Bishop Reopens Permanent Diaconate Program
October 18, 2005
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It is with great joy that I write to you to announce the reopening of our Permanent Diaconate Formation Program. We began our first Permanent Diaconate Program in 1975. Since then we have been blessed with many fine permanent deacons. The diocese has greatly benefited by their ministry in our various parishes. Presently we have more than 45 deacons working in 47 parishes. In 1985, a moratorium was declared by Bishop John R. Keating based on the fundamental question of need. Now, however, a need has been demonstrated and is clearly present.
Much study and evaluation has been done to refine and improve our program. We are again accepting applicants for the Permanent Diaconate Formation Program. Starting this month of October through January of 2006, we will be accepting applications for the aspirancy part of the Permanent Diaconate Pogram.
You may have had the experience of a deacon serving in your parish who was a man in the last phase of formation toward the priesthood. This man was a "transitional" deacon. His ministry as a deacon was viewed as a preparation for his future priestly ministry. It was a training period from which he would progress toward his permanent commitment as an ordained priest.
The permanent diaconate is not a stepping stone to the priesthood. It is an authentic ordained ministry which completes the reality of how Christ is sacramentally present to the Church in leadership and in service. The permanent deacon is ordained through the Sacrament of Holy Orders. He receives his mandate to be a public witness to Christ by virtue of his ordination. This service is seen under the threefold aspect of the diaconate ministry: by proclaiming the Word, by involvement in the sacred liturgy and by charity.
Usually, the permanent deacon remains in his secular career. Since most permanent deacons are married, he carries forward into the ordained ministry his family and civic obligations which he had previously assumed as a baptized lay person. The deacon?s role is to bring the human and spiritual needs of the world to the forefront of the Church for her generous and healing response. He also takes the Church?s witness to God?s kingdom into the world where the deacon works, socializes and participates in the community?s interests and activities.
As a clergyman, the permanent deacon shares a special relationship to me, the diocesan bishop. He takes his assignment from my office, and he is ultimately accountable to me. In his assignment, he may be a minister for the poor, a director of marriage preparation, to name but a few. Through the specific ministry to which he is assigned, he extends the bishop?s care for the whole local church in a particular area of activity. Thus, in his ministry, the permanent deacon is an extension of the bishop?s ministry to the diocese. In addition, deacons work in conjunction with the priests of the diocese. The diaconate is not a remedy for the current shortage of priests. It is a complement to the priesthood.
I call on all the faithful to pray that men who sense God?s call to this ordained ministry will respond openly and generously. Informative brochures and a time line chart will be distributed throughout the diocese. A series of information nights will also be held in various parishes. Forms for those interested in the first phase, the aspirancy phase, are available on line and can be requested through your parish. Filling out these forms begins the process by which men will be gradually formed for this special and needed ministry within our church.
Many different sets of hands with different skills, all united in one faith, are needed to carry out Christ?s mission in our world today. The permanent diaconate will provide the Diocese of Arlington with many hands to join with trained laity, religious and priests in the work of the Lord?s vineyard. Encourage qualified men to inquire further, so that they may discern God?s call and respond with loving trust.
Faithfully in Christ,
Most Reverend Paul S. Loverde
Bishop of Arlington
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