Future formation to have ‘formal link’ to seminary

| September 23, 2010 | 0 Comments

Following the ordination of eight men as permanent deacons Sept. 25 for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the next group of men to be or­dained in 2015 will usher in a new era of deacon formation and ministry.

Although much of the program presented by the new Institute for Dia­co­nate Formation will be similar to the formation that has been in place since 1973, diaconate formation will now have a “formal link” to the St. Paul Seminary, said Joe Michalak, diaconate formation director.

“We will have greater access to faculty resources, and we will be able to utilize the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute as a di­rect pre-requisite,” Michalak said. The changes are a move to fully im­ple­ment the U.S. bishops’ 2004 norms for the diaconate.

Key changes in the formation program include:

» The diaconate formation program will in­crease from four years to five years.

» Qualified candidates will have the option of working toward a master’s degree while in formation, al­though the formation program is not a degree program.

» Men will be ordained while still in formation, so they will learn hom­iletics, rites and pastoral care in a more structured and reflective way in a parish, similar to the men pre­par­ing for priesthood.

One order of diaconate

During this past year of preparation, deacon candidates and seminarians went through all the canonical rites together, Michalak said.

“There is only one order of diaconate. The rite of ordination is the same, whether it is permanent or transitional deacons,” he noted. “The church’s preference is that they are ordained together.”

The obvious advantage, Michalak said, is that the men get to know each other, and establish mutual respect and a greater sense of collaboration.

That collaboration will be important in the future as the archdiocese rolls out its strategic plan, he noted.

“I think [deacons] will have a more visible, varied and responsible role,” he said. “A deacon is a bishop’s man — not just a helper to the priest — who is assigned wherever the bishop discerns that there is a pastoral need. That may be in a parish or not in a parish.”

About 30 men are now in the Arch­­bishop Harry J. Flynn Cate­che­tical Institute because they are discerning a diaconate vocation, Mich­a­­lak said.

Next fall will be the first revised aspirancy program, and he anticipates a large class.

He attributes the interest to two things: the program has not taken in anyone for three years and an entire generation of people have grown up seeing deacons in ministry and are attracted to the vocation, himself included.

A vocation of his own

Michalak said he first spoke with Archbishop Flynn 15 years ago about entering the diaconate but, instead, the archbishop asked Mic­ha­lak to oversee the program.

Over the years of teaching and help­ing form more than 50 deacons, Michalak said he has been humbled and inspired by the men, their wives and families.

“I’ve come to fall in love with this vocation,” he said.

Ordination has an important add­ed dimension for Michalak. “To be ordained is to re­ceive a sacrament and, now, there is sacramental grace for living the role and doing what I’ve been doing at a different level,” he said.

Because the bishops’ new norms require that the formation director be a deacon or priest, Michalak also will be able to for­mally receive an ecclesial ap­point­ment after his Sept. 25 ordination as a deacon.

For more information about the new Institute for Diaconate Forma­tion, men and their wives should attend the upcoming four-part diaconate inquiry series at the St. Paul Seminary. Times and dates are: 6:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays, Oct. 26, Nov. 2, and Nov. 9, and 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Nov. 20.

The series, which details the application process, the program and the theology will be repeated in the spring. More  information will soon be available on the St. Paul Seminary website, http://www.stthomas.edu/spssod.

Permanent diaconate ordination

Time: 10 a.m.
Date: Saturday, Sept. 25
Place: Cathedral of St. Paul

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Category: Deacons