New Degree Program for Permanent Diaconate Formation Program

The Association of Theological Schools granted Saint Mary Seminary and Graduate School of Theology permission to offer a new master’s degree to men admitted to the Diocese of Cleveland diaconate formation program. According to Deacon Dave Kushner who heads the diaconate formation program, the new Master of Arts in Diaconal Ministry degree is a professional theological degree blending aspects of both theological and pastoral formation.

With the addition of this new degree, Saint Mary Seminary now offers four graduate degrees. The others are Master of Divinity, Master of Arts in Theology and the Doctor of Ministry.

“This new degree is a good fit within the overall seminary program. Since the inception of the permanent diaconate in the Diocese of Cleveland in 1974, the seminary faculty has been teaching those in the diaconate formation,” said Ursuline Sister Mary McCormick, academic dean. “The transition to granting a graduate degree is the next logical step within the program given those who are applying to be admitted to diaconate formation.”

Kushner, who said he is excited about this opportunity, emphasized that “deacons carry the Gospel message out into the world: to their families, their communities and into the marketplace. A deacon’s role in evangelization and accompaniment is ever-present, oftentimes to minister to those of other faith beliefs and fallen-away Catholics, as well as the “nones” — those who identify as atheists, agnostics or don’t follow any religion, he added.

Kushner said the diocese wants to prepare and equip deacons with the best training available during their formation years so they can continue to share and evangelize the Gospel wherever they are. He noted that deacons have a three-fold ministry of charity, liturgy and Word. This new program will enhance all aspects of the deacon’s ministry, he added.

Kushner said offering a graduate degree has been a dream of his office for many years and he added he is pleased that the petition to offer the new degree was met with such support.

The ATS acceptance letter reads in part: “The school’s petition appropriately describes and documents how the proposed 44-credit M.A. in Diaconal Ministry program meets the requirements of a Standard B degree (a professional theological degree). The school has been offering this program at the undergraduate level since 1974, but most students now are coming with a bachelor’s degree and desiring a master’s degree. Offering this degree at the graduate level has also become quite common among other Roman Catholic seminaries. The same faculty will continue teaching this program … The program has the approval of the faculty, the board and the diocese. This new M.A. and its five areas of student learning outcomes will be incorporated into the school’s robust assessment plan and process. The petition describes appropriate faculty, library, student support, and financial resources for this program.”

For more information on the permanent diaconate, contact Kushner at or call 440-943-7652.