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Who is Eligible to Become a Deacon?

It is the Bishop who, in the name of the Church, calls a man to ordination as a deacon. Any decision to call a man to the order of deacon must follow from a mature discernment. In other words, it is a decision rooted in faith. The bishop needs to satisfy himself that a man, who has already been called by God in the Sacrament of Baptism, is now called by God to ordained ministry, as a further expression of his baptismal vocation.


Candidates for the Permanent Diaconate may be married or unmarried. The upper age limit for ordination is sixty-five years of age, which can be waived by the Bishop.

Married Candidates

The Church is concerned that there should be no potential for conflict between the responsibilities of ordained ministry and the need of a couple in the early years of their married life to devote their time and energy to maturing in their relationship and to caring for young children. For that reason, a married man must have reached the age of thirty-five before he can be ordained to the Permanent Diaconate. He must also have the formal consent of his wife.

Unmarried Candidates

Unmarried candidates must have reached the age of thirty-five before they can be ordained as Permanent Deacons. In keeping with the tradition of the Church, those who are ordained as single men make a solemn promise of celibacy.

What Personal Qualities are Required?

A prospective candidate for the Permanent Diaconate must:


  • Have a genuine sense of vocation to this calling.

  • Be a baptized and confirmed man who is active in the practice of his Catholic faith.

  • Be actively involved in the parish or charitable work and highly recommended by his parish priest and parishioners.

  • [If married] have been married at least five years and live in a stable and valid marriage, where both are actively engaged in parish life, enjoying the full support of his wife who will participate actively in the formation program, and be willing to remain celibate if his wife precedes him in death.

  • [If single] enjoy a stable, settled life, a history of healthy relationships, and be able and willing to accept celibacy, understanding the implications of this charism.

  • [If widowed] have had at least two years to heal from the death of his wife.

  • Possess the human, spiritual and intellectual capacity to participate fully in the formation program.

  • Possess the natural gifts for ministry, demonstrate maturity and balance, enjoy good physical and mental health with no condition which would impede ministry, and have no history of any significant compulsions or addictions.

  • Be free of all force or pressure in making application to diaconal formation.

  • Be able to sustain an adequate standard of living for himself and, in so far as it is applicable, for his family.

  • Be able to give the time required for study and service without detriment to his family.

  • Be willing to be subject to the child protection vetting procedures and Child Protection Initiatives established by the Diocese of Memphis.

  • Be willing to allow an independent background check, including criminal and credit history.

  • Not belong to any organization or engage in any work or professional activity that is, according to the norms of the Church and the prudent judgment of the Bishop, inconsistent with diaconal ministry.

  • Be free of all irregularities and impediments of Orders (see next paragraph).

  • Be an American citizen or, if a citizen of another country, be a lawful resident of the United States for a period of not less than two years.

Impediments to Orders (Canonical) - Questions that will require answers in the event a formal request is made for application to the formation program:

  • Have you ever been hospitalized for treatment of a psychic disorder, alcoholism, or abuse? Or are you now, or have you ever been, under treatment for a psychic defect?

  • Have you ever left the Catholic Church to become a minister or preacher in a non-Catholic denomination?          

  • Have you ever been formally declared by ecclesiastical authority to be “an apostate, heretic, or a schismatic”?  

  • Have you attempted marriage while under an obligation from orders, vows, or another marriage?          

  • Have you or your spouse been in a previous marriage (that is not annulled) or a member of a religious order?            

  • Have you ever committed voluntary homicide?       

  • Have you ever performed or contributed to a completed abortion?

  • Have you ever maliciously physically mutilated yourself or another?        

  • Have you ever attempted suicide?    

  • Have you ever exercised a function of Orders without permission?

How do I know if I am Called to the Permanent Diaconate?

The process of selection begins with pre-application Eligibility, formal Application, a Personal Interview, Home Visit Interview, Deacon Board Interview, Bishop Interview, and final selection to Aspirancy.


Before he is formally accepted as a candidate for the Permanent Diaconate, an aspirant is invited to participate in what is known as the propaedeutic period. During this period, which lasts approximately one year, he engages in a process of discernment which is intended to help him arrive at a better understanding of himself and of ministry in the Church, so as to be able to make an initial decision which is fully free and unconditioned by personal interests or external pressures of any sort.


The propaedeutic period incorporates the formal application process and, as such, it affords the Bishop the opportunity, together with his advisors, to arrive at some initial evaluation of the aspirant as a potential candidate for ordained ministry. The man accepted into the propaedeutic period must fully understand that completion of this period brings no guarantee of continuance into candidacy.

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