After ordaining a class of deacons for the Diocese of Knoxville in June, Bishop Richard F. Stika has authorized the start of a new inquiry period for another diaconate class– which is expected to begin study in September 2017.
Between now and then, the diocese is inviting interested men to begin a non-academic period of prayer, discernment and paperwork.
“The purpose of discernment is to separate ambition from vocation,” said Deacon Tim Elliott, director of the diaconate and deacon formation for the Diocese of Knoxville. “The goal is to have them in the classroom in September 2017.
Before then, potential candidates need to attend classes that will “help facilitate prayer and discernment”. Classes are scheduled for: Oct. 15, Nov. 19, Dec. 17, Jan. 21, Feb. 18, Mar. 18, Apr. 8, May 20, and June 17.
Candidates should register with Deacon Elliott here .
“It’s not like every discernment class is mandatory, (but) I would like them to attend every one because the focus at each one is different,” Deacon Elliott said. “It is trying to get them motivated in a direction of what is prayer and what is discernment, how do (you) go about doing it, finding out if (you) are supposed to be in this.. or not.”
In addition to prayer and discernment, there are administrative steps that candidates will need to address– paperwork that includes a background check and other necessary screening.
The Diocese of Knoxville ordained its first class of 29 deacons in 2007. The second diaconate class of 24 was ordained in 2016.
While it’s a vital part of their mission, Deacon Elliott explains that the role of the diaconate goes beyond just participating in the celebration of Sunday Mass. It include bringing the needs of the community to the attention of the Church.
“Say there was a group of deacons in Ferguson, Mo. a year ago. Leading up to that year they should have seen the needs of the neighborhood, the needs of justice and mercy, and brought those needs to the attention of the bishop in that diocese. What I mean is, bringing the neighborhood to the Church and in prayer to the the altar so that the bishop and pastors or the religious in the area could address those needs,” Deacon Elliott said. “Does that mean we are just involved in a bunch of social issues? No, it doesn’t mean that at all. What it means is that through our service to the community, our service of charity, we become aware of the community in a way that’s very different.. we’re supposed to be the eyes and the ears of the bishop within the world.”