Deacon Stephen Hodges
SS. Peter & Paul Cathedral Indianapolis, IN
For the past 15 years, Steve Hodges of Greenwood, IN, had been
looking for ways to be more involved in his parish and in his
faith. So when the Archdiocese of Indianapolis established a
permanent deacon program in 2003, Steve and his wife, Mary,
attended the first information session.
"From the moment we walked into that room, it just seemed like
that was what I was supposed to do," recalls Steve. Eventually, he
and 24 other men were selected for the first class of candidates to
begin a formation program to prepare them for ordination.
The program is designed and delivered by Saint Meinrad Seminary
and School of Theology, which began its Permanent Deacon Formation
Program in 1999. A diocese selects its candidates for the program,
and Saint Meinrad provides the formation on location in the
Steve's class was typical. They began once-a-month weekend
classes in September 2004 and continued for four years, taking
summers off. In addition, Steve continued his fulltime work of
representing firms that make commercial kitchen equipment and
furniture for the hospitality industry.
The program was rigorous, Steve says. Classes began on Friday
night and continued all day Saturday and until mid-afternoon
Sunday. "In between, we'd have books to read and different
He adds, "The first weekend of class was probably the biggest
shock for most of us. Most of us hadn't been in college for 20-some
He found the courses on Scripture to be particularly meaningful.
"They really prepared us for what we, as deacons, need to do with
the Word. Deacons have a threefold ministry. We have a ministry of
charity, which is really our primary thing, but we also have the
ministry of Word and the ministry of liturgy."
A better understanding of Scripture also was valuable in
learning to preach. Although the formation program is held in the
diocese, an intensive homiletics component takes place on the Saint
Meinrad campus, where the men take advantage of a state-of-the-art
With a laugh, Steve recalls the unease he felt about preaching.
"I think preaching can be very intimidating. And that's one thing
that when I got into the program, I thought, 'You know, God, you're
calling me to do this and I'm a pretty competent guy, but when it
comes to preaching….'"
"Having four years of studies helped. Having a major emphasis on
Scripture helped and then we also went through the homiletics week
at Saint Meinrad." During that time, each man wrote and delivered
homilies, which were videotaped and critiqued by their peers and
the homiletics faculty.
In addition to academics, the program takes a holistic view of
formation, focusing on spiritual development, ministry experiences
and even human factors such as nutrition and exercise. The
candidates are encouraged to attend Mass often, meet regularly with
a spiritual director and pray daily the Liturgy of the Hours.
To gain practical experience, Steve participated in jail
ministry. "About twice a month, I would go to the local county jail
and do communion services for some of the offenders. We would read
Scripture. We would read the readings for the following Sunday and
reflect upon those.
"We would always have some opportunity for sharing. I found it
to be very useful, especially when we were taking our Scripture
studies. It was amazing to me how many times I'd read the readings
and say, 'We studied about this.' You could talk about some of
those things you learned about Scripture and how God speaks to us
through His words."
He also took part in hospital visits and was the spiritual
director for his parish's Christ Renews His Parish team. "It would
give you a different flavor, different experiences. As we're going
through formation, we could work on some things and experience some
things that we would probably do once we're ordained," he
Steve and his classmates were ordained in June 2008. His first
assignment was at nearby St. Rose of Lima Parish in Franklin.
Besides assisting at Mass, he preached about once a month and
continued his jail ministry, an outreach of the parish in recent
years. He is now assigned to Saints Francis and Clare Parish in
Deacon Steve is also the chaplain for the Indianapolis
chapter of Courage, a Church-sanctioned support group for men and
women who struggle with same-sex attraction. He's led the group
since its inception in 2008.
"Saint Meinrad's program was well done," says Steve. "We had
some excellent instructors. We were fortunate. We were really
Learn more about
Permanent Deacon Formation