Permanent Diaconate Formation

The beginning of the order of deacons is traced back to the story of Acts of theDeacon wearing a stole Apostles.

"The number of disciples continued to grow, but the Hellenists complained to the Hebrews their widows were being neglected. To allow the apostles not to neglect the Word of God, the community selected seven reputable men filled with the Spirit and wisdom to the task of serving at the table. This was acceptable to the whole community so they chose Stephen, Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas of Antioch, a convert to Judaism and presented them to the apostles who prayed and laid hands on them. " (Acts 6:1-6)


Discerning a vocation for ministry of a permanent deacon in the Catholic Church involves sustained prayer, informative resources, conversations with your pastor, family, other faithful Christians, and the support of a Permanent Diaconate Formation program in the diocese where you will serve. 

The permanent deacon is an ordained member of the Church who has received the sacrament of holy orders (as does a bishop and priest) and is deemed a cleric. As such, he is not a layman.

Permanent deacons have a three-fold ministry: 

  • Ministry of Charity – Bringing the Gospel to all those in need: The poor, the aged, the sick and imprisoned, he preaches and practices social justice.
  • Ministry of the Word – Deacons proclaim the Gospel and preach at liturgical celebrations. They provide catechetical instruction, adult faith formation, and sacramental preparation. 
  • Ministry of Sacrament – Deacons assist priests during Mass, administer baptisms, witness marriages, preside at funerals and wakes, officiate at benediction and lead community prayer services.

Formation Program 

The diaconate candidate undergoes at least five years of human, spiritual, theological, and pastoral formation.  After the application and inquiry period, there are two years of discernment of aspirancy in which the man and his wife (if married) prayerfully consider how the diaconate will impact their lives. Following is the period of candidacy which is three years of practical and academic preparation. Formation may take place on weeknights and weekends throughout the five-year program.

Who can become a deacon?

    • Catholic males who have been baptized and practicing the faith for at least five years
    • Married candidates must have the consent and support of their wives, who must be willing to participate in their formation. Diaconal applicants must seek the recommendation of their pastor.
    • Permanent Deacons may be single or married and must be at least 35 years of age at the time of ordination. The maximum acceptable age will be determined by viable service capability after ordination with an expectation of 10 years of service.
    • A person of good moral character and reputation.
  • How to apply to the diaconate?

    Before applying to the Permanent Diaconate Formation program:

    • You are required to attend one of the information meetings offered which are held at various locations throughout the Diocese of Des Moines.
    • If married, your wife must also attend. 
    • Information meetings are held during a period of time shortly before or after the Bishop’s Call to the next Permanent Diaconate Formation. 
    • Locations of information meetings are announced in The Catholic Mirror, parish bulletins, social media, radio stations and word of mouth.
    • The last Call was declared by Bishop William Joensen on December 26, 2022. The application period has begun.
    • Formation is expected to start in the fall of 2023 with ordination to be held in the summer of 2028.

    For more information on the application process and locations of information meetings, please contact the Vocations Office. You may call 515-237-5014 or email Vocations Office for additional information.