Wide-ranging life experiences bring candidates to the diaconate

Miscellany file photo: At a previous ordination, diaconate candidates prostrate themselves.

CHARLESTON—Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone will ordain 15 men to the permanent diaconate on Feb. 6 at 11 a.m. at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. 

The ordinands will have completed almost six years of intense discernment and study, the last year of which was completed in the midst of the global pandemic. 

Men who want to become permanent deacons must go through a nine-month discernment program, complete four years of rigorous study through St. Leo University, and then two additional semesters of homiletics and canon law classes, according to Deacon André Guillet, diocesan director for the Diaconate Office. 

Since March 2020, classes were held at the pastoral center in Charleston, with social distancing and other precautions in place. Sessions were recorded so the men who could not attend in person could watch them later. 

Deacon Guillet said the diaconate class of 2021 ranges in age from 40 to 64, and the men bring with them a wide range of life experiences that will help them as they begin lives of service to the Church, their parishes and the community. 

“This is a group of intelligent, amazing men who have created an incredible bond among themselves,” Deacon Guillet said. “They also are men with incredible faith.”

After ordination, the men will be able to perform a wide range of duties in their parishes, including assisting priests during Mass. 

Permanent deacons can also administer baptisms, witness marriages, preside at funerals and wakes, and lead benedictions and prayer services. In addition, Deacon Guillet said the men will take on other duties at their parishes according to their skills. Permanent deacons, for instance, often lead ministry and outreach programs, teach classes, and visit the sick. 

Deacon Guillet also praised the wives of the men preparing for the diaconate. He said they often have to deal with planning family events and schedules around long class hours, and also support the men as they tackle difficult subjects week after week. A few of the women have studied right along with their husbands and earned master’s degrees in theology from St. Leo. 

“Without the support of their wives, they would not have made it this far,” Deacon Guillet said. 

The current class of 15 is part of a consistently strong permanent diaconate program in the diocese. Deacon Guillet said there are 37 other candidates in formation plus another 18 who are going through the application process. 

The 15 candidates come from an eclectic professional background:

Samuel Aguilar is a manager at Michelin, James Baker is process control system foreman, Tim Baker is an engineer, Peter Brown is a college professor, Michael Cavin is a chemical engineer, James Chin is a healthcare consultant, Scott Hart is an analytical engineer, Michael Heidkamp is an electronics technician, Thomas Chet Johns is a physician, Brian Justice is a software engineer, David Kahn is a licensed professional counselor, Edward Kelly is a computer scientist, Greg Tavarez is a systems engineer, Mark Thompson is a construction supervisor, and Michael Thompson is a chemical engineer.

Click the image below to read more about the men preparing to be ordained in February: