By: William David “Dave” Powers, Ph.D., Deacon Candidate for the Diocese of Arlington
I started to discern a calling to the permanent diaconate around 1998 when I lived in Lansing, Kansas, while serving the inmates at the Lansing Correctional Facility. A small thought or idea began to grow into something more prominent as I prayed and asked God to help me sort it all out. When I inquired about a program in the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, I discovered that they did not have one at that time. My wife, Sue, and I moved to Stafford, Virginia, in 1999 for a job transfer and I spoke with the permanent deacon at St. William of York (Deacon Smith) to see if the Diocese of Arlington had a program. Deacon Smith said there was presently no formation program, but that the diocese was pondering starting one and for me to be patient.
Bishop Loverde reinstated the permanent diaconate program in 2006. I cannot describe the utter joy I felt when I received Bishop Loverde’s letter welcoming me into the program. Since my Deacon Aspirant period began almost five years ago (and the Deacon Candidate period began almost four years ago), I have met monthly with a spiritual director/confessor as well as with my mentor. I believe even more strongly now through this period of discernment and formation that the Holy Spirit is calling me to serve as a permanent deacon. I am very excited to be ordained, God willing, and I look forward to serving Christ and His people.
Once my fellow Diaconal Candidates and I were accepted into the program, we entered the discernment phase as aspirants and began the orientation sessions. The program consists of spiritual, theological and pastoral formation. There are 16 candidates in my class as of today, heading toward ordination.
Our preparation includes theological studies, handled by professors from Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College, and pastoral and spiritual formation handled by priests, deacons, and lay professionals from the diocese. En route to ordination, my classmates and I have been installed as Lectors and as Acolytes. I cannot begin to describe the graces I have received during this time and how grateful I am for the many dedicated people who have given their time and talents to our formation. Bishop Loverde has taken time out of his outrageous schedule to visit our class on a couple of occasions demonstrating his commitment to us and this program. Your Excellency, we are ever grateful to you.
Family support is a critical part of the vocation of deacon. My wife has supported me on this journey toward the diaconate by writing letters of support in the application process, by attending as many of the formation and theological classes as she can, by her loving critiques of my homilies in homiletics class, and by her continued service to our parish in the many ministries she is involved with. My children and grandchildren have all been encouraging and are praying for me throughout the process of discernment and formation.
Deacons are called to serve. As I look back over my life, I have been involved one way or another in the Church. In my youth, I served on the altar and assisted as a lector. Over the years, I’ve taught CCD, prepared soldiers for confirmation, served as president of the parish council, served (along with my wife) as a youth minister, and as the Grand Knight in the Knights of Columbus. I continue to serve as an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion and to conduct communion/prayer services for inmates in prison. My point in listing for you my involvement with the Church is not to say, “Look what I have done in my life.” Instead, it is to tell the readers who may think of applying to the program that you must be involved in the life of the Church so that you are more prepared to serve Her.
The permanent diaconate means, for me, an opportunity to serve God and our Holy Catholic Church through the graces of the Sacrament of Holy Orders. The deacon is one sent to serve the needs of the Church with direction from his bishop and the priest/pastor in the parish. I, if ordained a deacon in January 2011, will not continue to serve the Church the same way I do today. My service could be in any area depending upon the needs of the diocese and/or the parish to which I am assigned. I fully understand that the Sacrament of Holy Orders is permanent and that I must always conduct myself as a representative of God’s Holy Church in all my undertakings in family, professional and Church life.
The deacon is commissioned to “Receive the Gospel of Christ…believe what you read, teach what you believe, and practice what you teach.” Evangelization is the “heartbeat” of all a deacon is called to be and do. I promise to do all within my power, through the grace of God, to live up to that commission if the Holy Spirit accepts me, through the judgment of Bishop Loverde, as suitable for ordination. May God bless all who read this.
In Christ, Dave Powers