The purpose of the Diaconate Formation Program is to help a man, along with his wife if married, discern his call to the Permanent Diaconate and form him for diaconal service to the parishes in the Diocese of Rapid City. The program is based on the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States and includes the four dimensions or specific areas in formation —human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral.
The formation program consists of four phases:
- Inquiry – a period of learning more about the Permanent Diaconate
- Aspirancy – a year of discernment which includes monthly 1-day gatherings and a retreat
- Candidacy – three years of formation with monthly 2-day gatherings, ministry assignments, and an annual retreat
- Post-Ordination – three years of quarterly, 1-day gatherings
Diaconate Formation Application Requirements
The following are considered the minimum requirements for candidates applying for admission to the Permanent Diaconate Formation Program.
- The successful completion of the first year of the Lay Ministry Formation Program or the Veritatis Splendor Institute (VSI) program with the expectation to successfully complete the entire program.
- Minimum age for application to the program is 30 years, with the understanding a man must be 35 years of age before he can be ordained.
- Maximum age for application to the program is 60 years, with the understanding the man will be ordained before reaching 65 years of age.
- The man must have been a member of the Catholic Church for five years.
- The man, or couple if married, must be registered at a parish in the Diocese of Rapid City.
- The couple must be in a valid Catholic marriage. They must have been married for five years, and the marriage must be stable.
- If the couple has young children, the family will be required to undergo a psychological evaluation to determine the strength of the family bond and to determine the ability of the family to adjust to the demands of the formation program and the demands of ordained ministry.
- A deacon couple will be assigned as a mentor couple. This couple will report to the Deacon Review Board on the progress of the candidate couple.
- A man who has been divorced and has not received an annulment will not be accepted into the deacon formation program.
- A man who has been divorced and has received an annulment and has not remarried may apply for admittance into the program. He will not be ordained sooner than five years from the date the annulment was granted.
- A man who has been divorced and has received an annulment and remarried must be married in the church for at least five years before applying to the deacon program.
- The wife is expected to fully participate in the formation program.
- The couple must have shown some involvement in the church, e.g. parish council, Lector, Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, CCD teacher; active in Cursillo, Marriage Encounter, Beginning Experience or some other church related organization.
- The couple must demonstrate an ability to work with the pastor, parish team and other parish groups. They must be able to resolve conflicts with all parish groups.
- If there is a history of chemical dependency on the part of the man or wife, the individual must be a non user for two years.
- The individual must be involved with some support group, i.e. AA, prayer group, etc.
- If the person applying is an adult child of an alcoholic, he must have have recognized and addressed in some manner the issues related to the alcohol dependency which affected his life.
- The man and his wife will have a personal interview with their pastor, the Director or Assistant Director of the Diaconate Formation Program and a deacon couple.
- The man and his wife will take the psychological exams required for entering the program, i.e. MMPI and Myers-Briggs.
- A statement of health from the man’s doctor is required.
- A person applying to the Diaconate Formation program is asked to give assurance that if he is ordained he will be able to serve in the diocese from three to five years. Those who cannot give this assurance will be asked to join the Lay Ministry Program.
- A person who wants to enter the Diaconate Formation program but cannot be sure that he will be able to remain in the diocese long enough to complete the program will not be accepted as a candidate for the diaconate. He will be asked to join the Lay Ministry Program.
- The couple must commit themselves to be present for the scheduled classes, days of recollection and retreats provided for the members of the formation program.
The man and his wife must have a clear understanding of the following:
- If married, he may not remarry if his wife dies after he is ordained.
- If single, he may not marry after ordination. He must be in the program a minimum of four years before he can apply for ordination.
- In general a deacon cannot expect a salary for his work. He can expect to be reimbursed for his expenses. The man and his wife must have a spiritual director and meet with him or her on a regular basis.
- The board of the deacon program has established the following priority of responsibility for those in the program. Family responsibilities come first, job responsibilities come second, ministry and/or formation responsibilities come third.
- The board will consider any requests for exceptions to the minimum requirements and will make a recommendation to the bishop.