Time to act on God's call to be a deacon

January 19, 2023

Deacon wearing a stole

Are you feeling God tugging on your heart, leading you to seriously consider becoming a deacon in the Church?

Now is the time to take the next step in discerning whether applying for the formation process is right for you.null

Bishop William Joensen opened the application process, formally known as “the call,” in late December. 

Usually, those who might be considering becoming a deacon are already doing the work of the Church. They’re involved in their parishes or ministries. 

Just like with priestly vocations, a call to the diaconate usually comes by way of a personal invitation or witnessing someone who is modeling the diaconate in a compelling way.

While Deacon Matt Halbach was dating his wife, Stacy, he witnessed how his father-in-law blended his vocation to his marriage and family with his studies to become a deacon.

“He was making an impact at home, becoming more of a prayer leader and more of a spiritual presence or guide. That was very attractive,” he said. “I was shown that right before getting married, God put it in my heart to think ‘This is what I want for you later on, where I’m moving you toward.’”

Deacon Jim Houston was relaxing on his deck with a buddy when the friend said, “You know, you’d be a good deacon.” It took him aback but it planted a seed.

Then, a deacon at St. Pius X Parish in Urbandale said he’d be a great deacon.

“I thought, well, maybe this is the real deal,” Deacon Houston said.

The two were ordained permanent deacons, and now help others. Deacon Halbach oversees the diocese’s formation program for those discerning and studying for ordained ministry, while Deacon Houston oversees ongoing formation and helps those who have been ordained to the ministry.

Their unique vocation stories illustrate that there is no “typical” person who becomes a deacon.

“The permanent diaconate has accepted such a constellation of men and couples (wives go through the formation process with their husbands), different walks of life, different experiences, different education levels, different gifts,” said Deacon Halbach. “All that diversity adds to the whole. Some are better at prison ministry. Some are better at teaching. There really isn’t a mold.”
The formation process is five years allowing the group to pray, learn and grow together.

nullBecause of the time commitment, it may be tempting to see the diaconate as something to do once children are grown and as one is approaching retirement. Deacon Halbach cautioned men in their 40s and 50s to listen to God.

“God invites us where we are, right in the moment, and asks us to consider the challenge of the time and commitment and ultimately trust that, as God parted the Red Sea, he’ll part your schedule as well,” he said.

Deacons Houston and Halbach are working to spread the word by seeing if they can have a deacon couple visit parishes that do not have deacons so folks can see them in ministry and ask questions about their service.

About 40 men came to information sessions last fall. Another round of information sessions are being offered. Men who attended an information session in the fall with their wives can ask for the application if they discern that’s where God is leading them. Men who did not attend with their wives and want an application must attend one of the upcoming information sessions with their wives first.

Deacons Houston and Halbach are spreading the word about the application process. While the paperwork is due March 31, the process is extensive. Deacon Halbach suggests making a decision by Ash Wednesday so one has a month to gather all of the needed documentation.

Those who want an application should email Deacon Houston at vocations@dmdiocese.org.

Information meetings scheduled

There will be information meetings at several locations throughout the Diocese about the permanent diaconate. 
The meetings include information about the requirements for admission into the deacon formation program and an explanation of the ongoing process of discernment to the diaconate. 
Men interested in learning about the role of deacons in the Diocese of Des Moines are invited to attend one of upcoming information meetings. 

Monday, Jan. 23:  All Saints, Stuart , 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 26: Sacred Heart, West Des Moines, 6:30 p.m.- 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 28: St. Mary, Shenandoah , 9:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m.
Monday, Jan. 30: St. Joseph, Winterset, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, Feb. 4: St. Patrick, Neola, 9:30 a.m.  - 11:30 a.m.
Thursday, Feb. 9: St. Pius X, Urbandale, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.

Note: If married, both the man and his wife are required to attend an information meeting before requesting an application  to formation. If you already attended an information night in 2022, you do not need to attend again unless your spouse did not accompany you. Questions? Contact vocations@dmdiocese.org or  jhouston@dmdiocese.org.