The formation program has academic, social, pastoral and spiritual elements all helping to “form” the man into the image of Christ the servant – not to be served but to serve. The formation program consists of four years leading to ordination and three years of continuing formation immediately following ordination.
Intellectual Formation – The roles of leadership in diaconal ministry require that the deacon be a knowledgeable and reliable witness to the Faith and an effective spokesman for the Church’s teaching (theology, church history, Sacred Scripture, homiletics, sacraments and Canon Law). The intellectual content of formation is presented by professors of the SJV Seminary and requires a considerable amount of home study time. Deacons must first understand and practice the essentials of Christian doctrine and life before they can communicate it to others.
Pastoral Formation – A comprehensive formation must relate all that is presented and all that is learned to Pastoral practice, which is the domain within which the future deacon will serve the Church. The man will be expected to move beyond his current and previous ministerial experiences into other areas, such as adult catechesis, religious education, youth ministry, social justice outreach, ecumenism, prison ministry and pastoral care of the sick, elderly or dying. He will also be trained in practical skills and abilities related to the proper and correct service at the altar and various other liturgical rites and settings. The aim is to form the man with a sensitivity of mind and heart to a particular and vocational discipleship of Christ, who came to serve and not be served
Spiritual Formation – The overarching goal of the whole formation program is to help the man develop an interior spiritual life and relationship with God that is stable, mature, docile, obedient, grounded in the faith of the Church, and both Trinitarian and Christocentric. The content of the spiritual formation gives the man a useful survey of Catholic spiritual traditions and a working familiarity with the writings of Saints, Doctors and Fathers of the Church. The primary intent is to foster an encounter with grace that leads to deeper conversion and greater self-offering to Christ and his Church. Each man will develop a holiness that will be the foundation of his life and his ministry.
Human Formation – Besides the intellectual, pastoral and spiritual, there is another dimension of formation that is necessary. It is human formation. The focus of human formation throughout the 4 years is directed to helping the man live in the image of Jesus, fully human seeking perfection in the human virtues, thus becoming fully mature as a human being. The man must understand his own human personality and mold it in such a way that it becomes a bridge and not an obstacle for others in their encountering Jesus.
Based on the National Directory for the formation, Ministry and Life of a Permanent Deacon in the United States, First Three years of Ordination is called Post Ordination Formation, followed by two years of supervised Ministry. Formation during the immediate three years following ordination, continues with a deepening of the four dimensions of formation (Human, Spiritual, Pastoral and Intellectual) of the man in the diaconal ministry to which he is now ordained. There are nine scheduled Saturdays of formation per year which the newly ordained man is required to attend. He may also be asked to assist, lead and/or serve in various archdiocesan events. He may also be asked to attend training sessions leading to specialized work, as an Advocate for those seeking annulments. In reality, formation never ends. Over time, the deacon constantly discovers how the Holy Spirit is continually moving and shaping him into the Servanthood of Christ.
The wife of a man in formation has a two-fold role in the formation of her husband, and his subsequent life, as a Deacon. In pursuing a diaconal vocation, a married man must obtain his wife’s written consent for entrance into the program and along each of the steps along the way, which include the Calls to Candidacy, Lector, Acolyte and Ordination. The wife is an equal partner in the Sacrament of Matrimony and great attention is given during formation toward the spousal relationship and its Sacramental growth. While the spouse is not being called to ordained ministry in the Church, her role includes providing support and integrating the changes that may affect their marriage and family life.
As a woman, the spouse has her own intellectual, spiritual, and human needs. These are addressed in specialized opportunities for the wives. There are four Sundays each academic year when the wives are required to attend class. On these Sundays, classes are held for the couple as well as for the wives only. These classes are taught by wives’ of deacons and are designed to help them grow spiritually, intellectually and as a person. They will also be provided formation on the nature of ordained married life. Other than these four Sundays, wives are welcome to attend any and all classes or formation activities as they wish. They will also be provided formation on the nature of ordained married life.