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Welcome to Deacon Formation

The mission of the Archdiocese of Chicago Deacon Formation Program is to prepare men to be deacons — icons of Christ the Servant, emissaries of the bishop, and servant-leaders—through a distinctive formation process for ordained ministry in the Archdiocese of Chicago. It does so by offering a comprehensive program that specifically addresses the mission and identity of diaconal ministry through the four pillars of formation: the Human, Intellectual, Spiritual, and Pastoral while educating men for the three-fold ministry of service to the Word, Liturgy, and Charity.

We also offer deacon formation in Spanish.

The Call to the Diaconate,
Like All Christian Vocations, Comes from God.

A Catholic deacon is ordained to diakonia, that is, service to God’s People in communion with the bishop and his body of priests.  “The principal function of the deacon is to collaborate with the bishop and the priests in the exercise of a ministry which is not of their own wisdom but of the Word of God, calling all to conversion and holiness” (National Directory, USCCB, 2022, p. 23).  Deacons are official teachers and preachers of the Word, they also officiate in baptism, matrimony and funerals. They visit the sick, the home-bound, and those in prison.  Their ministry also involved outreach to the marginalized, those most in need of care, education, and justice.

It is a call that may be beckoning you.  To find out more about responding to this possible call, please contact your pastor or the Deacon Formation Program.  DFP can assist you with your questions and concerns about the requirements and procedures.  Review each button below to learn about the path to becoming a permanent deacon in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Deacons: Missionaries in the Parish and the World

Deacons have faithfully served at the altar, in parishes, and in the community for the past 50 years.  The Second Vatican Council proclaimed the Sacred Order of Deacons to be “a driving force for the Church’s services or diakonia” through:

  • Celebrating sacraments, assisting at liturgies, and preaching
  • Evangelizing and catechizing
  • Works of charity
  • Animating the faithful

Deacon Formation Overview

Formation Overview

Formation is a four-year program.  It includes the one-year Aspirant Stage, which concentrates on prayer and discernment, and the three-year Candidate Stage, 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, 2022) Directories.  It includes the four “pillars” or dimensions of formation: human, intellectual, spiritual, and pastoral.  All academic coursework is taught at a university standard.

Aspirant Stage

The Aspirant Stage 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 scrutiny board review.  Wives accompanying their husbands through the program must undertake monthly spiritual direction for one year 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.

Candidate Stage

The Candidate Stage is a three-year journey of formation and academic studies.  Candidates are also required to undertake monthly spiritual direction and participate in Theological Reflection Groups for all three years. They must also participate in a service to the word project and a year-long parish ministry internship.


The Deacon Formation Program is a constitutive part of the University of Saint Mary of the Lake. DFP liturgies take place at the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception at USML throughout the year. Retreats are usually held at the USML Campus Conference Center, while most academic/formation sessions occur at our satellite site.

Application Process

There are two stages in the application process: Pre-Application and Inquiry and the Formal Application.


With approval from his pastor, a prospective applicant calls the Deacon Formation Program requesting a Pre-application and Inquiry form.  This form is an important document that can uncover canonical and extra-canonical issues, as well as other information crucial to the application process.  Upon receipt, the Program may contact the prospective applicant for clarification.  A successful inquirer is then encouraged to inform his pastor to contact the Deacon Formation Program office for formal approval of his candidate.

Formal Application

The Deacon Formation Program application is completed online by going to https://my.usml.edu/studapp.cfm

The Program reviews all application materials and issues an acknowledgment letter.  The applicant and his wife (if married) are then requested to participate in Marriage Inventory (Catholic Couple Checkup) as well as the Myers Briggs Personality inventories.  Web links to these inventories are provided to the couples.

When the results of these inventories are received, DFP schedules an interview with the applicant and his wife (if married).  Upon review, the Program may issue a conditional acceptance letter to the program.


The Inquiry Process

Do you believe the Lord may be calling you to consider this ministry?

An Exciting Time of Inquiry

The first steps of inquiry are an exciting time of learning about the role of a deacon as well as the path to becoming one.  First and foremost, it is crucial to gain an understanding of vocation discernment.  Discernment is an ongoing process where we truly understand what our God desires of us in fulfilling our baptismal commitment.  To aid your discernment, you may wish to undertake the self-directed retreat, Five Days with the Lord.


  • Have a heart-to-heart conversation with your family and your pastor.

Please note that the application deadline for the 2024-2025 Aspirant Stage is Aug 1, 2024.   Regretfully, the Deacon Formation Program cannot accept late applications for the upcoming formation year.

For more information, contact Leah Lewandowski, Admissions Coordinator, llewandowski@usml.edu or (847) 970-4981.

We look forward to meeting you!


Church Documents

Sacrum Diaconatus Ordinem: General Norms for Restoring the Permanent Diaconate in the Latin Churchmotu proprio of Pope Paul VI promulgating the restoration of the diaconate by the Second Vatican Council

Basic Norms for the Formation of Permanent Deacons & Directory for the Ministry and Life of Permanent Deacons, published jointly in 1998 by the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education and the Congregation for the Clergy

National Directory for the Formation, Ministry, and Life of Permanent Deacons in the United States, published in 2022 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB)

Apostolic Letter Containing Norms  for the Order of Diaconate, Paul VI Ad Pascendum, August 15, 1972