Formation is a four-year program. It includes the one-year Aspirancy Path, which concentrates on prayer and discernment, and the three-year Candidate Path, which also contains most of the academic courses in addition to all other formation elements which may lead to Holy Orders.
The program is mandated by both the Vatican (1998) and National (USCCB, 2009) Directories. It includes the four “pillars” or dimensions of formation: human, intellectual, spiritual, and pastoral. All academic coursework is taught at a university standard.
The Aspirancy Path is a one year formal vocation discernment process. It begins with an opening retreat and Welcome Mass; and concludes with a closing retreat, followed by an Admission and Scrutinies Board review. Wives who accompany their husbands through the program are required to undertake monthly spiritual direction and participate in Theological Reflection Groups. Wives are also required to attend some formation sessions and classes that are regarded as Key Events. The second semester includes a comprehensive Catechism of the Catholic Church course and a Service to Charity field education component.
The Candidacy Path is a three-year journey of formation and academic studies. The candidates are also required to undertake monthly spiritual direction and participate in Theological Reflection Groups all three years.
The Institute for Diaconal Studies is a constitutive part of the University of Saint Mary of the Lake. IDS liturgies throughout the year take place at the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at USML, Retreats are usually held at the USML Campus Conference Center, while most academic/formation sessions take place at our satellite site, Our Lady of Ransom in Niles.
Forming the next generation of parish leaders for service to God and His people.