Final information night for next class of the diocesan
permanent diaconate program is January 17


By Dave Jolivet
Anchor Editor
davejolivet@anchornews.org

NEW BEDFORD, Mass. — In the spring of 2018 Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., authorized the formation of a new class for candidates for the permanent diaconate in the Diocese of Fall River beginning in the spring of 2019.

Since then, the diocesan Office of the Permanent Diaconate has held three information sessions for those want more information on the program and the process of becoming a permanent deacon.

The final information night before the Aspirancy stage begins will be January 17 at 7 p.m. at the parish center of Holy Name of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, 121 Mount Pleasant Street, New Bedford.

The information sessions are noncommittal and take place to give those who may be thinking about a vocation in the permanent diaconate (and their wives should they happen to be married), the opportunity to learn more about what the role of a permanent deacon is, the process of formation and discernment, and what it means to the candidate’s family.

“I tell men who may be interested, ‘Don’t be afraid,’” said Father Robert A. Oliveira, codirector of the diocesan Permanent Diaconate Office. “Some think that only ‘holy-rollers’ are meant for an ordained ministry in the Church. There is no cookie-cutter image of what a deacon is and everyone has their own talents and personalities, and that won’t change.

“This is just an opportunity to learn more about the process and to determine if they feel they are ready to move on to the first stage in the process, Aspirancy, which is a period of time during which the aspirants are introduced to a deeper knowledge of theology and Spirituality and what the ministry of a deacon is.”

“I recall when I was thinking about entering the diaconate program,” Deacon Frank Lucca, codirector of the Permanent Diaconate Office told The Anchor. “I was afraid of the academics. But I was not alone and I found such great strength and assistance from everyone involved in the program, and it became easier and easier as time passed.

“I’m not saying it isn’t hard work, but it is so rewarding. I have developed such a bond with my classmates and the candidates and with Father Oliveira.”

Father Oliveira concurred, “It’s a brotherhood, and that alone is great.”

The upcoming class, the 10th in the diocese since the permanent diaconate was reinstated in the Church during Vatican II, will be the first class to begin while the prior class is still in formation.

The ninth permanent diaconate class is scheduled to ordain nine men in May of this year.

“We like that there is a continuity with having a new class begin on the heels of the class just before it,” said Father Oliveira. “There was a time when there was a three- or four-year gap between class sessions.”

Like the prior three information sessions the upcoming one on January 17 is open to anyone who wants information on the diaconate and the process. If the person is married, the wife should attend as well. Wives of candidates are an important part of the formation and discernment process. Not only the candidate, but the spouse must be totally dedicated and engaged in the process.

“Each of the sessions are the same so there is need to attend only one,” said Deacon Lucca. “There are many, many questions that are answered at these sessions,” added Father Oliveira.

So far about 30 men have attended the prior sessions said Father Oliveira. “Our hope is to get more men from all backgrounds and encourage younger men to inquire,” he said. “Sometimes it’s a big commitment for younger men or couples, but it doesn’t hurt to get information.”

Deacon Lucca told The Anchor that he started the process once and left because he couldn’t make the total commitment necessary. “My wife Kris just said, ‘Don’t give up. You’ll know when it’s time.’ She was right and I reapplied when the time was right.”

Right now the Diocese of Fall River has 48 active non-retired deacons and 38 active retired deacons.

While not required, it’s recommended to let the Permanent Diaconate Office know if you plan to attend so it can better prepare. A form is located on the diaconate website located at frpermanentdiaconate.com.

If after the information sessions are completed and a man wants to continue on to the Aspirancy stage, he must complete an application and obtain a letter of reference from his pastor.

The Aspirancy stage is an eight-week program with two three-hour classes per week. This is when the candidate and his spouse (if he has one) learn much more about the ministry and is when they truly start the discernment process.

“I’ve seen these guys grow and they are a great gift to me,” said Father Oliveira, referencing current deacons and candidates. “It’s a great gift to me. I enjoy praying with them and eating with them and sharing with them. They all grow, each in their own way. They all have great gifts.

“They learn theology, but not so much as knowledge but as wisdom. God sometimes whispers to us and the men and women learn to hear that whisper.”

Deacon Lucca and Father Oliveira indicated that an open dialogue with pastors about using deacons is crucial, “That way the deacons are used in a healthy way,” said Father Oliveira.

Another first for the diaconate office is the formation of a deacon council and a wives council.

The deacon council is currently working on a manual for permanent deacons. “It will be nice to have a source of reference for deacons to turn to when they need guidance or information,” said Deacon Lucca. “It’s similar in nature to the one recently completed for priests.”

The deacons are working on the results of a survey of deacons seeking information on major areas of concern.

Father Oliveira said that the wives council strives to be a source for other wives and also for widows of deceased deacons. “We cannot forget these women who gave so much to the Church.”

For more information on the permanent diaconate or to register for the January 17 information session visit frpermanentdiaconate.com or call 508-990-0341.


© 2019 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing    †    Fall River, Massachusetts