Name: Joseph Benedict Welter
Family: Wife: Katie; sons: Samuel, Andrew and Nathan.
Occupation: Civil and Environmental Engineer
Parish: St. Mary of the Visitation and Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City
How did you know you were being called to the diaconate?
My desire to become a deacon can be split into two main points: calling and service. I have felt a calling to serve the church since high school. This calling first occurred after I was confirmed. As I was not familiar with the role of deacons and did not know any particular deacons, I explored the priesthood. Through a short discernment, I determined that the priesthood was not my calling and went to college at the University of Iowa. During my first year at college and through the Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City, I was exposed to the permanent diaconate. Meeting and dating my wife in college and my involvement in adult ministries at the Newman Center following graduation 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. So, I applied for and was accepted into the formation program. The discernment process was not always easy. During some of the toughest moments in my discernment these past five years of formation, I was reaffirmed by numerous people. The Holy Spirit was definitely at work.
What was the most rewarding aspect of deacon formation?
Early in the formation process, my family joined St. Mary of the Visitation Parish in Iowa City. Getting to know so many of the parishioners and having a chance to work with them and worship with them has been an amazing gift to me and my family.
In addition to ministry in the parish, I had some amazing field experiences during formation. I worked as director of RCIA at the Newman Center, distributed Communion at Mercy Hospital, ministered in the nursing homes, assisted with the free lunch program, volunteered at the Center for Worker Justice, and helped as a core team member of the Iowa City Chapter of Fathers of Saint Joseph. I had the opportunity in these experiences to pray with and for so many people. I learned some valuable lessons about what it is like to be in another person’s situation. These experiences were life-changing for me.
What was the most challenging aspect of deacon formation?
When I started the formation program, I knew some of what a deacon does. I had almost no idea who a deacon is. Learning about the integration of every aspect of one’s life into diakonia was and still is a big challenge. Being of loving service to others at all times is a calling of all of the baptized. But, the deacon is a model of this and is an image of the servant Christ. It is an immense challenge, which is difficult to accomplish. Yet, the journey of learning and forming myself better to this calling has forever changed me into a better husband, father, son, sibling, friend and coworker.
What do you look most forward to in your ministry as a deacon?
I am looking forward to continuing to work with parishioners in various ministries. I am especially interested in working with engaged couples, married couples and families. I am excited to continue working with those in the community who are most in need of God’s love, grace and mercy.
What special ministry will you undertake?
I am hoping to have a diocesan ministry assignment in the area of peace and social justice.
What is your favorite Scripture passage?
Two passages come to mind.
St. Paul’s running analogy in First Corinthians, Chapter 9 (1Corinthians 9: 24-27): “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 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.”
Also, I have always loved the calling of young Samuel in the beginning of the third chapter of First Samuel (1Samuel 3: 1-18). Read it or reread it and I think it will speak to you about how we should respond to God’s calling — even when we do not know how to respond.