CHAPIN—Thirty-nine men studying to be deacons in the Diocese of Charleston took an important step toward their new ministry at a Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone Sept. 15 at Our Lady of the Lake Church.
The men celebrated completing their first year of study and officially moved from the aspirant stage to candidacy in the four-year diaconate program.
The last ceremony was held seven years ago, said Deacon Andre Guillet, director of diaconate formation.
Bishop Guglielmone asked the men to stand as a group and publicly commit themselves to studying for the diaconate. He also paid tribute to their wives and families, who sat in a separate section of the church.
During his homily, the bishop said the day was significant because it also was the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. He asked them to think about the anguish of Mary at the foot of the cross during the crucifixion, and said they might have to deal with their own sorrows and burdens both during their study and after they are ordained.
Their ministry will not be easy in a world that is often hostile to the Christian message, he said. He pledged his support and called for everyone in the diocese to pray and lift the men up on their journey toward the permanent diaconate.
“My dear brothers, you must be prepared to stand at the foot of the cross bearing the sorrow that this stance you take in life will entail,” Bishop Guglielmone said.
“We are very thankful for the great gift of the diaconate, something that has been dormant for almost seven years here in the diocese,” he continued. “We need to prepare you to be able to minister to God’s people adequately, with a sense of fulfillment in your hearts. Affirming your candidacy on this feast day is a sign that the cross is a sign of triumph. Jesus asked the question, ‘Who do you say that I am?’ We hope you all will be part of that answer for many people.”
Deacon Guillet thanked the class for their commitment and for the dedication of their families.
“You are an amazing group because you have wonderful wives who really love you,” he said. “We must keep all of you in our prayers and hope that you will be true instruments of God for our diocese.”
It also was the first official day of classes for 17 men just beginning their journey to the diaconate, and they received a blessing from the bishop.
“It was a very emotional day because I’ve spent 18 months getting to know these men and their families, and I was very proud of them,” Deacon Guillet said after the Mass. “They have done a lot of work and been challenged because they also help in their parishes as well, and I’m extremely proud that they have made it through this far.”
Classes for the permanent diaconate will move to St. Leo University in North Charleston. Deacon Guillet said it isn’t as convenient as classes currently held in the Midlands, but St. Leo provides a modern setting.
Men who would like to become permanent deacons should pray about it, talk with their pastor, and be active in a parish ministry for at least three years. They must complete a lengthy application process, including a psychological evaluation, background checks and interviews. Once approved for the program, men spend four years of study in Scripture, theology, church history and other subjects.
To learn more about the permanent diaconate, visit sccatholic.org/diaconate.