The Permanent Diaconate

Who is a Permanent Deacon?

A permanent deacon is a man of faith and love, who, as an ordained minister of the Catholic Church, strives to extend that faith and love by serving the sick, the lonely, the troubled, and the poor, by proclaiming the Word of God, and by administering His Sacraments. As the Greek word diakonos suggests, a deacon is a servant, assisting in the work of bringing God to His people and of reconciling His people to God through the proclamation of the Word, celebration of the Sacraments and service to others. Often his most effective ministry on behalf of the Church is in the surroundings of his worldly environment.

Requirements for the diaconate

To be accepted into the diaconate training program in Arlington it is required that a man:

  • be at least 31 years old at the time of entrance into the program and not more than 60 (minimum age for ordination is 35)
  • be a Roman Catholic of sound moral character, mature in faith and have a sense of vocation to service
  • demonstrate prayerfulness and be open to further spiritual formation
  • have demonstrated active service, apostolic involvement and leadership among the People of God
  • be attuned to the needs and life of the Church and family life
  • Be able to represent the Church with intelligence, Christian dignity and prayerful service
  • demonstrate the basic potential to develop the ministerial skills of relating to people, of speaking well, and of being a spiritual leader
  • have the support and recommendation of his pastor and at least two priests ministering in the diocese
  • if married, have the enthusiastic support of his wife and family
  • be of sound physical and mental health

The Role of the Deacon

The institution of deacons can be traced to apostolic times. In the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 6, one reads its origins. Among the first seven deacons was Saint Stephen. He was the first martyr to shed his blood as a witness to the faith in Jesus Christ the Lord.

The deacon in the Catholic Church is a member of the hierarchy which is comprised of bishop, priest and deacon. As an ordained minister, he partakes in the fullness of the priesthood of the bishop along with the body of priests in a given diocese. At ordination to the diaconate he also becomes part of the Church's clergy.

His service to the people of God has three aspects of participation. In liturgical ministry he assists the bishop and priests in the Eucharistic Rite. He is significantly assigned to proclaim the Gospel and to preach on occasion. He imparts the solemn blessing with the Blessed Sacrament at Benediction. He may baptize, witness and bless marriages, preside at the Liturgy of the Hours and at wakes and grave site services.

Each deacon is commissioned by the bishop at ordination to "Receive the Gospel of Christ, whose herald you are. Believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach." Thus evangelization and catechesis are an essential part of the deacon's ministry of the Word, the heartbeat of all that he is called to be and do.

In his ministry of charity the deacon is able to bring a unique sensitivity in ministering to the needs of families, single parents, students, the aged, the infirmed, the imprisoned, those who suffer from poverty or addictions and many other important services already existing or yet to be discovered.

All Christians are called to charity but the deacon is one who, responding to the call of the Holy Spirit, is sent by the Church to bring Christ and His Good News to those in need. His actions and deeds should serve to inspire and support the faithful in their own imitation of Christ.

There are currently 74 diocesan permanent deacons serving the Diocese of Arlington.

Application Process for the Permanent Diaconate

The Permanent Diaconate Office welcomes men of all communities and backgrounds. In order for the Good News to be incarnate, it is necessary for the Church to have ordained ministers in all of the various communities. The presence and witness of deacons from all communities will assist in identifying community needs and advance the response of Christian service.

The man discerning a vocation to be a deacon for the Diocese of Arlington should contact Reverend Paul Scalia at p.scalia@arlingtondiocese.org to set up a meeting and will:

  • Experience a screening process, to include a series of informal meetings, which will determine the eligibility for acceptance into the formation program. Interviews are conducted for the applicant, and if married, for his wife;
  • Be invited to submit a formal application and submit it to the Director of the Permanent Diaconate Program, accompanied by the documentation requested by the director.

Contact for Permanent Deacons and Diaconate Formation Program

Rev. Paul Scalia
Episcopal Vicar for Clergy
Director of the Diaconate Formation Program
200 N. Glebe Road, Suite 901
Arlington, VA 22203
(703) 841-3809

Diaconate Formation Program

Once a man is accepted into the program, he enters the discernment phase as an aspirant and begins the orientation sessions. The orientation includes a retreat for the candidates and their wives, if married. The formation and preparation of candidates for the diaconate in the Diocese of Arlington takes place over a period of four years.

The candidates must be available two weekends each month for these classes which are held on Saturdays. Tuition is paid for by the diocese. The candidates are responsible for purchasing any required books or supplies for the classes.

The program consists of spiritual, theological and pastoral formation.

  1. Spiritual Formation consists in opportunities designed to help the candidate understand himself and his potential for spiritual growth. It seeks to provide motivation, inspiration and information so that he can deepen his prayer and integrate his study, daily life and family life. A life of prayer and a life of service come together in the person of the candidate.
  2. Theological Formation seeks to provide adequate theological training for effective ministers of the Gospel. The deacon, therefore, would have enough knowledge of theology to be competent and comfortable in his specific ministry. Required courses would include sacred scripture, dogmatic theology, moral theology, homiletics, liturgical-sacramental theology, canon law and church history.
  3. Pastoral Formation serves to assist the candidate by providing field experience under mentoring supervision. The formation aids the candidate in acquiring ministerial skills and pastoral sensitivity. It seeks to infuse the actual context of ministry with theological awareness. It helps him to test out his capabilities and interests, his strengths and deepen faith and to strengthen commitment to service through the integration of the spiritual, theological and pastoral aspects of his formation.