By Kevin Kelly
Catholic Key Associate Editor
KANSAS CITY — Men between the ages of 31 and 58 who think it might be possible that God is calling them to ordained ministry as permanent deacons can find out more at one of three informational meetings in April.
Deacon Dwayne Katzer, Formation Director of the diocesan Diaconate office, said the meetings are scheduled for:
• 7 p.m. April 23, The Catholic Center, 20 W. 9th St., Kansas City (Cardinal Baum Room).
• 7 p.m. April 25, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, 4503 Frederick Blvd., St. Joseph (Bartlett Room).
• 10 a.m. April 27, The Catholic Center, 20 W. 9th St., Kansas City (Cardinal Baum Room).
Deacon Katzer stressed that attending the meetings bears no obligation whatsoever.
“This is the first step for those who feel they may be called by God to the diaconate, but there are no expectations placed on anyone who attends,” he said.
He said that there are also no obligations on those who decide to apply for acceptance into formation classes that will begin early next year, nor any obligation on those who are accepted, begin formation, then discern during the course of the long formation that they don’t have the call.
“It is a four-and-a-half year process of discernment and transformation,” Deacon Katzer said. “The idea of formation is that we take him on a journey where he is transformed into a deacon. After he becomes a deacon as a person, then he is ordained sacramentally.”
That transformation is not possible without a specific call from God, Deacon Katzer said.
“We are ordained for a life of service,” he said. “The calling comes from God. He is the one doing the choosing.”
Though God calls each person in different ways, Deacon Katzer suggested ways in which men can discern between a call from God to the diaconate and a simple human desire to be a deacon.
For instance, a man called to the diaconate might often be resistant to the call, may be unaware of his gifts of service that others plainly see, already is performing selfless acts of service and may have been doing that his entire life, and often prays “Thy will be done.”
A man with a simple human desire but no call to ordination might consider being a deacon as a prestigious honor, might find that others are surprised by his decision, and might pray, “Please God, let me be a deacon for you.”
There is nothing wrong with not being called, Deacon Katzer said. But at the informational meetings, he will also give a more complete picture of the life of service to which deacons are called.
“Most people see us at the altar (at Sunday Mass) and they might think that is all a deacon does,” he said. “But we’ve also got deacons holding the hands of the dying in the middle of the night when no family members can be there.”
Deacon Katzer said that the apostles themselves established deacons to minister to and serve the needs of the widows and orphans of the very early church. That ministry continues today in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph with deacons serving the poor in scores of ways.
He referred to a 1997 article in Catholic Today by Deacon John Alt, who expressed how a deacon’s service at the altar, to the Word, and to charity are unbreakably intertwined.
“His proclamation of the Gospel at Mass and assistance at the altar are signs to the community of the unbreakable link between word, altar and serving the poor,” Deacon Alt wrote. “He is now an ordained minister called publicly and committed to service in the name of Jesus.”
Deacon Katzer also noted the basic requirements for acceptance into the formation program.
A prospective candidate must be a practicing Roman Catholic for at least five years, and a registered member of his parish community for at least three years.
If single, prospective candidates must commit to the single life and maintain celibacy. If married, he must be married for at least seven years, and must have the full support of his wife. In fact, Deacon Katzer strongly recommends that wives also attend the informational meetings with their husbands.
Prospective candidates must also have a high school diploma or GED, and also the ability to do studies required during formation.
Deacon Katzer said that prospective candidates must also submit a written application with required documentation including sacramental records. They will also agree to two in-home interviews as well as a criminal background check before their applications are studied by the Committee on Admissions and Scrutinies, who will then recommend to the bishop who will decide to accept a person into a year of “aspirancy.”
Deacon Katzer emphasized again that attendance at any of the three informational meeting carries no further obligation.
“Going to a meeting doesn’t mean you have to apply,” he said. “Only about half the men who attend these meetings end up applying, and that’s fine.”