The diaconate program in the Diocese of Charleston was initiated by Bishop Ernest L. Unterkoefler and supervised by Msgr. Thomas R. Duffy, Vicar General, who was named director of deacons.
During the many years that Msgr. Duffy directed the diaconate program, formational changes and improvements were made. The first deacons were ordained for service in the Diocese of Charleston in 1971. Deacons were sent to serve throughout the state in parochial and diocesan assignments. Msgr. Duffy led the program from its days of infancy to its time of growth. Constant updating was seen in the academic training program. The priests of the diocese assisted in this effort by the gratuitous and generous gift of their time to educate deacons.
In 1990, under the leadership of Bishop David B. Thompson, Msgr. Joseph R. Roth was appointed chairman/director of the Office of the Permanent Diaconate for the diocese. In 1999, Bishop Robert J. Baker re-appointed Msgr. Roth as the director. He was assisted in this role by Rev. Edward W. Fitzgerald, spiritual director of the program, and Rev. Jay Scott Newman, academic director responsible for aspirancy and candidate paths of the program.
Msgr. Roth guided the diaconate program until his death in 2011. In addition to his book The Deacon in Church Ministry, Msgr. Roth served on the executive board of the National Association of Diaconate Directors (NADD) from 1995-1998 and as president of the association from 1996-1997. He was assisted by Deacons George Tierney and Walt Pezanowski.
In 2011, Father Fitzgerald was appointed director under the leadership of Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone. He was assisted in this role by Deacon Andre Guillet, director of diaconate formation, plus Deacons George Tierney and Gabriel Cuervo, who assisted regionally.
In 2014, Deacon Guillet was named the director, the first deacon to hold the position. He was assisted at various times by Deacons Cuervo, Ron Anderson, Regi Armstrong, John Tempesco and Tom Whalen. Deacon Guillet retired in 2022, and is responsible for the formation of almost 90 deacons during his tenure.
Deacon John Tempesco succeeded as director in 2022, with Deacon Armstrong as director of formation. Fifteen men were ordained in February 2023 and 35 more are currently in formation.
In July 2023, Bishop Jacques Fabre-Jeune, CS, appointed Deacon Armstrong as director, and the Class of 2029 has been authorized by Bishop Fabre.
The organizational structure of the Office of the Permanent Diaconate regarding diaconate formation is as follows:
- Bishop of Charleston oversees
- Vicar for Clergy, who oversees
- Diaconate Board and
- Director of the Permanent Diaconate, who oversees