Bishop calls for new deacon class

Deacons engage in many forms of service. Kicking off a new video series showing aspects of their ministry through the Works of Mercy, Deacon Tom Berna helps feed the hungry.

Bishop David Zubik is calling for a new class of applicants to the Deacon Formation Program in the diocese and said he intends to resume doing so every other year.

Classes were called in alternating years before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Recognizing the vital role of our deacons—along with our bishops, priests, religious and laity—in making the Church of Pittsburgh a vibrant manifestation of The Church Alive!, I am pleased to call for another class of men to enter the Deacon Formation Program,” Bishop Zubik said.

“In doing so, I highlight the fact that service, which is the defining characteristic of the diaconate, has always been at the heart of the Church’s ministry,” he added.

Eight permanent deacons were ordained last year, and one will be ordained Saturday, June 19.

Three information sessions for prospective applicants are planned in upcoming weeks at the Diocesan Pastoral Center, 2900 Noblestown Road, Pittsburgh 15205:

  • Sat. July 24, from 9 – 11:30 a.m.
  • Thurs. July 29, from 6:30 – 9 p.m.
  • Tues. Aug. 3, from 6:30 – 9 p.m.

“For anyone who would like to learn more about the formation experience and diaconal ministry, I’d suggest attending one of these sessions,” said Deacon Stephen Byers, director of the Deacon Formation Program.

Married men may become permanent deacons, and spouses are encouraged to attend the sessions.

Like bishops and priests, deacons are ordained ministers of the Catholic Church, with a special calling to perform works of charity and service and assist in the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church.

Deacons help priests at Mass, preach on occasion, and preside as needed at baptisms, weddings, funeral services and other liturgical functions. They also provide pastoral care to people in hospitals and nursing homes, jails and prisons, and in various other settings, sharing the faith by word and example.

The diocese currently has 96 deacons in active ministry and 37 men in the formation program.

“Since 1974, when the first diaconate class was ordained for our diocese, deacons have faithfully served the Church in the liturgy and by their countless works of charity, especially to the sick, elderly, imprisoned, hungry, lonely, and forgotten,” Bishop Zubik said. “We have been richly blessed by their ministry.”

The ministry of deacons goes back to the time of the apostles. When faced with the need for help in distributing food for a growing number of the faithful, the apostles prayed and designated certain men to serve the community, according to the New Testament. “Deacon” derives from a Greek word meaning “servant” or “minister.”

An applicant for the formation program may be a married or single Catholic man between the ages of 30 and 59, a college graduate with a secure job or source of income, and in full communion with the Catholic Church. Additional criteria for application will be discussed at the information sessions.

To begin the process, a nomination by an applicant’s pastor or by another priest or deacon of the diocese is required by September 1. More information is available at

Bishop Zubik with the Permanent Deacon Class of 2011.