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Diaconate in the Archdiocese

I. Historical Perspective

II. National Catholic Confrence of Bishops ( NCCB)

III. Diaconate  in the Archdiocese of New York

In April 1970, a subcommittee was formed to investigate AThe Deacon Role in New York.  The members of the subcommittee were: Fr. Harry Byrne, chairman, Frs. John Drew, John Grange, Ed Dugan, Peter Cody, William McPeak, and Giles Nathe.  The subcommittee listed 13 specific activities that a deacon would assume in the Archdiocese.  The report was submitted to Msgr. John T. Doherty.  The report pointed out that Athe success of the permanent diaconate will require providing a definite job description and a careful spelling out of the deacon=s relationship to the pastor, the assistant priests, other deacons and the people.     
 
In July 1970 Msgr. Joseph O'Brien, Vicar General, wrote to Fr. Thomas Leonard requesting that he assume the chairmanship of the Sub-committee which will plan the formation program for the permanent deacons in the Archdiocese of New York.  Fr. Leonard accepted the position.  The members of the sub-committee were: Msgrs. Daniel Flynn, Gregory Mooney, and Matthew Cox;  Frs. James Connolly, Philip Mulcahy, George Thompson, Emerson Moore, Benedict Koult, John K. Daly, and David Arias, O.A.R. Msgr. O'Brien informed Fr. Leonard that His Eminence, Cardinal Cooke, has approved the recommendation that a diaconate program be inaugurated and hoped to have it in operation by the early part of 1971.A 

In December 1970, Fr. Leonard and members of his committee attended the Workshop on Permanent Diaconate Program Development sponsored by the Bishops= Committee on the Permanent Diaconate, National Conference of Catholic Bishops at the Center for Continuing Education, University of Chicago.   At the time there were 11 deacon formation centers established with 275 candidates. 

In March 1971 Fr. Leonard presented to Bishop Edward Head, Executive Director of Catholic Charities and members of his staff a paper on the Restoration of the Permanent Diaconate: Ideas, Questions, and Needs.   Fr. Leonard concludes his paper with these words: AThe deacon is a sign, an intermediary, a spokesman for the Church and for the people involved in the continual task of reconciliation and restoration.  In the weaving together of liturgy, Word, charity and service, he presents to the world a new challenge and a new hope.

The Diaconate Formation Program began in the Archdiocese of New York at the end of September 1971.   The first class of deacon-candidates was admitted to a two-year formation program at St. Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie, Yonkers, New York.  In September 1975, a similar two-year formation program was begun for Spanish-speaking candidates at Cathedral Preparatory Seminary located on the west side of Manhattan.  As the formation program expanded into the upper counties,  a formation venue north of Westchester county became necessary.  In February 1976  Mt. St. Alphonsus, a Redemptorist Seminary, in Esopus, New York became the third venue for diaconal formation.  The two-year formation program, initiated in 1971,  ended with the ordination class of 1985.  One hundred eighty men were ordained deacons from 1973 - 1985.   

The three-year formation program began in September 1983.  Three venues were in operation at that time: St. Joseph's Seminary, Dunwoodie; Mt. St. Alphonsus, Esopus, New York; and New York City for Hispanic candidates.  Each venue had a specific formation program which was based on the national guidelines issued from the Permanent Diaconate Office in Washington, D.C., but were not necessarily uniform in their theological, spiritual, and pastoral formation.  The three-year formation program, initiated in 1983,  ended with the ordination class of 1989.   Sixty-eight men were ordained deacons from 1986 - 1989. 

An evaluation team of experienced deacons was formed in September 1986 to review the three-year formation program.  The team was divided into four committees: Aspiring, Learning, Developing and Functioning.  These committees met from September 1986 to March 1987 at which time they submitted a recommendation for a four-year formation program commencing in September 1987.

Under the direction of Msgr. Edwin O'Brien, Rector of St. Joseph's Seminary,  a four-year formation program was approved.  It endeavored to immerse a candidate in an integrated spiritual, theological and pastoral formation program and to unify the program by standardizing the acceptance policy, evaluation procedures and by establishing a core curriculum for candidates studying at St. Joseph's  Seminary, Dunwoodie, as well as at Our Lady of Hope Center, Balmville, New York.  In September 1996 deacon-candidates studying at Our Lady of Hope Center, Newburgh were transferred to Our Lourdes High School, Poughkeepsie.  The four-year formation program is conducted in both English and Spanish.
 
In September 2004 the implementation of the National Directory's recommended formation structure was established under the direction of Deacon Anthony P.  Cassaneto.  The inquiry, aspirancy, and candidacy paths formed the outline of the new formation structure with specific standards to be met prior to advancing to the next level of formation.    

References:
Barnett, J.M.  (1979).  The Diaconate: A Full and Equal Order. New York: Seabury.
Richardson, C.C. (Ed),  (1970).  Early Christian Fathers. Vol. 1,  New York: Mac