PROVIDENCE — Do you have what it takes to answer the call for a few good men who are discerning a vocation to serve in the permanent diaconate?
Bishop Thomas J. Tobin has authorized the recruitment and formation of a new class of permanent deacons for the Diocese of Providence.
Among the duties they perform in assisting bishops and priests, deacons may proclaim the Gospel, preach and teach in the name of the Church, baptize, witness marriages and conduct wake and funeral services.
Deacon Noel Edsall, director of the permanent diaconate for the diocese, made a presentation to Bishop Tobin at the beginning of 2020 — even before the most recent class of deacons was ordained — to prepare for the recruitment of a new group of candidates for a subsequent class.
“I thought we would need another class,” Deacon Edsall said, noting that the median age of the 61 currently active deacons in the diocese is 68 years old.
“Because of the aging of the diaconate I could foresee in the next four or five years a loss of 20 deacons,” he added.
Deacon Edsall said that permanent deacons have enriched the diocese by offering their lives in service in more than 80 parishes, hospitals, correctional facilities, nursing homes, outreach ministries to the homeless and other charitable ministries.
When the pandemic began last year the discussion of forming a new class was shelved due to the health restrictions and closures imposed. On May 12, Deacon Edsall offered a presentation to the Council of Priests on the need to recruit a new class of deacons.
The Council supported the proposal after hearing his presentation and Bishop Tobin agreed, authorizing the recruitment and formation of a new class.
But even though information nights have been scheduled over the next four weeks for those interested in becoming a deacon, the actual formation won’t start until 2022.
“Given the length of the application process, we won’t start formation for the new applicants until next year because the process itself takes about eight-to-nine months,” Deacon Edsall said.
“In the criteria listed, they need the permission of their wives; if single they have to be living a lifestyle that reflects the Church.”
The order of the diaconate is an ancient order of the Church re-instituted as a permanent office by Pope Paul VI at the suggestion of the Second Vatican Council. While every priest is ordained a deacon as a necessary step towards ordination to the priesthood, ordination to the diaconate does not have to be transitory. Many are ordained to what is called the permanent diaconate and serve as deacons for the rest of their lives.
The Diocese of Providence reestablished the diaconate with the ordination of the first class of deacons in 1976.
On October 20, 2020, the diocese ordained its most recent class, consisting of nine men, to the permanent diaconate after they completed the required four-year formation program.
“We’ve had classes since 1976, with more than 160 deacons ordained over the past 45 years,” Deacon Edsall said.
After 1976, the diocese ordained classes of permanent deacons in 1977, 1979, 1982, 1994, 1998, 1999, 2002, 2013 and 2020.
The Diaconate Office assists candidates in their formation through a four-year program of academic instruction, spiritual development, human development and practical pastoral experience.
Although a college degree is not necessary to enter the program, a viable candidate must be able to master materials presented at the collegiate or graduate school level.
Other requirements include that a candidate be a practicing Catholic layman who will be at least 35 years of age at the time of ordination and be not older than 61 on January 1 in the year of recruitment.
A candidate must also have a high school diploma or equivalent, be a fully initiated Catholic in good standing with the Church with a familiarity with Catholic Theology. They should be actively involved in ministry at either the parish or diocesan level.
If the candidate is married, they are required to be in a stable marriage of at least five years (at the time of application) and must have the support and agreement of his wife to pursue a diaconal vocation.
If the candidate is unmarried (being single or a widower), they must be living in a lifestyle consistent with the call to the ordained ministry in the celibate state within the Catholic Church.
Five information nights have been scheduled for men to obtain information on the permanent diaconate. The first is scheduled for June 14 at 7 p.m. at St. Barnabas Church, Portsmouth. The next session will take place on June 16 at 7 p.m. at St. Patrick Church, Providence, followed by information nights on June 21 at 7 p.m. at St. Bernard Church in North Kingstown, June 23 at 7 p.m. at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul — where the session will be held in the cathedral’s basement hall — and June 19 at 10 a.m. at St. Joseph Church in Woonsocket.
For more information, contact Deacon Noel Edsall at 401-278-4604, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attend one of the upcoming June 2021 Information Sessions,
visit https://www.dioceseofprovidence.org/deacon-formation-program to complete and submit your registration.