New Slate of Candidates

18 Sep

deacon candidatesLast month Archbishop Naumann admitted 19 men as “candidates” for the permanent diaconate. What does that mean?

Well, it does not mean that the ordinations will take place anytime soon. This group of men–known as a “cohort”–is not slated to be ordained until spring 2017. For that matter, becoming a deacon candidate carries no guarantee of eventual ordination.

Candidacy does mean, however, that the Archbishop is asking the men to persevere in a program of human, spiritual, academic, and pastoral training for the next few years as they continue their discernment.

When we hear the word “candidate” we may think of one who is running for office. While the deacon candidates do aspire to the public “office” or “order” of deacon, thankfully there will not be the negative campaigning or smear tactics that characterize many elections.

In fact, it’s just the opposite. Rather than try to one-up or outshine their brother candidates, the cohort’s goal is to help one another succeed. In this noble effort, they are already modeling the call to service that is at the heart of diaconal ministry.

In order to understand the significance of “candidacy,” marriage may provide a better analogy than an election. The first year of formation, known as aspirancy, may be seen as a courtship, or “going steady”; candidacy is a form of betrothal or “engagement”; and the rite of ordination may be likened to the wedding ceremony. Just as marriage only begins with the wedding, so ordained ministry in service of God’s people only begins with ordination.

So this period of candidacy, like a period of engagement before marriage, is a time of intensive formation. We speak of diaconal “formation,” not diaconal “education,” because training for the diaconate–like preparation for marriage–is not merely an academic pursuit, but rather a discipleship that encompasses every aspect of one’s personality. Theological knowledge is important, but the goal of formation is to allow the theology to continually change the hearts of the candidates so that they will minister in the Church with the heart of Christ.

Before admitting potential deacons as “candidates,” the Archdiocese exercised due diligence. The candidates have already gone through an extensive application process, Virtus training, fingerprinting in Topeka, criminal and credit checks, interviews, and psychological evaluations. Equipped with the best available information and guided by the Holy Spirit, the Archbishop called the 19 men forward to candidacy.

Meanwhile, the candidates themselves have continued to test their call to ordained ministry. This discernment is not something they do on their own, but rather occurs in close, ongoing conversation with spouses, family members, peers, spiritual directors, and the formation team.

Please pray for new candidates, the deacon cohort of 2017!

This article originally appeared in The Leaven, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: