The Four Pillars of Formation
All the baptized are called to grow in virtue. Ordination builds on the foundation of a strong Christian identity. Therefore, it is crucial that those in formation develop their abilities to relate to others in meaningful and appropriate ways. During the course of formation, the faculty will ensure that candidates demonstrate and affective maturity, healthy lifestyle and psychological readiness for Holy Orders. Ultimately, the goal is for one to "put on the mind of Christ" and see the world through the lens of the Gospel.
Candidates are expected to deepen their prayer life and come to a deeper appreication of the public prayer of the Church. This is especially important in regard to the Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours. Morning and Evening Prayer are prayed each day in formation. It is expected that candidates develop a healthy, integrated sense of the Christian devotion, including the Blessed Mother, saints and other facets of the Catholic tradition. In being spiritual leaders within communities, it is paramount that deacons have a general knowledge of spiritual theology to aid followers of Christ in their journey.
Those in formation attend courses taught on the Masters level. Depending one one's education background, a candidate may receive a Master of Arts in Pastoral Studies. The goal of the acadmeic pillar is to ensure that candidates underatand the essentials of Christian doctrine in the Catholic tradition. Special emphasis will be given to scriptural and moral theology. Because deacons are teachers of the faith under the direction of bishops, they need to be competent to explain doctrinal and moral teachings of the Church, especially in the context of preaching and catechetics.
The academic program of formation is offered by the faculty of St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers. Highly trained instructors come to Huntington each Saturday to offer dynamic courses on a wide range of topics. Any questions about one's standing in the academic program should be forwarded to the Director of Formation or the Academic Dean of St. Joseph's Seminary.
All classes are at the diocesan seminary in Huntington. During the Fall and Spring Semesters, students are required to fulfill 39 hours of class time per course. Those who qualify for the Masters degree are now encouraged to do the necessary extra work to pursue the degree in conjunction with the academic courses provided for all candidates. Candidates for the Masters degree must maintain a B average. All candidates are expected to maintain at least a C in each course. Attendance at all classes and other required functions is taken very seriously. Absences should be avoided. Candidates will be provided the policy regarding excused absences
Being members of the hierarchy of the Church, a deacon's primary role is to be of service to the bishops and priests in his diocese. This service comes in a variety of forms, from nursing homes and hospitals, to prisons and parishes. In every setting, a deacon needs to be equipped to idenitfy needs and respond accordingly. Always maintaining the precepts of the Church, deacons and those in formaion develop skills in collaboration and generosity of spirit.
This is the first year of formation and is a formal time of continued discernent. Some of the elements of this year include:
- A spiritual director will be assigned to the aspirant, and they will meet monthly.
- The couple will make a retreat as offered by the program.
- The aspirant will participate in a class retreat in the spring.
- Faculty assigned to the courses and the pastor will be asked to evaluate the aspirant in light of possible candidacy. In addition, the spiritual director will be contacted to assure the aspirant has been faithful to spiritual direction.
- The aspirant will write a formal request for admission to candidacy.
- The Diaconal Formation Advisory Board will receive all evaluations and the results of the aspirant’s own discernment and make a recommendation to the Bishop regarding admission to candidacy.
Upon the positive recommendation of the formation faculty, the aspirant will be received as a candidate by the bishop in the Fall of his second year of formation.
Candidate Formation (Years 1, 2, and 3):
At the conclusion of each year of formation, a candidate will be asked to complete a self-evaluation, noting his progress in the program. This will be coupled with the comments of his formation advisor and the Director of Formation. Upon the recommendation of the faculty, a candidate may proceed through Candidacy I, II and III. At the conclusion of Candidacy I, a man is instituted as a reader, whereby he is able to proclaim the Word God in the liturgical assembly. Upon successful completion of Candidacy II, he is instituted as an acolyte and can assist the priest and deacon during liturgies, such as Mass. Finally, at the end of Candidacy III, a man makes a formal request to the diocesan bishop to be ordained. Upon the recommendation of the faculty and Director of Formation, the bishop grants that request and the candidate is officially called to Holy Orders.
Other Formation Elements
Each candidate has both a spiritual director and a formation advisor. Both of these individuals are assigned by the Director of Formation.
The spiritual director is asked to verify in mid-year that the individual is faithful to spiritual direction. Those in formation are expected to meet with their spiritual director every 4-5 weeks for a candid discussion about his growth over the course of the program.
The formation advisor is a deacon assigned by the bishop to assist the Director in the entire formation process. His role is to work with assigned aspirants/candidates in offering counsel, constructive feedback and giving the Director an assessment as to the readiness of a man to proceed in the formation program.
A couples’ and candidate’s retreat is held annually. These provide opportunities for deepening one's spritual growth and assess his progress in formation.
Three times a year, there is an afternoon of formation held on a Sunday for all those in formation and their wives. These gatherings are centered on how married couples live out their sacramental bond alongside the call to Holy Orders held by candidates. These sessions are of utmost importance and mandatory for couples.