeral services. As ministers of Charity, deacons are leaders in identifying the needs of others and working to match the Church’s resources to meet those needs. Deacons are to be a servant in a servant-Church.

(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness

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