By Mary Stadnyk | Associate Editor
Catholic men discerning a possible call to serve the Church as a Permanent Deacon are invited to attend one of two information sessions to be held Sept. 27 and Oct. 10 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Diocesan Chancery, 701 Lawrenceville Road, Lawrenceville, N.J.
The two sessions will be facilitated by Msgr. Thomas J. Mullelly, diocesan episcopal vicar for clergy and consecrated life; Sister of St. Joseph Rose McDermott, diocesan delegate for religious and academic dean of the Formation Program, and Deacon Mike Riley, associate director of the Office of Clergy. They will give an overview of the history of the diaconate, the discernment process for becoming a deacon, the Diocese’s five-year formation program and the application process. Men who are accepted into the Formation Program will begin their studies in the fall of 2018.
Deacon Riley, who is assigned to St. George Parish, Titusville, urges candidates to discern their prayer, parish and family lives. He also emphasizes the need for potential deacons to develop a solid prayer life. Regarding parish life, Deacon Riley stresses the importance of having the full support of his wife and his pastor. It is also necessary for a candidate to have a record of servant leadership in his parish. Involvement in areas such as religious education, adult faith formation, social concerns activities and/or the pastoral council provides that opportunity. He also notes how ministry involvement as a reader and extraordinary minister of Holy Communion allows parishioners to witness a candidate serving the parish.
Throughout the five-year program, Deacon Riley said that candidates will participate in intense formation aimed at developing human, spiritual, intellectual and pastoral qualities for ministry through participation in academic and pastoral courses, retreats, and ministerial experiences.
The pastoral courses, which span topics such as “Introduction to Liturgy and the Prayer of the Church,” “Homiletics,” “Sacraments,” as well as developing public speaking and research and writing skills, will be held two nights a week on Mondays and Thursdays from 7 to 9:30 p.m. from the last week of August through May. Ten masters' level courses will be taken through Georgian Court University, Lakewood, enabling candidates to receive a master’s degree in religious studies or credits toward a bachelor’s degree.
Deacon Riley said there are 195 active deacons serving in the four-county Diocese and 70 retired, although there are some who continue to engage in ministry. He explained that in 2011, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., called for a thorough study of the diaconate formation program by a committee chaired by Msgr. Mullelly. During the year-long study, no new candidates were accepted into the program. The results of the study provided recommendations for clarifying the requirements for admission, enhancing the formation process and the educational standards. Ministerial assignment policy and attire were also addressed. Since the formation program reconvened in 2015, Deacon Riley said a total of 21 men are currently enrolled, with six beginning in 2015, nine in 2016 and another six in 2017.
Encouraging Catholic men to consider serving the Church of Trenton as a permanent deacon, Deacon Riley, speaking from his own experience, said, “As a deacon, the Lord has guided me to not only humbly bring comfort to the afflicted, but also provide knowledge and restorative faith to those with doubts. Besides the vocation of being a husband, father and grandfather, it is the most fulfilling role I have ever experienced.”
“Please do not ignore the gentle stirrings of the Holy Spirit,” he said.
For registration information, contact Deacon Riley at 609-403-7134.