What is the Permanent Diaconate?

Deacons share in Christ's mission and grace in a special way. The sacrament of Holy Orders marks them with an imprint (“character”) which cannot be removed and which configures them to Christ, who made himself the “deacon” or servant of all. Among other tasks, it is the task of deacons to assist the bishop and priests in the celebration of the divine mysteries, above all the Eucharist, in the distribution of Holy Communion, in assisting at and blessing marriages, in the proclamation of the Gospel and preaching, in presiding over funerals, and in dedicating themselves to the various ministries of charity.

Since the Second Vatican Council the Latin Church has restored the diaconate “as a proper and permanent rank of the hierarchy,” while the Churches of the East had always maintained it. This permanent diaconate, which can be conferred on married men, constitutes an important enrichment for the Church's mission. Indeed it is appropriate and useful that men who carry out a truly diaconal ministry in the Church, whether in its liturgical and pastoral life or whether in its social and charitable works, should “be strengthened by the imposition of hands which has come down from the apostles. They would be more closely bound to the altar and their ministry would be made more fruitful through the sacramental grace of the diaconate” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1570-1571).

For more information on the Permanent Diaconate, visit the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website.

Diaconate Formation Program

The formation of candidates for the permanent diaconate in the Diocese of Arlington takes place over a period of six years.  After acceptance into the program, a man enters into Aspirancy for a period of two years, to further his understanding of the diaconate and discernment of a call. During that time the aspirant is assigned a spiritual director and a deacon mentor.  At the end of aspirancy he may petition for admission to Candidacy.  If accepted he is formally received as a candidate by the Bishop and begins his formation. Candidates meet for classes on Saturdays throughout the year. Tuition is paid for by the Formation Program while candidates are responsible for purchasing required books and supplies for the classes.

The program consists of spiritual, theological and pastoral formation.

Spiritual formation helps the candidate grow in his knowledge of the Church's traditions of prayer, liturgies, and devotions so that he can deepen his own spiritual life.  This dimension also helps him integrate his prayer, study, work, and family. 

Theological formation provides the intellectual training necessary for an effective minister of the Gospel. Required courses include philosophy, sacred scripture, dogmatic theology, moral theology, liturgical and sacramental theology, canon law, and church history.  Those candidates interested can also take some courses for credit in the Masters of Theology program at Christendom College's Notre Dame Graduate School.

Pastoral formation occurs primarily through the candidate's involvement at his home parish and under his Pastor's supervision.  This helps the candidate gain the experience and develop the necessary skills for future ministry in the Church.  By providing field experience and supervision the program helps him appreciate the pastoral importance of theology and to integrate his studies with service.

Requirements for the Permanent Diaconate

For acceptance into the Diaconate Formation Program in the Diocese of Arlington a man must

  • live in the Diocese of Arlington;
  • be at least 31 years old at the time of entrance into the program and not more than 60;
  • be a Roman Catholic of mature faith and sound moral character;
  • be of sound physical and mental health;
  • if married, have lived the vocation of marriage at least five years;
  • if he has children at home, they should be at least in high school;
  • have the full support of his wife and children;
  • have a habit of prayer and an openness to formation;
  • have the aptitude for the intellectual formation required by the program;
  • have demonstrated apostolic service and zeal;
  • demonstrate a basic potential to develop skills of leadership;
  • have the support and recommendation of his pastor and at least two priests ministering in the diocese;

The Permanent Diaconate Office welcomes men of all communities and backgrounds.  A man interested in serving as a deacon in the Diocese of Arlington should contact Very Reverend Paul Scalia, Director of the Diaconate Formation Program, to begin the discernment and application process.  Applications for the next class of candidates will be accepted in 2025.