Browsing The Northern Cross

New deacon leader knows his way around program

By Kyle Eller
The Northern Cross

For the first time in about three decades, there is a new face at the helm of the deacon formation program for the Diocese of Duluth. Deacon John Weiske took over the role this summer after Deacon David Craig retired from the position July 1.

Deacon John Weiske
Deacon John Weiske

Deacon Weiske, who grew up in Brainerd, was raised Lutheran and was received into the Catholic Church in 1982. He has been married to his wife Cindy for 33 years and has two sons; Tim, who works for the Archdiocese of Chicago, and Father Daniel, a priest of the Diocese of Duluth, now serving in Brainerd.

Deacon Weiske came to the University of Minnesota Duluth in 1970 and has spent most of his career there, nearly all of it as director of housing and residence life.

“I’ll be retiring from the university after 36 years,” he said.

Taught and counseled

He was ordained a deacon in 2004 and serves at St. Benedict in Duluth. He already knows his way around the diocesan deacon formation program well.

“I’ve been helping Deacon David to develop and implement Inquiry and Aspirancy the last seven or eight years,” he said.

Deacon formation is a six-year program that begins with two years of pre-formation called Inquiry and Aspirancy. Deacon Weiske has coordinated those years for the past two years, leading the classes and assisting those in the discernment process.

His appointment as director of the program was announced last October, at the same time it was announced that Deacon Craig was retiring.

He said that as the reality has come closer, he has become more excited about the prospect, even though it was “not on the radar” as something he imagined 10 years ago when he was ordained.

What he finds most exciting is the formation process or “formation journey” of the men discerning.

“Really what is most exciting to me is to see the transformation of the men and their wives,” he said.

In particular he said he likes to see the different kinds of people who are called in the process, the different gifts they bring.

“It’s interesting to see how each deacon can use his gifts, and the deacons’ wives, as well.”

Program foundation in place

He said Deacon Craig has built a “solid foundation” and a well-respected program that he hopes to build upon. There are four different dimensions to the formation process — spiritual, intellectual, human and pastoral dimensions — and with his professional background, Deacon Weiske hopes to build up the human formation, in part by helping men to develop and use their strengths and gifts.

When married men are discerning a call to the permanent diaconate, their wives also have a significant role, both in approving their husbands’ applications and in participating in the formation classes. Deacon Weiske said he hopes to find ways to enrich the program for the wives, an area where the diocese may end up breaking new ground.

Deacon Weiske said that in his experience, permanent deacons are well-received in the diocese.

“Overall, the ministry of deacons is well supported by our pastors and priests and the bishop,” he said. He added that much of that begins with bishops who have been supportive of the ministry.

In the program currently there are 12 men in formation to become permanent deacons, including three new deacon candidates entering formation this month and one candidate who is to be ordained in November.

Deacon Weiske said he will continue to look for ways to help people become knowledgeable about the formation process. In particular, he said he invites pastors or men who may be discerning a call to get in touch.

“If they have any questions, I’d be very happy to talk to them,” he said. He can be reached at the Pastoral Center at (218) 724-9111 or at jweiske@dioceseduluth.org.

Editor’s note: The reporter is among those who are to be installed as deacon candidates this month.