The Diocese of Gallup is inviting men who would like to discern a vocation to the diaconate to a “Come and See” weekend retreat on April 21-23, 2023. The formation process for deacons requires, on average, four years, and the next four-year cycle for deacon candidates will begin in the Fall of 2025.
But those wishing to attend the “Come and See” retreat don’t need to be sure of a calling to the vocation of deacon – there’s “no pressure” to continue, according to Deacon Ron Chavez, co-director of the Diocese’s Deacon Formation Program.
“Don’t feel that you’re gonna be compelled to do this,” Deacon Chavez explains. “Get a taste of what it’s all about, and then you can have more information to base a decision on – whether it’s something you’d like to pursue, or not for you.”
If nothing else, those attending the weekend will get to broaden their knowledge by sitting in on vigorous classes on Church history, theology, and philosophy.
“When I first came to formation as an aspirant, I thought, I wish all my family and friends were here, learning what I’m learning, because it’s made us more aware of our Catholicism, of our calling,” said Deacon Chavez, referring to himself and his wife, Rosie, who attends classes with him. “But even if you don’t complete the formation, even if you eventually find out that it’s not your calling, it’s gonna be very valuable to you as a Catholic man.”
Wives of deacon candidates are encouraged to attend the formation classes with their husbands. Sarah Stubbs, of St. Mary Parish in Farmington, who accompanies her husband Steven, a convert from Methodism and one of the diaconate candidates, enjoys the academic challenge the program presents to both of them.
“I see a deepening of his faith. I was a cradle Catholic, so I didn’t question [what I was taught] – this has made me want to learn more.”
Rosie Chavez concurs, and still accompanies Deacon Chavez whenever she can to the formation classes.
“I actually enjoyed it myself, because I was able to come along, and I feel like I was growing in my knowledge and spirituality too by being right there with him. I would really recommend it. I know if you have children it’s probably hard, but if you can make some kind of arrangements every so often so you can come with him, it’s very rewarding.”
Deacon Chavez notes that one effect of his ordination – and the program – is the increased bond between spouses.
“It’s made us more aware of our vows – in other words, my job is to get her to Heaven, and her job is to get me to Heaven, and I think we’re more aware of the responsibilities we have to each other as a result of the ordination.”
Stubbs and another candidate, Juraj Klepac, advise men who apply to enter the diaconate program to consider the large academic commitment.
“I would say, expect that it’s not easy, even if it’s only once a month. You really need to have support from your wife and have some sort of flexibility,” Klepac said. Diaconate candidates have assignments and studies to complete between the monthly formation weekends.
Potential candidates should also understand that, once ordained, they usually cannot get re-married, or married if they are single.
But for the current crop of candidates, the benefits they have gained far outweigh any struggles. The camaraderie and friendships formed between the candidates, their wives, and teachers is palpable and often lasts a lifetime.
“Being able to be with the guys, and share your lives, and pray together – it’s really important. That’s a big part of the formation that I personally really enjoy,” said Klepac.
Deacon Chavez advises potential candidates not to stress too much about worthiness.
“For me, once I was ordained, I worried about whether I was worthy. I worried about whether I was capable. But in real life, it made a big difference, because I’ve been given the graces to fulfill my responsibilities. And I’ve been given a lot of blessings – my family has been given a lot of blessings as well.”
Neither are potential candidates locked into a vocation once they begin Diaconate formation.
“There’s no pressure for you to complete the program. I kept waiting for them to say ‘we don’t think this is your calling’. And I’d have been fine with that – don’t be upset if that’s what happens, because not everyone is called. But the experience you have [here] is gonna be valuable.”
Those wishing to attend the come and see weekend, or to enter the diaconate program, should have the approval of their local parish priest. Whether a potential candidate is invited personally, encouraged by another parishioner, or simply feels the possibility in the depths of his heart – the smallest feeling of a call to the diaconate is worth answering.
“If there’s even a little kind of an inkling of an interest, I think it’s to their advantage to go ahead and come,” said Rosie Chavez. “[God] calls you and then qualifies you with what He wants you to do.”
About the Come and See Weekend:
The weekend is scheduled for April 21-23, 2023, at Sacred Heart Retreat Center near Gallup. Prospective candidates are invited to join in a regular formation weekend that the current candidates are attending. Visitors will join the candidates in prayer, discernment, Mass, and classes. A separate informational session will be provided during the weekend for the prospective candidates and their wives. “Come and See” visitors are guests of the diocese and there is no fee. The weekend begins on Friday evening around 6:00 pm with a light meal and welcome and concludes with the 11:00am Sunday Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Eligibility for this event requires the endorsement of the pastor/administrator of the parish. Pastors are asked to discern potential candidates to send to this event. Candidates should, if married, be in stable, healthy marriages. Numerous previous marriages, even with ecclesiastical annulments, can be problematic, but it is on a case-by-case basis. Men considering the diaconate should already have a presence in parish ministry and known to be kind, levelheaded and devoutly Catholic. They should be a minimum of 30 years old by the Fall of 2025. While there is a recommended maximum age, older men in good health are always seriously considered, also on a case-by-case basis.
All names and permissions have to be received by April 16, 2023, so we can prepare sufficient lodging and meals.
If interested, contact Deacon Timoteo Lujan at [email protected]