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Deacon and Lay Ministries Formation 

The Four Dimensions of Formation


  

The Human Dimension

 


  

The Human Dimension

   Grace builds on nature, and the vocations of the Lay Minister and the deacon are built on the human person who responds to a call from God for service to the Church. Relational skills are essential for effective ministry. For most deacons and lay ministers, although not all, the primary relationship is that of husband and wife.

   A marriage inventory is introduced during the orientation weekend to participants going through the program with their spouses to help insure that those who are married are bringing strong, vital marital relationships to the formation process. Should the inventory reveal that a marriage relationship needs to be attended to, the participant is encouraged to deal with those issues first and then resume formation where it was interrupted. The demands of the formation program on people’s time and energy are great. Even vitalized marriages need to protect themselves from being eroded by the demands of the formation process. For deacons and their wives, this becomes even more important after ordination. Should anyone experience the need to take time during the program to attend to their marriage relationship, they will be encouraged to leave the program temporarily and then continue in formation at a later date, resuming at the point where they disengaged.

   Psychological testing is a part of the ongoing screening process. All of us have personalities that have both strengths and weaknesses. God uses the totality of the person for His own purposes in ministry. Psychological strengths and weaknesses need to be understood and embraced as a foundation for spiritual growth. More information will be given later in the year regarding the psychological testing.

   The ability to reveal self in an appropriate way, to cooperate with the formation process, to enter mutual relationships where sharing faith can occur, to trust, to initiate relationships, to self-evaluate, to grow in one’s faith and develop the ability to communicate that faith are critical to the formation process and are addressed in all phases of the program but especially in the Human Integration Mentoring Meetings. Participants will meet with their mentors monthly for two hours at a place and time mutually acceptable to everyone in the group. Groups are assigned based on geographical proximity with those forming for diaconate being mentored by Deacons and their wives and those being mentoring into lay ministry being mentored by Lay Ministers.

 


  

The Intellectual Dimension

 


  

The Intellectual Dimension

   While the Aspirancy Path and the Discovery Year for Lay Ministry are not intended as primarily academic or “classroom” experiences, four courses provide for the intellectual development of the participants. Aspirants are expected to read the Vatican Directory, “The Basic Norms for the Formation, Ministry and Life of the Permanent Deacon.” Those preparing for lay ministry are expected to read the USCCB document, “Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord.”  Whether one is forming oneself for diaconal or lay ministry, most work in this formation prgram is collaborative in an effort to build collegiality and mutual respect.

   Weekend-long intensives will be held in Communication Skills for Ministry, Foundations of Theology, The Catechism of the Catholic Church and Catholic Social Teaching. During each intensive weekend, reading and writing assignments will be given for course completion. These courses are designed to give participants a solid grounding and a common understanding of some of the basic elements of ministry and Catholicism.

   The ability to listen and to communicate effectively, a basic understanding of the content of our faith and knowledge of Church teaching in the areas of charity and justice are essential parts of ministering to the people of God. The bishops of the United States have repeatedly said that charity and justice are constitutive elements of the faith. One indication of a vocation to diaconate is a passion for the ministry of charity and justice.

   Another vital aspect of one’s intellectual formation is the ability to engage in theological reflection. In the process of learning this important skill, participants will learn to apply the Church’s teaching on moral matters including her social teaching to current issues.

   Because the diocese of Boise covers all 84,500 square miles of Idaho, each course is held in a different part of the state to expose participants to the whole local church and to make formation accessible to people who live in every part of the diocese.

 


  

The Spiritual Dimension

 


  

The Spiritual Dimension

   There are three characteristics that apply to all those interested in being formed for ministry: love for the Lord, an ability to articulate faith and spirituality and generous service to the poor and marginalized.

   The theology and spirituality of Lay Ministry and of the Diaconate is the center of all other formation activities and growth. This year is a time to focus on each person’s faith and spirituality whether they are preparing for lay or ordained ministry or accompanying someone who is preparing. It is a time to grow in personal relationship with Christ and in commitment to the Church and its mission in the world.

   As part of the formation process, you will be expected to identify a spiritual director for yourself, and participate in regular spiritual direction throughout the four years. It is in spiritual direction that one learns how to bring the issues in one’s life to prayer. This is an important aspect of discernment and everyone will be expected to have initiated a relationship with a spiritual director consisting of one hour each month by the beginning of October. This relationship is confidential in nature. The only contact the formation program will have with the spiritual directors will be to confirm regular participation in spiritual direction.

   On one Saturday in each of several months throughout the year, participants will explore various aspects of Spirituality in the Catholic Tradition. (You can see examples of those seminars and their presenters on the "Servant School Courses" page of this website.) The seminars will be accessible over the internet to limit the amount of travel required to participate.

   Substantially different in tone and pace from the academic intensives, the first year ends with a retreat in June. This experience gives participants an opportunity to reflect on the past year and continue to discern their vocation to public ministry in the Church.

   An essential part of formation is regular participation in the sacraments and a healthy prayer life. All are encouraged to examine the frequency of their reception of the sacraments of Eucharist and Reconciliation and the vitality of their daily prayer and to make the adjustments necessary so that their participation in formation can be fed from these essential sources of grace. 

 


  

The Pastoral Dimension

 


  

The Pastoral Dimension

   Developing ministerial skills, which include learning how to approach social justice issues critically and systematically, is another important dimension of formation and discernment. The whole of the Aspirancy and Discovery Year provides a basic structure, intellectual understanding and spiritual basis for engaging in the social justice internship which occurs in the spring and summer before being accepted to proceed in the formation process. Details regarding this internship and a list of internship opportunities will be provided during the intensive weekend which takes place early in March.

   All four years of formation include experience in the pastoral dimension. Just as the summer internship following the Aspirancy/Discovery Year is focused on an area of social concern, the internship after the 2nd year will give participants experience in hospital ministry and home visiting.

   Entering the final year of formation, interns will gain practical experience in the specific ministries they will be performing after ordination or certification. Each person will also take part in a second internship in program and leadership development as part of their final year of formation.

 

 

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