One of the major changes is expansion of the preparation period to five years from four years. The first year is for discernment with the remaining four focusing on classroom instruction coordinated through the School of Theology at Immaculate Conception Seminary on the campus of Seton Hall University in South Orange.
The permanent diaconate in the archdiocese, Father Teti explained, is undergoing a "restructuring." The first class under the new format, with 50 candidates, begins the fouryear study phase on the road to ordination in September. The focus, Father Teti added, is "spiritual, pastoral and theological."
Under the new "comprehensive" approach the "resources and institutions" of the Archdiocese of Newark, such as professors, will be utilized to the fullest, Father Teti said. The permanent diaconate program is now "free-standing" in that it is not degreebased, as is the case with a seminarian. What is in place now, Father Teti stressed, is "exclusively" for deacons that will deal with "all aspects of formation."
To date, the Archdiocese of Newark has 196 active permanent deacons.
Utilizing the expertise of Deacon Paul Kliauga from Ascension Parish in New Milford, a Web site was launched this year (go to www.rcan.org and click on "ministries offices").
Information on the Web site, Deacon McKenna said, contains pertinent history, access to the National Directory for Formation, past issues of the archdiocesan Deacons' newsletter, links to the Washington, D.C.-based United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and documents important for deacons.
The Web site fills a need for a "central location" for resource material including "pertinent" information as to "what is going on in the diaconate," said Deacon McKenna, who was ordained five years ago.
In conjunction with the Web site is a "Handbook for Deacons." The 38-page loose leaf bound document, also available online, spells out in detail the role, responsibilities and procedures governing the permanent diaconate. It also contains the various policies and guidelines that must be followed.
Ordination to the permanent diaconate, the handbook states, constitutes the deacon as "a sacred minister and a member of the hierarchy." Deacons have a distinct identity and integrity in the Church; neither a lay person nor a priest, but rather a cleric who is ordained to serve God's people in communion with the bishop and his body of priests.
In an introductory letter in the handbook, Archbishop John J. Myers states that "I am proud to be associated with such a fine diaconate."
Several years ago the Church in Newark was in the forefront of bringing its program in line with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop's edict: "New Norms for Foundation, Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States."