Special for the Herald
On a quiet Saturday in March, a group of people from all walks of life gathered at Chaminade University’s Mystic Rose Oratory to begin a five-year journey of academic, spiritual, and pastoral formation aimed at preparing them to the life of deacon – or deacon. wife.
Nearly 40 people attended the deacon candidate orientation, including 22 program participants.
Dustyn Ragasa, Ph.D., director of the master’s program in pastoral theology at Chaminade and assistant professor of religious studies, said the new diaconate cohort includes 10 couples and two single men. They are members of the military and law enforcement, teachers and professors, medical professionals and business owners.
“Each brings with them a wealth of practical experience that allows them to do theology in their own way,” Ragasa said.
“Some candidates come to us with prior theological training and others learn the basics of disciplined theological inquiry,” he said. “Some are lifelong Catholics and others are recent converts to the faith. This mosaic of perspectives enriches the overall learning experience.
The March 12 orientation was the first held at the Oratory of the Mystical Rose — what Ragasa said underscores the strong partnership between the Diocese of Honolulu and Chaminade. Participants in the Diocesan Diaconate Ongoing Formation Program may also opt for a Graduate Certificate, Master of Pastoral Theology, or Bachelor of Religious Studies at Chaminade.
Three women and six diaconate candidates from all cohorts are currently pursuing master’s degrees in pastoral theology at the university. Ragasa said the degree also welcomes lay and lay people.
The role of deacon is an “ancient” role in Catholicism, Ragasa said, and described in the Bible.
Both married and single men can serve as deacons. Married men participate in the diaconate training program with their wives. After ordination, deacons serve their communities and the church in many ways, Ragasa said. “It is their responsibility to proclaim the gospel and to preach,” he said. “They also have the ability to baptize, distribute Holy Communion, perform marriages, officiate at funerals, lead prayer, and assume leadership roles in their communities.”
But unlike priests and bishops, deacons hold “day jobs” in a long list of fields – from education to health care to engineering to social services. What unites them, Ragasa said, is simple: “Deacons are expected to nurture and care for those around them, whatever work they undertake.”
Mentored along the way
Participants complete the diaconate formation program in cohorts, devoting three years to intellectual and academic growth and two years to intense spiritual reflection and pastoral work. Along the way, they are mentored by those who have completed the program and are now ministering in parishes.
Deacon Michael Weaver, lecturer in historical and political studies at Chaminade, attended the orientation with his wife Cecelia to speak to attendees. He said a central part of the formation program is to help a candidate determine if becoming a deacon is his calling.
“Through personal prayer and competent spiritual direction, as well as academic and professional training, each person discerns whether such a vocation is truly present for them,” he said. “The main effect, I think, is to discover who you really are as a person and a believer. You develop a confidence that manifests in a willingness to preach the gospel and represent the Church in the world.
The seeds of Chaminade’s strong partnership with the diaconate program were sown more than a decade ago, Ragasa said, and the Diocese of Honolulu has since garnered national attention for its commitment to theological and academic preparation of high quality for its candidates.
“Honolulu is one of the few dioceses to claim this level of partnership with its local university,” Ragasa added. “Having local teachers who understand our cultures, who sit in the pews, allows them to meet the specific educational needs of the men and women ministering in our unique island context.”
The group of applicants who met on campus in March are part of Cohort 11, and their academic preparation program officially began in April. Ragasa said the orientation was designed both to help applicants feel comfortable at Chaminade and to familiarize them with the university’s resources.
A longer version of this story was published on April 5 by the Department of Communications and Marketing at Chaminade University. It is used here with permission.