Candidacy and Formation for Diaconate

Initial Steps

It is the responsibility of the diocesan bishop to discern a vocation to the diaconate.

  • To be a suitable candidate for ordination to the diaconate, a person must be a Catholic man of sound moral character and mature faith who has shown a sense of vocation to service.
  • He must demonstrate prayerfulness and an openness to further spiritual formation.
  • He should be at least thirty years of age (cf. can. 1031 ยง2) and should be involved already in parish or other apostolic life. He should not normally be older than the commonly accepted retirement age.
  • He should have the ability to complete undergraduate studies and be able to make time for formation without detriment to his family and work commitments.
  • He must have adequate physical and mental health.
  • If married, he must have the active support of his wife (and family). If not married, or widowed in the future, he must be willing to accept a lifelong commitment to celibacy.
  • He must have the support of his parish priest or other equivalent church leaders.
  • A bishop or his delegate will interview an applicant and obtain appropriate documents, certificates and references. An applicant's wife should also be interviewed.

The applicant will be provided with written information about the formation process including the time involved, the role of deacons within the diocese, and expectations during formation and after ordination as a deacon.


An applicant for ordained ministry will receive formation in four areas: theological, personal, spiritual and ministerial. The bishop will appoint an experienced, competent director of formation to oversee this program.

It may be appropriate for several bishops in neighbouring dioceses to establish a single formation program, with one director, for applicants in their dioceses.

An applicant should obtain a degree in theology from an approved institution, either by residential study or distance education.

In addition, an applicant should participate in a formation program organised or supported within his diocese. This will normally consist of part of one weekend every month and will normally take four years. The program will address issues of personal growth, encourage a deeper spiritual life and seek to equip an applicant with the ministerial skills needed in the diaconate, in the areas of pastoral care, preaching and leading various forms of public worship. The program should assist a candidate to understand the life of the diocese, and to take his place in it. A significant component of the program will be a supervised pastoral placement.

An applicant's wife will be encouraged to participate in at least some aspects of this formation program. Some additional sessions should be conducted specifically for the wives (and family members) of applicants.

At an appropriate time during the formation program, and with the consent his wife and those who have overseen the formation program, an applicant would formally petition the bishop to be accepted as a candidate for ordination to the diaconate. It would be expected that, at definite stages throughout a formation program, an applicant would be formally installed by the bishop in the ministries of acolyte and lector. A candidate would make a five-day retreat before ordination.


The costs and funding of a formation program may vary from diocese to diocese. Such arrangements should be explained and agreed upon before applicants are accepted into the program.

Ongoing Formation of Deacons

Along with other members of the clergy, a deacon accepts a life-long commitment to ongoing formation in the theological, personal, spiritual and ministerial aspects of his life. As far as possible, he will attend conferences, seminars and retreats conducted for the clergy of his diocese. He will be encouraged to participate in programs and associations designed specifically for the support of deacons. It will often be fruitful for appropriate programs to be offered to deacons' wives (and families).

  • Created: 10 March 2010
  • Modified: 02 January 2013