By Christie L. Chicoine
CS&T Staff Writer

WYNNEWOOD – New admissions to the permanent diaconate of the Philadelphia Archdiocese are suspended as the program undergoes a period of restructuring and reorganization, explained the Archdiocese’s vicar for clergy. The admission process has been suspended since October 2009.

“When men apply for admissions to this program, we want to be clear what the program is that they’re signing up for,” said Msgr. Daniel J. Sullivan, the vicar for clergy.

“At the end of this reorganization, our prayer is that we are going to continue to have deacons who are qualified – good, holy men of faith who are understanding of the need for and are willing and capable of committing their lives to that gift of service to the Church,” he explained.{{more}}

“As a result, we need to make sure they understand their role and are ready to accept and fulfill that role.”

In June 2008, Cardinal Justin Rigali appointed a committee for the review of the permanent diaconate.

The committee was chaired by Msgr. Gregory J. Parlante, pastor of St. Cornelius Parish in Chadds Ford, Chester County, who since 2009 has served as an associate to the vicar for clergy in the permanent diaconate.

One of the committee’s recommendations regarded the incorporation of the formation of permanent deacons into the structure of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Wynnewood.

The Cardinal accepted that plan, and during the past year administrators from the Office of the Vicar for Clergy, the Office of the Permanent Diaconate and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary have worked to accomplish it.

On July 1, the Cardinal announced the creation of a fourth spanision of St. Charles Seminary to be known as the Permanent Diaconate spanision. Although the permanent diaconate previously operated within the archdiocesan Secretariat for Clergy, its headquarters prior to the incorporation were – and now will continue to be – at St. Charles.

Also on July 1, the Cardinal appointed Deacon James T. Owens as the first dean of the permanent diaconate spanision.

Ordained a permanent deacon in 1999, Deacon Owens, 66, has served as the director of the permanent diaconate department since 2009. He was the assistant director in 2008-09 and associate to the director from 2001 to 2008.

He and wife Cathy are members of SS. Simon and Jude Parish in West Chester.

On Saturday, Sept. 25, 22 men who recently completed the aspirancy year, or first year of the permanent diaconate’s six-year formation program, were received into the Rite of Admission of Candidacy for Holy Orders by Auxiliary Bishop Timothy C. Senior.

Bishop Senior served as the principal celebrant of the rite at a 10:30 a.m. Mass in the Chapel of St. Martin of Tours at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.

Seven of the 22 men compromise the permanent diaconate’s Spanish language track. Bishop Senior conferred the rite to them in Spanish.

By admitting these men as candidates for holy orders, the Church accepts their public commitment to be formed as permanent deacons.

The 22 new deacon candidates and their home parishes are as follows: Michael J. Bell, Our Lady of Calvary, Philadelphia; Manuel A. Beltran, St. Hugh of Cluny, Philadelphia; Kermith Brau, St. Agnes, West Chester; Andres Carrillo, Holy Innocents, Philadelphia; Cristobal Chavac, Incarnation of Our Lord, Philadelphia; B. Stephen Currie, Corpus Christi, Upper Gwynedd; Robert H. Hall, St. Katherine of Siena, Philadelphia; Francisco E. Henriquez, St. Norbert, Paoli; Edward T. Hinson, St. Eleanor, Collegeville; David J. Kolesky, St. Mary, Schwenksville; Mark J. Kuhn, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Southampton; William G. Kussmaul, Nativity B.V.M., Media; Paul A. Logan, Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, North Wales; Gregory J. Maskarinec, Mother of spanine Providence, King of Prussia; Gerard J. McPhillips, St. Bartholomew, Philadelphia; Olindo Mennilli, Epiphany of Our Lord, Philadelphia; John J. Mischler, St. Alphonsus, Maple Glen; James O’Neill, St. Christopher, Philadelphia; Samuel Ortiz, St. Alice, Upper Darby; Victor M. Pomales, St. Helena, Philadelphia; James B. Senior, St. Rose of Lima, North Wales; and John P. Teson, Our Lady of Calvary, Philadelphia.

A permanent deacon, as the name suggests, is called to permanent diaconal service to assist the bishop and the priest, while the transitional deacon is on a path to the priesthood and serves in the diaconate for generally one year in preparation for the priesthood.

A permanent deacon may be married before he enters the diaconate program. Upon the death of the deacon’s wife, he is expected to embrace celibacy. Deacons who enter the diaconate as unmarried men embrace celibacy upon their ordination. Therefore they cannot marry.

Both permanent and transitional deacons have a three-fold ministry of service: Word, altar and charity. A deacon preaches and teaches; assists at Mass as an ordinary minister of the Eucharist; can baptize solemnly; offers benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and in limited cases – his immediate family – witnesses marriages.

As a sacramental sign of the charity of Christ the Servant, a deacon is dedicated to the sick, the poor, the forgotten, the imprisoned and the dying.

After the Second Vatican Council formally restored the diaconate as a permanent order within the Church, then-Archbishop John Krol began a program of formation for a restored permanent diaconate in response to the particular needs within the Church of Philadelphia.

After the ordination of the original group of 16 men from the Hispanic community in 1981 and six men from the African-American community in 1982, classes of permanent deacons in the universal program have been ordained in the Archdiocese each year since 1986.

The three other spanisions of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary are the theology and college spanisions for seminarians studying to become priests and a Religious Studies spanision for non-seminarians, which include clergy, men and women religious and lay persons.

For more information about the permanent diaconate, call the Permanent Diaconate spanision at 610-664-2213.

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at 215-587-2468 or