On June 23, Fr. Luke Ferris, vicar for clergy for the Diocese of Green Bay, announced to all deacons and deacon candidates that he had suggested, and Bishop David Ricken and his Roundtable Leadership Team had approved, a pause in the formation of new deacon candidates for the next two years. After such time, the formation of deacon candidates will continue. Below, Fr. Ferris answers a few questions regarding this decision.
What does a pause mean?
It means the following:
- All deacon candidates will put their diaconal formation on hold for two years with the exception of men in their final year.
- With new diaconal formation work on hold, the director of the diaconate will become a part-time position, focused on parish leadership development with current deacons.
- Deacons and deacon candidates who are working on master’s degrees will continue their master’s studies because candidates are needed for pastoral leaders.
Why was this move made?
Reducing and refocusing the director position towards parish leadership development and the pause in candidate formation will save approximately $100,000 for each of the next two years. Due to a diocesan financial shortfall because of COVID-19, and after consulting with each office for possible budget cuts, we have limited resources, and this decision seemed reasonable — along with the other hard choices we had to make. After the fact, we also saw that over 60% of dioceses have a part-time diaconate director, so perhaps our decision was not too out of line.
What does this decision say about the diaconate as a whole?
This temporary step in no way criticizes the great work deacons are doing or the diaconate formation program. The new focus will be to mobilize current deacons and develop parish missionary leadership. Deacons are uniquely situated to work with our priests, pastoral leaders and parish leadership. Thankfully, we have 117 active deacons who can help revitalize our parishes through their work with leadership.
What would you say to deacons or candidates who may feel discouraged by this pause?
We are truly grateful for the many hours deacons voluntarily have given and continually give to the people of God. We have had to make some very difficult decisions that affect individual persons and groups. We pray that deacons can continue to be Spirit-filled leaders to mobilize our parishes in the challenges we are facing because of COVID-19 and afterwards.