Bishop Solis speaks to deacon aspirants
Tuesday, Apr. 18, 2023
Bishop Oscar A. Solis speaks to the men aspiring to be deacons and their wives during a class at the diocesan Pastoral Center on April 15.
SALT LAKE CITY — Permanent deacons are essential partners with priests in the mission of evangelization and other pastoral ministries, Bishop Oscar A. Solis told the 10 men who are discerning the path to the diaconate in the Diocese of Salt Lake City.
In the Catholic Church, deacons may proclaim the Gospel, preach the homily, and assist at the altar, baptize, witness and bless marriages, and preside at funeral liturgies, among other duties. Unlike seminarians, who are ordained deacons a year or so before they are ordained to the priesthood, permanent deacons may be married and have families.
On April 15, the bishop spent almost two hours talking with the men and their wives. He reviewed the history of the diaconate in the Church, the qualities required of those who minister as deacons, and discussed the role of deacons in the diocese.
While giving the foundation of the diaconate, the bishop quoted extensively from the Basic Norms for the Formation of Permanent Deacons, a document published by the Vatican’s Congregation for Catholic Education and Congregation for the Clergy.
According to the norms, the human qualities that candidates for the permanent diaconate should possess are psychological maturity, a capacity for dialogue and communication, a sense of responsibility, industriousness, equilibrium and prudence. Their evangelical virtues should be prayer, Eucharistic and Marian devotion, a humble and strong sense of the Church, love for the Church and her mission, a spirit of poverty, a capacity for obedience and fraternal communion, apostolic zeal, openness to service, and charity towards the brothers and sisters.
The bishop gave this background, he said, “in order that you will see the seriousness of what it means to be called to the service of the Church.”
In addition to the qualities outlined in the norms, Bishop Solis is looking for men who are enthusiastic and have a commitment to service, he said.
Deacons are collaborators with the bishop, the priests and diocesan leaders in the mission of the Church, Bishop Solis said. “You are our essential partners in the mission of evangelization and other pastoral ministries.”
Once ordained, the deacons probably will be assigned to a parish under the supervision of the pastor or parochial vicar, but they can request a different assignment, especially if they have special skills or interests, he said. For example, the diocese is seeking to expand its prison ministry, and he encouraged those present to consider this or another social justice ministry.
In addition, he said he would like to strengthen the role and ministry of permanent deacons in the diocese, and work to maximize their gifts for the glory of God.
There currently are 52 deacons actively serving in the diocese, said Deacon Scott Dodge, director of the Office of the Diaconate. The 10 men who are now aspirants are the first group to be formed under the guidelines of the new national directory; they are completing their second year of discernment. During this time they have been introduced to the study of theology and Scripture and canon law. In addition, they have developed spiritual practices that integrate the Liturgy of the Hours, especially Morning and Evening Prayer, Marian devotion, lectio divina and the examen.
The next step for the aspirants is the Rite of Candidacy, which is scheduled for June 3. If they are selected, they will become candidates for Holy Orders, and their course work will become more academic as they prepare for ordination in 2027, Deacon Dodge said.
The diocese is planning to hold inquiry sessions early next year for the next two classes of deacons, one English-speaking and another Spanish-speaking. The plan is to have such classes every three years, Deacon Dodge said.
The schedule for the inquiry sessions will be published when it becomes available.