PROVIDENCE — The Diocese of Providence is looking for a few good men interested in serving God and his Church in a more committed way.
The diocese has announced the establishment of a new class for the formation of permanent deacons. Information nights will be held the first week in February, followed by an application process, which will take place over the spring and summer. It is expected that the four-year process of formation and education will begin in September 2016. Applicants should be between the ages of 31 and 61 at the time of application.
The role of a deacon is to be of service to the bishops and priests and to proclaim by his life the Church’s call to serve the needs of others. Deacons, who are men and mostly married, are ordained to serve in parishes, hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and other areas. They may baptize, lead the faithful in prayer, witness marriages, conduct wake and funeral services, distribute the Eucharist, proclaim the Gospel and preach.
The last class of men ordained to the permanent diaconate professed their vows to the lay ministry in February 2013 during a ceremony which filled the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul.
Among those ordained then was Dr. Timothy Flanigan who discovered that there was a learning curve for men seeking a way to broaden their service to the Lord.
“When you first get to know about the diaconate, you think it’s all about what you will do,” Deacon Dr. Flanigan, who serves at St. Theresa and St. Christopher Parishes in Tiverton, said in an interview this week. “Then you find out … Oh no … It’s about what the Lord is calling you to do which means He’s asking you to change and really center your life around Him. Happily, Mary is always there to help!”
“Being a deacon just means being ready and willing to help with a smile wherever you’re needed! It is quite an adventure.”
Deacon Gregory Albanese, who was also ordained with the last class, serves the faith community at Holy Apostles Church, Cranston, and is also a teacher at La Salle Academy.
Serving as a deacon compliments for him a well-rounded life of family and service.
“For me, being a deacon is an incredible blessing. I am able to be a husband and father for my family, and I am also able to share in ordained ministry to serve God’s people,” he said.
While challenging, the diocesan faith formation program, which has served as a model for programs crafted in other dioceses, prepares fully its candidates for the permanent diaconate.
“The program of formation is thorough, challenging, and rigorous,” Deacon Albanese said. “On the day we were ordained almost three years ago, my classmates and I felt prepared to go out into the world to serve our pastors and to minister to all who are entrusted to our care. To be a deacon is a wonderful vocation and blessing.”
As part of the formation program, candidates will take classes conducted by the Diocese of Providence as well as the Department of Theology at Providence College. While a college degree is not required, successful candidates must be able to master the materials presented in English at the collegiate and graduate school levels. Course instruction will focus on Dogmatic Theology, Christology, Moral Theology, Scripture, Patristics, Ecclesiology and Sacramental Theology.
All applicants must be fully initiated Catholics in good standing with the Church, and a full background check will be conducted for each person during the application process. Applicants should be actively involved in their parish and if married, be in a stable marriage of at least five years and have the support and agreement of his wife and family to pursue a diaconal vocation. If an applicant is unmarried (single or widowed), he should be living a lifestyle consistent with the call to the ordained ministry in the Catholic Church.
Deacon James T. Walsh, director of deacons for the Diocese of Providence said there is a key question that all prospective candidates should ask themselves before embarking on the path to the diaconate.
“Is it their desire, or God’s calling?” he said.
Walsh, a deacon since 1998, admitted that while he was very involved in the Church prior to that, serving as a lector, extraordinary minister of the Eucharist, in his parish’s Men’s Club and also in the Knights of Columbus, he really had no clear idea of what a deacon did in their ministry.
Once he learned about the full role of a deacon and discerned his own calling, he began his journey and has never regretted all that it took to get where he is now.
“Serving God has been my lifelong dream,” Deacon Walsh said. “As a deacon, my relationship with my family has grown stronger over the years. God has really taken over my life.”
Information on the permanent diaconate, including answers to frequently asked questions, is available on the Diocese of Providence website at: http://dioceseofprovidence.org/deacon-formation-program.
The Office for Permanent Deacons will sponsor information evenings at the following locations:
Tuesday, February 2, 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM, St. Thomas the Apostle Parish Hall, (East Bay), 500 Metacom Avenue, Warren
Thursday, February 4, 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM, St. Bernard Parish Hall, (West Bay & South County), 275 Tower Hill Road, North Kingston
Friday, February 5, 7:30 PM to 9:30 PM, Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul Parish Hall, (central and northern communities), 30 Fenner Street, Providence