What is a Catholic Deacon?
Deacons, by virtue of their sacramental ordination and through their various ministries, are called to be servants in a servant- Church. They are dedicated to the people of God in communion with the bishop and his priests, in the service of the Word, Liturgy and charity. Deacons are a sacramental sign of Christ the servant in the workplace, in the marketplace and in the family. They are a unique witness and official presence of the church within the broader community. A Deacon is ordained by the Bishop to work together with the priests and lay leaders of the Church. He is an enabler who encourages all baptised to use their gifts in the service of Christ.
What does a Deacon do?
As ministers of the Word, deacons proclaim the Gospel, preach and teach in the name of the Church. As ministers of Sacrament, deacons baptise, lead the faithful in prayer, witness marriages and conduct funeral services. As ministers of Charity, deacons identify the needs of others, as marshall the Church’s resources to meet those needs. Whatever specific functions a deacon performs, they flow from his sacramental identity. In other words, it is not WHAT a deacon does, but WHO a deacon is, that is important.
Become a Deacon
The applicant for the diaconate in the Diocese of Broken Bay should be a man who:
- Is committed to and lives out of Gospel values
- Has shown leadership qualities in parish/Diocesan ministry
- Is no younger than 35 and no older than 60 to enter the program
- Is identified by his parish community as a person of service, values and justice
- If married, is in a stable happy marriage and whose wife and children support him in pursuing the diaconate
- Is capable of giving serious attention and time to theological study, spiritual formation and ministry
- Has a stable work history
- Has a positive attitude towards the Church and is flexible in adapting to the future needs of the Church
- Is formally presented for the diaconate by his pastor who sees that he is mentored during the years of formation
To find out more about the Permanent Diaconate, contact:
Fr Jim McKeon
Ph: 02 9876 2853
Information for Enquirers
A Catholic layman who has received the sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation and Eucharist may discern a vocation to the diaconate. Such discernment takes place in the context of a mature prayer life and active involvement in the life of the Church.
To be accepted as a suitable aspirant and candidate for ordination, the enquirer will:
- Be a Catholic man of good moral character and mature faith who has shown a sense of vocation to service.
- Demonstrate prayerfulness and openness to further spiritual formation.
- Be at least thirty-five years of age and no older than sixty-five years of age at the time of ordination.
- Have a generous heart, and be already involved in parish ministry or other apostolic life. He will desire to serve in humility
- Have a sound knowledge of the Catholic faith and the intellectual capacity for theological study to a minimum level of Bachelor of Theology, and be able to make time for formation without detriment to his family and work commitments.
- Have good physical and mental health as demonstrated in a medical examination and psychological testing. He will have affective maturity appropriate to his age and good communication skills and relationship skills to enable him to relate well to others and to engage in ministerial relationships.
- If married, be married validly in the Church. He must have the active support of his wife in his diaconal journey. If not married, or widowed in the future, he must be willing to accept a lifelong commitment to the celibate state.
- Be able to financially support himself and his family.
- Be free from the impediments (serious physical, psychological or moral problems) listed in Canons 1041 & 1042
- Be committed to creating a safe Church for children and vulnerable people, and fulfil all civil and Church requirements for working with them.
The Enquiry & Application Process
A man who wants to find out more about the Permanent Diaconate in the Diocese of Broken Bay will first meet with the Vocation Director, Fr Sam French. The Vocation Director will assist the enquirer by offering him some information about prayerful discernment, and discussing with him the ways in which he senses a call to diaconate.
- The Vocation Director will then refer the enquirer to the Diaconate Formation Team: Fr Jim McKeon, Deacon Peter McCulloch and Ms Gail Gill. Members of the team will accompany the enquirer and his wife for a time as they explore their sense of calling, and whether that call might be to diaconate in Broken Bay Diocese. Reading material, spiritual direction, retreats, study and short courses might all be offered as helps to their discernment.
- When the enquirer and his wife sense that this calling is truly from God and that this is the right time in their lives to respond, the Diaconate Formation Team will invite them to make a formal application to the Bishop seeking entry into the formation program.
- The application process includes a number of elements
- a written autobiography
- a formal interview with a member of the team
- interviews and testing with a psychologist
- references from the enquirer’s parish priest and other respected people who know him well
- a written petition by the enquirer to the Bishop and a letter of support from his wife
- A number of documents will be sought including
- birth certificate
- evidence of permanent residency or citizenship if not born in Australia
- civil marriage certificate
- Police Check and Working With Children Check (WWCC),
- academic transcript if applicable
- baptism certificate
- confirmation certificate
- Church notification of marriage
- medical certificate stating fitness to work
- When all of these steps have been completed, the Diaconate Formation Team will make their recommendation to the Bishop, who will conduct the final interview with the enquirer and his wife.
Formation for Permanent Diaconate
“Those who aspire to the permanent diaconate are to be formed in the spiritual life and appropriately instructed in the fulfilment of the duties proper to that order” (Canon 236)
Formation, more than education or training, is the shaping of the whole person. It is a process, a journey, in which the man himself is the chief agent, accompanied by his wife, the Diaconate Formation Team, and the whole diocesan community, together being minsters of the Holy Spirit in the formation of a diaconal heart.
A deacon is a man who is sacramentally shaped to Jesus Christ, who came to serve, not to be served (Mark 10:45). The early Church quickly discovered the need for the selection of good men to be ministers in the name of Jesus Christ, and Acts 6 describes the origins of the diaconate.
In a complex world, increasingly resistant to faith in Jesus Christ and the message of the Gospel, deacons require a range of skills and dispositions to effectively communicate and represent Christ to the Church and to the world. The Four Domains of Formation may be described as follows:
Human Formation – growth in self-awareness and affective maturity;
Spiritual Formation – growth in prayerful intimacy with Jesus Christ;
Intellectual Formation – growth in theological understanding and reasoning;
Pastoral Formation – growth in capacity to minister with pastoral charity to fulfil the Church’s mission.
This formation takes time, and the instructions of the Australian Bishops and of the Vatican Congregations responsible for clergy call for four years of formation. Even for men who have extensive experience and have attained much of what could be asked for, this length of time in a formation process allows for virtues to be called forth, such as patience and humility, which are hallmarks of a diaconal heart.
Formation may take longer, if required, including the time needed to complete at least an Associate Degree in Christian Thought and Practice (which can then be extended into a Bachelor Degree in Theology). Formation should not be seen as a hoop to jump through, but as an enriching time which equips a deacon to stand shoulder to shoulder with their fellow clergy in the priesthood, whose formation has typically taken at least seven years.
Formation will be tailored to each man’s own prior experience and needs, and will include:
- monthly group sessions with other aspirants, wives, and the formation team
- monthly spiritual direction
- annual silent retreat
- monthly personal interview with a member of the formation team
- ongoing theological study
- weekly supervised ministry
- daily prayer life
- ongoing attentiveness to family life
- growing engagement with the life of the diocese
Wives of candidates are encouraged to take part in whatever aspects of formation to which they feel drawn.
All costs of formation are covered by the diocese, once the applicant is accepted by the bishop.
As pastor of the Diocese of Broken Bay, the bishop is responsible for the selection and formation of men for diaconate. He appoints others to assist him, and these are your contacts for enquiry and application.
Fr Sam French
Diaconate Formation Team:
Fr Jim McKeon
Dcn Peter McCulloch
0403 600 982
Ms Gail Gill