Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., presides over the Rite of Candidacy for the five men who will begin formation in the diocesan diaconate program in October, 2018. With the start of the 2019-2020 formation year set to begin in late August, the classes will be taught by staff from Seton Hall University's Immaculate Conception Seminary's School of Theology.  Joe Moore photo
Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., presides over the Rite of Candidacy for the five men who will begin formation in the diocesan diaconate program in October, 2018. With the start of the 2019-2020 formation year set to begin in late August, the classes will be taught by staff from Seton Hall University's Immaculate Conception Seminary's School of Theology. Joe Moore photo

Beginning with incoming classes starting Aug. 26, the Diocese of Trenton’s Permanent Diaconate Formation Program’s core academic courses will be provided by Seton Hall University’s Immaculate Conception Seminary School of Theology.

Professors from the South Orange university will travel to the Chancery in Lawrenceville to instruct permanent diaconate candidates in foundational academic classes two evenings a week. The program, taught on the graduate level, will allow candidates who qualify to earn a master of art degree in theology. Each candidate who successfully completes the course requirements will also receive a certificate in diaconal studies.

“We are following the format of the National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States,” which was set forth by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said Deacon Michael Riley, associate director of the Office of Clergy.

Tuition and fees will continue to be divided equally between the candidate, his parish or sponsoring entity and the Diocese of Trenton.

Moving forward, the recruitment, selection and acceptance of candidates for the five-year program will be done every other year.  The next Diaconate Information Session, which begins the selection process, will be in September 2020.

A driving reason behind the change to an every other year program was the availability of Seton Hall professors, who are instructing candidates not only in the Trenton Diocese, but also in the Archdiocese of Newark, and the Dioceses of Paterson and Metuchen, as well as seminarians.

“It would spread their instructors much too thin, if they had to do this back-to-back every year,” Deacon Riley explained.

Pastoral courses will continue to be taught by selected, experienced personnel from the Diocese of Trenton, further preparing the men to carry out the deacon’s ministry of Word, Sacrament and Charity. Although most pastoral classes will also be taught in the Chancery, some may be taught off-site. Wives are invited and encouraged to attend the pastoral courses.

“There is a need for more deacons, especially with the declining number of priests in a parish. I think it’s very helpful, in terms of assisting parish ministries,” said Deacon Riley.

Areas of ministry which benefit from deacons include sacramental preparation, particularly for Baptism and marriage, as well as annulment paperwork, visiting the sick, instruction in the parish and Communion services.

With the next information session more than a year away, Deacon Riley had some suggestions for those who are considering the diaconate in the meantime.

“Discern, and have a discussion with your pastor,” he said. “Become more visible in the parish. Get in there and become a servant leader.”

 For more information about the Diaconate Formation Program, please review the basic criteria and articles at dioceseoftrenton.org/deacon-formation, or contact Deacon Riley, 609-403-7134, mriley@dioceseoftrenton.org.