Fifteen men will be ordained as permanent deacons of the Diocese of Oakland on Nov. 16 at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland.
After ordination, Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, will assign each to a parish and to a Charity and Justice ministry.
The formation of a permanent deacon is an almost-five-year process. It is the bishop who calls for a new class of deacons. After that, information meetings are set up in different parishes in different parts of the dioceses, usually after Sunday Masses. These meetings are advanced in parish bulletins and in The Catholic Voice, to invite men who might be interested in learning about becoming a permanent deacon.
There's a lot of ground to cover. By the end of the session, the men will have a good idea of what to expect in the discernment process.
"They know it's going to be a strenuous program," said Father George Alengadan, director of priests' ongoing formation and deacon formation for the Diocese of Oakland. There will be homework, intellectual work and pastoral work, Father Alendgadan said. Classes are held every other Saturday. There are also canonical considerations: Candidates must be properly married in the Catholic Church.
Father Alengagdan, who also serves as pastor of St. Joseph Basilica in Alameda, has directed deacon formation for the past seven years. The Class of 2013 is the first he has seen all the way through the process.
The information sessions are followed by six months of discernment workshops. In these workshops, the vocation of a deacon is explored. About 80 men enter this part of the process. Medical and psychiatric evaluations are completed.
"We are hoping that they can put in at least 10 years of service," said Father Alengadan.
During this time, some men will decide not to continue, finding the program too demanding, or not what they were seeking.
For those who would like to continue, application is made. The application will include the recommendation of his pastor; wife's consent; consent of adult children; and letters of recommendation from co-workers and others who know him.
Applications are reviewed by the Committee on Admissions and Scrutinies, which makes recommendations to the bishop. The bishop makes ultimate decisions for every phase.
For those selected to continue, the three-year period of candidacy begins. Over these years, "they become a lector, an acolyte, then a deacon," Father Alengadan said.
At every stage, Father Alengadan said, there's evaluation from multiple sources including peers and the formation adviser, who is a deacon. There's also feedback from the candidate's wife and his pastor's evaluation.
Candidates are placed in two internships during this phase. During the Charity and Justice internship, under supervision, the candidate serves in hospital, prison or grief ministry. Candidates have also been placed with Maryknoll and Catholic Charities. Supervisors provide feedback.
After that, candidates are placed for a one year liturgical internship in a parish other than their own, where they are supervised by the pastor or a deacon.
Among the projects they take on is an in-depth study of a parish, in which they go to all groups and get an idea, what makes it.
The candidates work with a spiritual adviser, and also meet in small groups once or twice a month.
After ordination, the deacon becomes a Minister of the Word, Sacrament, Charity and Justice.
As a minister of the Word, he can proclaim the Gospel and preach the homily. As a minister of the sacrament, he can baptize, perform the rite of marriage and preside at vigil and graveside services. He can assist at Mass.
As a minister of Charity and Justice, he may serve as a hospital or prison chaplain.
When asked what are the attributes of a deacon, Father Alengadan said to look at the meaning of word, which is Greek for service.
"He's a servant; the servant model leader," he said. "That becomes very powerful: serving as minister of Word and Sacrament in the parish; minister of charity in the hospitals and prisons, where they need his help."
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