Name: Deacon Joe Welter
Family: Wife, Katie, and three boys, Samuel, Andrew, Nathan.
Occupation: Engineer for the City of Iowa City.
Ordination Date: July 8, 2017.
Parish Assignment: St. Mary of the Visitation Parish and Newman Catholic Student Center, University of Iowa, both in Iowa City.
Describe your diocesan deacon assignment: I am assigned to support Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CCHD) for the diocese. This year the diocese formed the first CRS Chapter in Iowa. This fall the University of Iowa started a chapter. The members of these two new chapters joined chapter members throughout the country in advocacy and giving. Chapters support the mission of CRS to cherish, preserve and uphold the sacredness and dignity of all human life, foster charity and justice and embody Catholic social and moral teaching. CRS promotes human development by responding to major emergencies, fighting disease and poverty, nurturing peaceful and just societies, and serving Catholics in the United States as they live their faith in solidarity with their brothers and sisters around the world. The mission of CCHD is to address the root causes of poverty in America. CCHD is the national anti-poverty program dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty by funding community programs. Both of these programs serve people in need and on the peripheries of society. This is directly connected with the diaconal identity of servant. As the original seven deacons were appointed in Acts to serve orphans and widows, deacons continue to serve those on the margins. Being involved with CRS and CCHD continually amazes me. Through these assignments, I witness people responding to the promptings of the Holy Spirit and the instructions of Jesus to become servants of all.
How did you know you were being called to the diaconate? My journey to ordination as a deacon probably started at birth, but intensified after I was confirmed as a junior in high school. I was not familiar with the role of deacons and did not know any particular deacons at that time, so I explored the priesthood. Through a short discernment, I determined that the priesthood was not my calling and entered college at the University of Iowa. Through the Newman Center, I was exposed to the permanent diaconate. Meeting and dating my wife in college and my involvement in adult ministries at the Newman Center after I graduated intensified the feeling that the Holy Spirit was calling me towards discernment of the permanent diaconate. I can remember vividly during prayers for vocations that God was somehow speaking to me directly.
What is the most rewarding aspect of being a deacon? As a deacon, I am invited into people’s lives. Sometimes the invitation is direct and obvious. I work through marriage preparation with a couple, journey with those discerning the sacraments of initiation in the Order of Christian Initiation of Adults (OCIA) and share the experiences of being husband and father with men in the Fathers of Saint Joseph. I engage with students at Regina Catholic Education Center in Iowa City and the Newman Center. I also participate in people’s lives but may not hear about it until later. Maybe something I said or a particular homily I gave was meaningful to them. Sometimes, only God knows the impact I made on someone. The invitation into another’s life is sacred ground and I am humbled to think that my sharing in the mission of the servant Christ has any impact on another’s journey toward holiness, sainthood.
What is the most challenging aspect of being a deacon? Being authentic and transparent in my ongoing journey of conversation as a disciple of Christ is the most challenging aspect of my life. Answering God’s call to vocation as husband, father, deacon and engineer is often exhausting. Prioritizing time for my own journey as a disciple when so many others need help is difficult. Many want to place clergy on some sort of pedestal, somehow elevate us. It’s a big fall from that height when my faults get the best of me. I am a flawed person, a sinner and a hypocrite asking for God’s grace and mercy, hoping eventually to be in full communion with God in heaven. So, I attempt to tell people exactly how it is. Be careful if you ask me how I am doing! You might get a longer answer than you want.
What is your favorite Scripture passage? There are so many excellent passages from sacred Scripture. St. Paul writes to the Corinthians that he has “become all things to all, to save at least some.” He continues, “All this I do for the sake of the gospel, so that I too may have a share in it.” The next part contains my favorite verses, “Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable one. Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.” (1 Corinthians 9: 19 – 27)