Overview of the Permanent Diaconate

Deacons are ordained ministers of the Church. The Sacrament of Holy Orders “marks deacons with an imprint (character) which cannot be removed and which configures them to Christ, who made himself the ‘deacon’ or servant of all.” (CCC #1570)

In 2000, Bishop Patrick J. McGrath introduced the ministry of the Permanent Diaconate to the Diocese of San Jose. There are a few deacons in the diocese who were ordained for the Archdiocese of San Francisco in the 1970s, when San Jose was still part of the Archdiocese, but most of the deacons of San Jose have been ordained in the years since 2005.

The primary ministry of deacons for the Diocese of San Jose is charity and justice to the poor and marginalized of the community. Deacons are often involved in ministries such as visiting people in jail or in hospitals, visiting those who are homebound and infirm, and helping house and feed the homeless. Deacons also work to change social and economic systems that cause people to be marginalized. Specific assignments for deacons will be determined by the needs of the Diocese.

In liturgical ministry, deacons may baptize, witness marriage, officiate at wakes, funerals (outside of Mass) and burial services, preside at prayer services, distribute Holy Communion, proclaim the Gospel and deliver the homily at Mass.

An applicant for deacon formation must . . .

  • Be an active fully initiated male member of the Roman Catholic Church for a minimum of three (3) years.
  • Be between the ages of 30 and 60 at the time of application.
  • Have an active prayer life.
  • Have completed at least one year of the Institute for Leadership in Ministry (ILM).
  • Be able to speak, understand, read, and write English. If the native language is not English or Spanish, the applicant must take the TOEFL and receive scores of Reading (22), Listening (22), Speaking (29), and Writing (26).
  • Be open to grow in knowledge of the Church’s teachings and in the pastoral applications of these teachings.
  • Have a history of active service and proven leadership in parish or diocesan ministry.
  • Have sufficient academic foundation to engage in advanced studies.
  • Be in good physical and mental health.
  • Be open to serving the Church in a variety of ways, depending on the needs of the Diocese.

Marriage and Celibacy

    • Must be in a stable valid marriage in the Catholic Church for a minimum of five (5) years immediately prior to application.
    • Wife must provide written consent of her willingness to allow her husband to enter formation.
    • Wife must be willing to attend formation Saturday sessions and yearly retreats with her husband.
    • Deacon applicant must understand that he may not remarry if his wife predeceases him.
    • Family responsibility. The rigors and time commitment necessary for successful completion of the formation process can place significant stress on the family. As the well-being of the family is of primary concern, couples must give due consideration to the care requirements of their minor children or other family members requiring their direct care. This reality must be carefully weighed in the final decision to enter formation.
    • An unmarried applicant must understand the current Church disciplines requiring celibacy for life for the unmarried Permanent Deacon. He should discuss this requirement thoroughly with his pastor, his spiritual director, or an unmarried deacon.
    • In consideration of the grieving and readjustment period following the loss of a spouse, applications from widowers will be considered only after three (3) years have elapsed from the date of loss.

Stages of Formation

 Deacon Formation is centered around the Four Pillars: Spiritual Formation, Human Formation, Pastoral Formation, and Intellectual Formation. Everyone in Deacon Formation must have a spiritual director with whom he has regular meetings. During the formation process, aspirants and candidates will be given opportunities for practical experience in pastoral areas such as preaching, assisting liturgical celebrations, and working directly in social justice ministries.


Completion of the Diocese of San Jose Institute for Leadership in Ministry (ILM) is part of the total commitment of deacon formation. Admission to the ILM is by nomination of a pastor. Discernment sessions are offered in the second year for those men who are discerning to apply to the Deacon Formation Program.  If accepted into Deacon Formation, the first year of Aspirancy will overlap with the third and final year of ILM.



Admission to the aspirancy portion of Deacon Formation requires the pastor’s nomination and recommendation.

After acceptance by the Board and approval by the Bishop, the candidate enters into two years of Aspirancy.

In the first year of Aspirancy (which may overlap with the third year of ILM), the aspirant and his wife will attend three Saturday sessions, focusing on the foundations of ministry, and spiritual and personal formation, and will attend a retreat in June. In addition, the aspirant will do a field experience (e.g., volunteering in a hospital, prison, or homeless shelter) and reflect on this with the help of a facilitator.

In the second year of Aspirancy, the aspirant and his wife will attend regular monthly Saturday sessions from August through May, and a retreat in June.  In addition, second-year aspirants will begin taking theology classes at Santa Clara University.


In the fall of the second aspirancy year, an aspirant may petition to be accepted as a candidate for the permanent diaconate. The Admissions and Evaluation Board makes a recommendation to the Bishop.

Candidacy lasts a minimum of three years. Candidates continue to attend Saturday sessions with their wives, attend a yearly retreat, take classes in theology, and participate in other aspects of the formation program.  There are several points during the candidacy period in which the Board will evaluate the candidate’s progress and make a recommendation to the Bishop about the candidate’s fitness to proceed towards ordination.

Contact the Office of Deacon Formation

Deacon Phil Flowers
Director of Deacon Formation