Office of the Permanent Diaconate

The Office of the Permanent Diaconate is charged by the Bishop with directing all programs related to the ministry of the Permanent Deacon in the Diocese of Wilmington. Its primary responsibilities are twofold: 1) the assignment, evaluation, and continuing formation of ordained permanent deacons, and 2) the selection as well as the intellectual, spiritual, human, and pastoral formation of aspirants and candidates for the Permanent Diaconate.
 Permanent Deacons

Please click here for the secure webpages for Permanent Deacons.

 Formation Team

Please click here for the secure webpage for the Formation Team.

 Diaconate Application Process

For those who are working to complete their applications to the Deacon Formation Program, please click here to access the supplemental letters and forms needed to finalize your application.

Applications are only handed out during a special Aspirancy session. You must have been invited to participate in the Aspirancy program to be eligible to complete and submit an application.

 Diaconate Aspirancy Program

For those who have already been invited to participate in our Diaconate Aspirancy Program, please click here for the secure webpage.

The Diaconate Aspirancy Program starts after attending an Inquiry Night in which interested individuals gain more knowledge of what it means to be a Deacon and what is required to become one. During this period, the aspirants attend monthly sessions on Saturday along with the Diaconate Formation Team. Both the aspirants and team use these sessions to help their discernment as to whether the aspirants should be invited to submit an application to continue their discernment and begin academic classes.

 Diaconate Candidacy Program

For those who have been invited to participate in our Diaconate Candidacy Program, please click here forfor the secure webpage.

The Diaconate Candidacy Program begins after the Diaconate Aspirancy Program ends. There are four essential dimensions for formation: human, spiritual, intellectual, and pastoral. These dimensions promote the formation of the whole person and are interrelated to achieve a continual integration of objectives in the life of each participant and in his exercise of ministry.

Human Dimension

Four aspects of human maturity are considered during formation:

  1. Formation in the human virtues,
  2. the capacity to relate to others,
  3. affective maturity including psychosexual maturity and health, and
  4. training in freedom, which includes the education of the moral conscience.

Deacons, above all, must be persons who can relate well to others.

Spiritual Dimension

The first goal of spiritual formation is the establishment and nourishment of attitudes, habits, and practices that will set the foundation for a lifetime of ongoing spiritual discipline. A man must demonstrate he lives a life of mature Christian spirituality. The spiritual dimension of formation should “affirm and strengthen” this spirituality. The spiritual dimension of formation, therefore, should assist the participant in assessing the depth and quality of his integration of personal, family, employment, and ministerial responsibilities. Further, it should assist his growth in self-knowledge, in his commitment to Christ and his Church, and his dedication to service, especially to the poor and those most suffering. A strong spiritual life and a real commitment to serve people converge in the continual transformation of the participant’s mind and heart in harmony with Christ.

Intellectual Dimension

The intellectual dimension of formation must communicate a knowledge of the faith and church tradition that is “complete and serious,” so each participant will be prepared to carry out his vital ministry. The commitment to study, which takes up no small part of the time of those preparing for ordination as a deacon, is not an external and secondary dimension of their human, Christian, spiritual, and vocational growth. In reality, through study, especially the study of theology, the future deacon assents to the Word of God by growing in his spiritual life and prepares himself to fulfill his pastoral ministry.

Deacons must first understand and practice the essentials of Christian doctrine and life before they can communicate them to others in a clear way in their ministries of word, liturgy, and charity. Sacred Scripture is the soul of the program. The other branches of theology are structured around it. Liturgical studies are given prominence, as the participants are prepared to lead the faith community in prayer and sacramental life. Preaching, with its preparation and practice, requires a significant segment of time in the program of study.

This criterion focuses the preparation and presentation of a systematic, comprehensive, and integrated intellectual formation, which is faithful to the Magisterium of the Church. This integrated intellectual formation is meant to support and prepare the deacon for his primary ministerial roles of word, liturgy, and charity, Based on Scripture and Tradition, the documents of the Second Vatican Council, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the General Directory for Catechesis of the USCCB. Formation takes into account this theological and practical content:

  1. Introduction to sacred Scripture and its authentic interpretation; the theology of the Old and New Testaments; the interrelation between Scripture, Tradition, and the Magisterium; the use of Scripture in spiritual formation, preaching, evangelization, catechesis, and pastoral activity in general.
  2. Introduction to the study of the Fathers of the Church and an elementary knowledge of the history of the Church.
  3. Fundamental theology, with illustration of the sources; topics and methods of theology; presentation of the questions relating to revelation, and the formulation of the relationship between faith and reason, which will enable the participant to explain the reasonableness of the faith.
  4. Dogmatic theology, with its various treatises: Trinity, creation, Christology, ecclesiology including the Church as a communion of churches (Latin and Eastern Catholic Churches), ecumenism, Mariology, Christian anthropology; sacraments (especially theology of the ordained ministry), and eschatology.
  5. Christian morality in its personal, familial, and social dimensions, including the Church’s teaching on sexuality, the social doctrine of the Church, and health care ethics.
  6. Spiritual theology, the spiritual traditions of the Church as applied to one’s spiritual journey, and the spiritual life of the faithful.
  7. Liturgy and its historical, spiritual, and juridical aspects, with particular attention to the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults and to the liturgical rites the deacon will celebrate.
  8. Canon Law, especially canonical considerations about rights and obligations, diocesan structures, preaching, sacraments, and sacramentals, and the administration of temporal goods.
  9. Ecumenism and interreligious dialogue principles, norms, and dimensions in pastoral ministry.
  10. Theology of Catholic evangelization: “evangelization of cultures and the inculturation of the message of faith,” multicultural expressions of the faith, and missiology.

Pastoral Dimension

An integral formation must relate the human, spiritual, and intellectual dimensions to pastoral practice. It should strengthen and enhance the exercise of the prophetic, priestly, and servant-leadership functions—deriving from his baptismal consecration—already lived and exercised by the participant in diaconal formation. He is taught how to proclaim the Christian message and teach it, how to lead others in communal celebrations of liturgical prayer, and how to witness to the Church in a Christian service marked by charity and justice.

The pastoral dimension of formation pays particular attention to these elements.

  1. The Church’s Ministry of the Word—Proclamation of the word in the varied contexts of ministerial service: kerygma, catechesis, preparation for the sacraments, homiletics—both in theory and practice, evangelization, and missiology.
  2. The Church’s Ministry of Liturgy—Liturgical praxis: celebration of the sacraments and sacramentals, service at the altar.
  3. The Church’s Ministry of Charity and Justice—Educating and helping in the exercise of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy by the Church; fostering by facilitation, motivation, and organization the Church’s ministry of charity and justice, and the preferential option for the poor.

For more information. contact:

 Deacon Philip A. Belt

Director, Office of the Permanent Diaconate
Diocese of Wilmington
1626 N. Union Street
Wilmington, Delaware 19806
Phone: (302) 573-2390
Fax: (302) 573-6994
Email: [email protected]