Diaconate classes impart bountiful knowledge this side of heaven

September 20 will mark a return to school for Fred Knowles of Gaffney, plus 74 other men preparing for a life of ministry and service to the Church as permanent deacons.

He is one of 37 men slated to be ordained in 2016, along with another 14 in the class of 2017. In addition, 24 men will begin classes this year, with a projected ordination date of 2019, said Deacon Andre Guillet, director of diaconate formation.

Like many of his classmates, Knowles decided to start formation for the diaconate after many years of study and prayer. He’s a member of Sacred Heart Church in Gaffney who became a Catholic about 10 years ago.

“I was raised Baptist, then studied for the Methodist ministry before that led me back home to Rome,” Knowles said. “When I became Catholic, I thought that would be the end of my spiritual journey, but God finds His way and He led me to the diaconate program.”

Men who seek the ministry must complete four years of study. This year’s program includes Saturday morning sessions on pastoral and spiritual formation, with topics such as the history of the Diocese of Charleston, praying the rosary, multi-ethnic ministries and the Apostolate of the Sea.

Afternoon classes are given through St. Leo University and include Church history, Scripture, philosophy, ethics, the sacraments and the teachings of St. Paul and St. Augustine.

The men will meet one weekend a month at St. Peter Church in Columbia. Classes were held in Charleston, but returned to the Midlands to provide a more central location for people from all over the state, Deacon Guillet said.

Knowles, who is in the class of 2016, works in the theater department at Limestone College in Gaffney, and sometimes finds it difficult balancing a full time job and family time with all the reading and study. The work is all worth it, he said, because of the new things he has learned about his faith. He especially enjoys Christian history.

“Finding the time to meet the goals is pretty challenging, but the classes are really interesting,” he said. “You get to look at a multiplicity of different subjects in a variety of disciplines. It helps broaden your mind and it all points to God. I really feel like we’re moving closer and closer to enlightenment. Ultimately we can’t know everything this side of heaven, but these classes are helping us strive to know as much as we possibly can by the time we’re ordained.”

Also on Sept. 20, Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone will celebrate Mass and conduct the Rite of Admission to the ministry of acolyte for the class of 2016, and the ministry of lector for the class of 2017.

To learn more about the permanent diaconate, visit sccatholic.org/diaconate.