Aspirant Stages

Aspirant Stage 1

Attend the Day of Ministry Discernment (DMD) with your parish leader and a trusted friend or family member. Ask questions. Participate. Ask your people to do the same.  Day of Ministry Discernment is typically held in January or February.

Pray some more. Decide if you’d like to formalize your discernment.

To engage the formal diocesan discernment, submit FORM ONE plus your evidence of baptism and confirmation/reception by the deadline. This is due about 6 weeks after the DMD. This will make you officially an Aspirant in the Diocese of AZ. 

Form One will activate our tracking of your process in the Diocesan office and you will be included in our COM planning/considerations unless we get no further paperwork submitted after Form One, at which time, your file will be made inactive as an indication you did not complete any formal stages of discernment.

Your submission of Form One will result in a letter to the Inquirer and their parish leader to organize a Parish Discernment  Team and then the Inquirer, Parish Leader, and the PDT members should attend the Parish Discernment Training scheduled later in the spring. Your parish leader should consult with you about 1-2 people who you would like to include on your PDT.  These persons should not be clergy.

Parish Discernment Team Guidance

Parish Discernment Teams should be made up of 5-7 members of the parish. The Inquirer/Aspirant should suggest 1-2 people well-known to them include in the makeup of the team. The Parish Leader would select the additional 3-5 people from the parish who they experience as having the gifts of discernment. People with the gift of deep listening, courage, kindness, and willingness to ask questions are particularly useful to Aspirants. No clergy (active or retired) should be included on a discernment committee. No clergy should be in attendance for the discernment meetings.  

• The PDT should have a Chairperson who assists with convening and scheduling and reporting.  • All Parish Discernment Team members should attend the Parish Discernment Team Training. • All Parish Discernment Team members should be present at all Parish Discernment Team meetings.  

• Parish Discernment meetings should occur no less than 2 weeks apart, preferably 3-4 weeks apart. PDTs should anticipate this discernment process taking 4-6 months. 

• Parish Discernment Team members should be prepared to share their own stories/spiritual autobiographies with the group.  

• A list of topics to discuss/cover as the PDT will be shared at the PDT Training: the Aspirant’s faith life, experiences, work his tory, experience with doctrines of the church, self-care, growing edges, strengths, hopes, leadership capacity and more will be included. 

• The training will also include guidance for what if the PDT does not come to a unanimous recommendation, how to engage with aspirants in everyday life, the integrity of the process, how to get help with a process, and more. 

• The Parish Discernment team will conduct all but its final meeting with the aspirant. The final meeting is reserved for the  PDT members without the Aspirant present to determine the content of their report to the rector/parish leader. The chair will collect the information and complete the report (Form Two, Part One) to submit to the rector/parish leader. All PDT  members must sign the report upon review and acceptance. The report should come with a recommendation toward the next steps for the Aspirant.

Aspirant Stage 2 

PDT completes its work and submits Form 2a, to the parish leader. 

The parish leader holds a pastoral response meeting with the Aspirant to report the PDTs response/recommendation.  The PDT report is submitted to the Diocese for the Aspirant’s file no matter the outcome stated in the PDT report.  

If PDT discerns a call to priest or deacon: the PDT report is submitted to the diocesan file. 

Parish leader gains 2/3 support from the Vestry/BC for financial support* and encouragement (Form 2b) via signature and submits to diocesan file. 

Parish leader submits a recommendation letter to diocesan file (Form 2c)

Aspirant summits Form 3 and Form 4 to the diocesan file. 

Aspirant submits to an Oxford Background Check & psychological examination (Form 2d)*.

*approximately $1,000 in total fees including psychological and Oxford Background Check fees. Should be split between aspirant and parish as both have the ability. Some partial scholarships are available. 

Aspirant submits Spiritual Autobiography (Form 2e) and Form 5 to diocesan file. 

If PDT discerns a call to continued  Lay Leadership:  

PDT report is submitted to the diocesan file. 

Parish Leader submits a recommendation letter to the diocesan file. 

Parish Leader develops an affirmation of lay ministry liturgy to encourage and uphold the aspirant—COM can assist in resourcing this. 

Parish leader works with the aspirant to discern further lay ministries to lead/ develop at the parish level, recommends possible diocesan or national lay ministry leadership opportunities as well.  

Parish leader facilitates any grieving or support needs if this calling is a disappointment or change in hopes for the aspirant.  

If PDT is unable to discern a call: 

PDT Chair consults with Parish Leader to articulate any concerns/needs. 

Parish Leader and/or PDT Chair consult COM  Chair/Secretary for further guidance if needed. 

Parish Leader sends a summary letter (and PDT  report that was generated) to diocesan

file indicating decided option of these: 

• Continue the discernment process, delving into further depths of questions still outstanding until a call is determined. 

• PDT recommends further work with a Spiritual Director or therapist for a time frame, with a commitment to reconvene the PDT at set intervals in the future to come to a determination. 

• Halt the discernment process indefinitely and give the aspirant an opportunity to resume it when they feel called after further work/ reflection/growth/experiences. If more than  18 mo. later, a new PDT could be convened.

Aspirant Stage 3 

Upon receipt of Forms 3, 4, 5 by the set deadlines (available on COM page of Diocesan Website):  Aspirant will receive contact from the COM in regard to submitting: 

• Official transcripts from a college education 

• Proof of completion of Safe Church, Safe Communities training

• Medical examination form 

The aspirant will be asked to make time to schedule a session with: 

• The Regional Discernment Team—an additional body of regional diocesan wisdom figures who will hear your story and make a recommendation about your further discernment. This may be via Zoom or in person. 

• The Diocesan Psychologist—a full psychological assessment will be conducted using inventories and interview time to assure that each aspirant is in a psychologically well enough space to engage the demands of ordained parish leadership.  

**Finally, Aspirant will be assigned a COMpanion at this time: a member of COM who will be a resource guide in terms of the  Diocesan Discernment Process. Not a confidante or friend, this COMpanion is one who can help with questions or problems  with process to assure clarity for the Aspirant.**

Bishop Interview 

Upon receipt of the psychological reports from the Diocesan Psychologist and the report from the Regional Discernment Teams,  the file for an aspirant will be complete and the Diocesan Office will reach out to schedule a 1-on-1 interview between the Aspirant and the Bishop. 

COM Interview Scheduled 

At about the same time, an Aspirant will be contacted by the Secretary of the Commission on Ministry to schedule an interview with the Commission on Ministry which will determine whether an aspirant will become a  postulant for one of the Holy Orders or will be encouraged to continue in Lay Leadership.  

Possible Outcomes for Aspirants