“Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you now are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.”
Welcome to Our Web Page!
Welcome to the web site of the Permanent Diaconate of the Diocese of Fresno!
The Permanent Diaconate in the Diocese of Fresno began in 1998 and has expanded with four classes of deacons having been ordained so far. It takes 5 ½ years to properly form a deacon in our diocese – 2 years of Lay Formation and 3 ½ years of Diaconate Formation. In the journey to the permanent diaconate, an Aspirancy year is required. It is a time of intense and prayerful discernment of a vocation to the diaconate. According to our new model, the Aspirancy Year is done concurrently with the second year of Lay Formation.
Lay Formation classes are offered by the Office of Formation and Evangelization; Diaconate Formation classes are offered by the Diaconate Office. Lay Formation classes are offered in several locations throughout the Diocese. Please contact the Office of Formation and Evangelization for more information at (559) 488-7474. Men who have previously completed the New Wine Program/Vino Nuevo Programs, and who are interested in entering the Diaconate Formation Program should contact the Diaconate Office. Diaconate Formation is only offered in English at this time. Men must be at least 35 years of age on ordination day and must not exceed 59 years of age when they start the Aspirancy Year.
If you sense that God is calling you to be a permanent deacon in the Diocese of Fresno, your first step is to contact your pastor. With his affirmation, you may contact us at the Pastoral Center, in Fresno, at (559) 493-2840. Prior to receiving an application, you and your wife (if married), will need to meet with myself and Deacon Chuck for an initial interview. Our office hours are 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. You may call outside these hours and leave a message. We will return your call during those two days. You may also email me at [email protected], or the Assistant Director of Formation, Deacon Charles Reyburn, at [email protected]. For additional general information on the Permanent Diaconate, in general, please click on the following link:
Yours in Christ,
Deacon John Sousa, Director of the Permanent Diaconate
Deacons: Send Us Pictures of You In Your Parish Ministries!
If you have pictures of your participation in various parish ministries, please email them to the diaconate office. Please identify any other persons included in the picture, as well as the activity, the location, and the date. We would like to begin a photo collage of examples of what ministries and activities our deacons are involved in.
What Is A Permanent Deacon?
Since the beginning of Christianity, the diaconate has been primarily a ministry of love and justice. As members of the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church, they proclaim the Gospel and preach at liturgical services; they lead the community in prayer, and conduct baptisms and witness marriages, and they address the needs of the community in an active ministry of outreach and service to others. Pope John Paul II described diaconal ministry as “. . the Church’s service sacramentalized.” Pope Paul VI offered the vision that the Permanent Diaconate is a “. . .driving force for the Church’s service.”
The word “deacon” has its origin in the Greek word for “servant.” Since the renewal of the Permanent Diaconate by the Church Fathers at Vatican II, we have come to understand that deacons have a unique expression of ordained ministry, called to “pour out their own lives in service to others.” Deacons help the Church link the two greatest commandments of Christ: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” and “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” As explained by nationally-recognized author Deacon William Ditewig, the Church sees the deacon as “. . a sacramental witness to Christ within the community, and the deacon also serves as a prophetic reminder to all the baptized of their own responsibility to care for others.”
Most Permanent Deacons are married and also have family responsibilities, a consideration Council participants saw as a blessing for the Church, as deacons would be a direct presence of their sacred ministry outside the church environment. By his call to ordained ministry, a deacon is engaged in his ministry at home, at work, or wherever he is participating in activities not directly related to the church, as an example of an authentic witness and teacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Deacon Ditewig concludes: “It is precisely in his leadership and presence outside formal ecclesial structures, that the deacon can often enable and empower others to exercise their own . . . responsibilities as Christians.”
Deacons In Scripture
Within the letter to Timothy (3:8-10, 12-13), we read of the qualifications for men being considered for diaconal ministry in the early Church: “Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy for money: they must hold fast to the mystery of faith with a clear conscience. And let them first be tested; then, if they prove themselves blameless, let them serve as deacons. Let deacons be married only once, and let them manage their children and their households well; for those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and great boldness in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.”
Deacons Must be involved in the world
Many men inquiring about the Permanent Diaconate often ask, “So what is REALLY expected of me as a Permanent Deacon?” While the deacon is most visible at liturgies and other ecclesial functions, he must be an intentional disciple both on and away from the altar. The National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States, developed and approved by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, explains the expectations of a diaconal vocation as follows: “The diaconate is lived in a particularly powerful way in the manner in which a deacon fulfills his obligations to his secular occupation, to his civic and public responsibilities, and among his friends and neighbors. This, in turn, enables the deacon to bring back to the Church an appreciation of the meaning and value of the Gospel as he discerns it in the lives and questions of the people he has encountered. In his preaching and teaching, the deacon articulates the needs and hopes of the people he has experienced, thereby animating, motivating, and facilitating a commitment among the lay faithful to an evangelical service in the world.” (¶58)
WHEN WILL THE NEXT DIACONATE FORMATION CLASS BEGIN?
Journey To The Diaconate Begins With Participation In The Lay Formation InstituteIn coordination with the Lay Formation Institute (LFI) offered by our diocesan Office of Formation and Evangelization, new diaconate formation classes are scheduled to begin every three years. Men who are discerning whether they are genuinely called to a diaconal vocation must meet minimum requirements: have successfully participated in a lay ministry formation program such as LFI; not be more than 59 years of age as of September, 2018; be active in one or more parish ministries; have a letter of recommendation from their current pastor; have received all their sacraments of initiation; wife is agreeable to full participation in diaconal journey beginning with the Aspirancy year, and have no canonical impediments to ordination. Applications will be available starting October, 2017. For further information, contact the Permanent Diaconate Office by clicking on the “Contact Us” link. Normal diaconate office hours are Tuesday and Wednesday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Inquirers begin their journey for discernment as to whether they have a diaconate vocation by registering with the Office of Formation and Evangelization to participate in the Lay Formation Institute (LFI). If you have previously successfully completed the New Wine or Vino Nuevo programs, this requirement does not apply. Applications for LFI are available NOW from the Office of Formation and Evangelization at the Pastoral Center in Fresno. LFI is a multi-year catechesis program in the Catholic faith, and is conducted by interactive remote teleconferencing classes at specific parish centers in the diocese. These are located in cities near you:
- Fresno (English and Spanish presentations)
- Visalia (English and Spanish presentations)
- Bakersfield (English presentations only)
- Merced (Spanish presentations only)
- Hanford (Spanish presentations only)
For further information, you may call (559) 488-7474. Yearly tuition for LFI is currently around $300. Completed applications require a letter of recommendation from your pastor. Accepted applicants will also have a personal interview with the School of Ministries Coordinator. Time commitments are weekly classes, September through May for two (2) hours, plus homework assignments. Applicants will need an active email for class participation.
Being “Done As A Deacon”: All of Life is Formation
(Excerpts from the article appearing in the January, 2014 issue of Deacon Digest, by Deacon Joseph R. Ferrari, Ph.D. Used with permission.)
Deacon Ferrari was returning home with his wife from a pre-ordination gathering of candidates and wives with Bishop R. Daniel Conlon of the Diocese of Joliet, and she asked him why he didn’t offer a response to the Bishop’s challenge, “How are you ready for your calling?” Deacon Ferrari shared with her, “I felt I could not, because I would not be able to fully explain my point of view. I would have said, ‘I hope I don’t BECOME a deacon. Instead I pray I will always be BECOMING a deacon.”
Deacon Ferrari submits that a principle of human developing is in “becoming.” He explains how this applies to formation as a deacon: “One never ‘becomes’ because change is lifelong. Incidents during childhood, adolescence, and adulthood are phases of life in a continuous, integrated process of change. . . Toward the end of the fourth year of formal formation, it finally hit me—I won’t be ‘done as a deacon’ at ordination. . . Despite receiving a broad, enlightened, and essential education on many of the Church’s teachings and ‘ologies,’ it’s just a beginning. So I am always ‘becoming a deacon.’”
In this on-going process of ‘”becoming,” Deacon Ferrari acknowledges that there will be times when there is a questioning of the calling; when the ordained deacon can doubt his skills and abilities to be prudent and effective in his diaconal ministry. But it is within these times that he appreciated the assistance of his spiritual director, especially in the more troubling times when he felt he was in “disaster mode.” Deacon Ferrari shares, “ . . .that is the mystery of spiritual direction. Our spiritual directors see God in the mystery and even in the misery. They join us in the becoming, seeing the face of Christ in all. It’s all a BECOMING.”
One of the realities that Deacon Ferrari also addresses is the confusion among many of the laity as to what the role of the deacon is. He notes that many describe today’s deacon as having “one foot in the laity,” and “one foot in the clergy.” But he challenges this model explaining, “To me, deacons need to have both feet planted in the clergy. . . After ordination, we do not speak in our voice, but in the voice of the Church.” He continues, “But—and this is what I think needs to be remembered always—deacons have both hands in service. We are here to serve, as we are always BECOMING Christ the suffering servant. It is the hands of the deacon that witness the charity and compassion of Christ in the world. We come to serve the laity.”
Deacon Ferrari concludes with the personal observation, “I doubt I will ever BECOME a deacon. I hope and pray, however, that I continue to grow into this calling, always BECOMING.” He looks to the example of Saint Lawrence, a diaconal patron of the early Church, and hopes to emulate his example of service and unshakable faith. “With the years of formal formation classes having now ended, I, too, can say, let me enter the next phase of BECOMING, because I am ‘done on this side.”
Deacon Joseph Ferrari, Ph.D., was ordained for the Diocese of Joliet in 2013. He is currently a professor of psychology at DePaul University.
10 COMMANDMENTS FOR DEACONS
(Article reprinted from The Link, February, 1976)
- Remember you were a married man before you became a deacon. Your family is your first priority.
- Make your spouse and children feel like part of a team. Listen actively to their ideas and gripes.
- Be a spiritual director at home first—they need you too.
- Don’t expect to be a honored member in your family—you have been blessed by the Lord, not beatified!
- Don’t compare your wife and family to those of other deacons, either favorably or unfavorably.
- Don’t try to solve all the problems of the Church at once. Seek the direction of the Lord and try to do one or two things well.
- Try to accept criticism and don’t pretend that you have all the answers. People know better.
- Set aside a reasonable amount of time each week to be with family. No one is indispensable.
- Keep a calendar and inform your wife of your schedule.
- Love the Lord God with all your heart and soul, and your neighbor as yourself.