By Colleen Rowan
WHEELING—The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston has announced the opening of a new formation program for the permanent diaconate and is inviting men, who will be age 35 by 2024, but not older than age 62, to inquire about it. The program, lasting four to five years, is set to begin in September 2020.
Deacons are ordained to a ministry of service, assisting the bishop and his priests in many areas, especially in the ministry of charity but also in liturgical celebrations, distributing Holy Communion at Mass, baptizing, witnessing marriages, presiding at some funeral rites, proclaiming the Gospel and preaching. Deacons often teach and counsel as well. Bishop Mark Brennan said, “I have served with many permanent deacons over the years and seen the excellent work they do. We need more deacons in West Virginia to expand the Church’s outreach to those in need and to bring the Gospel and its life-giving power to our people.”
“It is an exciting time in our Diocese as we prepare to accept applications from eligible men to discern a call to the permanent diaconate,” said Deacon John Yaquinta, a member of the new program’s steering committee. “I encourage all eligible men who are interested to apply.”
The program’s faculty will include professors from St. Meinrad’s School of Theology and some of our own Wheeling-Charleston personnel. The program will be conducted from September to June one weekend per month, beginning on Friday evening and ending early on Sunday afternoon. It will be held at the St. John XXIII Pastoral Center in Charleston. Summer pastoral assignments will be given candidates and they will undergo an annual evaluation of their progress.
Unlike transitional deacons going on to priesthood, permanent deacons may be married. They must be faithful Catholics, married in the Church (if married) or willing to remain celibate if not married, of good character, enjoy good mental, emotional and physical health, be financially stable, be recommended by their pastors, supported in their vocation by their wives and their parish or other Church community. They should already be active in the Church, committed to the Church’s doctrine on social justice and have good “people skills.” Most deacons work at secular jobs and must be willing to be open to an assignment outside of their parish.
An applicant should possess a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university, since diaconate studies will be conducted at a graduate level. Exceptions to this academic requirement can be made if the candidate can demonstrate the ability to do graduate-level work. An applicant who became a Catholic later in life is welcome to apply, provided he has been a Catholic for five years.
Applications may be obtained from the Chancery in Wheeling or at one of the information sessions scheduled in each of the six vicariates (See below for locations, dates, and times). Interested men are encouraged to attend one of the information sessions. For other questions, contact the Vicar for Clergy’s office at 888- 434-6237 or locally at 304-233-0880 X270.
There are currently 40 deacons serving in the Diocese. Deacon Yaquinta was one of 13 deacons ordained in 2016. “I remember nine years ago when I saw the advertisement in The Catholic Spirit announcing a new class was being formed,” said the Deacon, who serves now at Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Stonewood. “My heart began beating faster and I called my wife to tell her I was applying.” With his wife’s support, he went forward and his vocation is bearing fruit for God’s people.
“My hope,” said Bishop Brennan, “is that men, who believe God may be calling them to serve Him and His Church in this way, will look into the diaconate and follow the Spirit’s lead.”
March 11 – 6:30pm – St. Francis de Sales Parish; Beckley
March 2 – 7:00pm – St. John XXIII Pastoral Center, Charleston
March 4 – after 6:00pm Mass – St. Patrick’s Church, Weston
March 9 – 6:30pm – St. Francis de Sales Parish, Morgantown
March 10 – 6:30pm – Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Stonewood
March 1 – 3:00pm – St. Margaret Mary Parish Hall, Parkersburg
March 2 – 7:00pm – Epiphany of the Lord Parish, Moorefield
March 4 – 7:00pm – St. James Parish, Charles Town
March 2 – 6:30pm – Saint Joseph the Worker Parish, Weirton
March 5 – 6:30pm – Saint Vincent de Paul Parish, Wheeling