by Eileen Quinn-Knight, PhD
Dr. Knight: Could you tell us about your family and the work you do at the Archdiocese of Chicago?
Deacon Welter: My wife and I recently celebrated our 45th Wedding anniversary. We have two adult daughters and four grandchildren.
I was raised by a single mom and was the oldest of three. We lived on the far southwest side of the city. I attended Quigley Preparatory Seminary (south) for High School and Niles College Seminary for 2 years, finishing at Loyola University in 1971. I graduated from IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law in 1975 and was admitted to the Illinois Bar in 1976.
I was an Attorney for the City of Chicago for 10 years, serving as Chief Assistant Corporation Counsel for Municipal Prosecution for the last five. I was appointed as an Associate Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County in 1986 and retired from the bench in 2008 after 22 years. In 2008, I was asked by Cardinal Francis George to assist with the ecclesial issues in cased of sexual abuse by clerics with minors. In 2017, Cardinal Blase Cupich asked me to serve as Chancellor for the Archdiocese, the position I currently hold. During my time with the Archdiocese I embarked on a course of study at St. Mary’s University where I received a Graduate Certificate in Canon (Church) Law.
My responsibilities at the Archdiocese include, among other things, the direction of our Archives and Records center, the coordination of policy initiatives and the issuance of Imprimaturs, as well as the preparation of cases for laicization that are sent to the Holy See (Rome) for final decision. I also serve on the Advisory Boards for St. Joseph College Seminary at Loyola, Catholic Charities, the Catholic Lawyers Guild and Illinois Lawyers Assistance Program.
In 1991, I was ordained as a Permanent Deacon and have served at St. Barnabas, Our Lady of the Woods, St. Josaphat, St. Hilary, and St. Gertrude before being assigned in 2017 at Holy Name Cathedral.
Dr. Knight: What work do you engage in at Holy Name Cathedral ?
Deacon Welter: At Holy Name Cathedral, I serve as deacon at various Masses and other liturgies and on occasion deliver the Homily. I baptize and celebrate weddings as scheduled. I also assist with Sacramental preparation for Marriages and Baptisms. A recent initiative is a program of support for those who are caring for loved ones who are dealing with mental health challenges. Hopefully, this will become a permanent ministry at the Cathedral.
Dr. Knight: This is a time of hope in the Church with our spirituality compassionate leaders and other believers who understand the vision our Pope. How do you think he has inspired people?
Deacon Welter: My wife and I have had the extraordinary privilege of attending a weekday Mass with the Holy Father in his house chapel and were able to spend a few minutes in private conversation with him. The Pope understands people. He is the man of the people. This Pope is much like John XXIII; he is everyone’s Grandpa. He engages people but represents the Institution. He is the Shepherd of the people and ended his conversation by saying “Ask them to pray for me.”
Dr. Knight: How did you receive your call to be a Deacon for the Archdiocese and especially Holy Name Cathedral?
Deacon Welter: I attended the high school and college seminary for the Archdiocese, but eventually discerned that I was not called to the ministerial priesthood. However, I still had a strong desire to serve the People of God in the institutional Church. My wife and I entered diaconate formation in 1988 and I was ordained in 1991. A deacon’s unique charism is to be attentive to the marginalized in the world and to bring their needs to the larger community. The strong commitment to the poor and the outsider at Holy Name is one of the aspects of the Cathedral parish that attracted us to serve here.
Dr. Knight: How about an easy question: What is your favorite film at this time? Book?
Deacon Welter: My favorite film is Casablanca because of the famous lines and the plot. I also like Lonesome Dove which was faithfully adapted from a book. My favorite book is
The_Last_Temptation_of_Christ by Nikos Kazantzakis. It was an important book in my spiritual journey. I have given over a dozen copies away through the years.
Dr. Knight: What about your special ministry at Christmas for kids?
Deacon Welter: I’ve been Santa at Macy’s for four years. I really enjoy this ministry as I see children at their joyous best. It allows for a wonderful humanity to show as the children are filled with hope. For me, it makes my Christmas!
Dr. Knight: One of the ministries you do is for the Archdiocese in regard to divorce. Could you tell us something about that ministry?
Deacon Welter: Part of my ministry at the Archdiocese is to assist persons who have divorced civilly and are now seeking to have their prior marriage annulled sacramentally. Once a decision is rendered by the Judge at the Tribunal, I coordinate any special conditions for counseling that are imposed as part of the decision to assure that the individual understands the Catholic anthropology of marriage and the rights, duties, obligations and responsibilities that are a part of sacramental marriage.
Dr. Knight: Do you think/feel that the use of social media in our parishes can assist young people to think about knowing/loving/serving God through their ‘cyber-neighbor’?
Deacon Welter: Social media used properly is a big help. Critical thinking is part of the Catholic tradition; we need to be able to filter information so that we have reliable sources. In the context of a faith community we need time to ponder and investigate what is the answer/question.
Dr. Knight: Could you tell us about the training/education necessary to be a deacon?
Deacon Welter: The formation and formal education is currently a four-year process. The first year – called Aspirancy – is for the individual or husband and wife to learn what the diaconate entails and for the diaconate formation team to learn about those who have entered the program. The next three years – called Candidacy – are filled with academic preparation in Scripture, Ecclesiology, Christology, the Catechism, Canon Law, Catholic Tradition and Sacramental Theology as well as ongoing spiritual formation and skill development to prepare them as Servant – Leaders in the model of Christ the Servant.
Dr. Knight: What other issues do you have as a priority for our work as a society?
Deacon Welter: As I said earlier, we are working on a new initiative with those who serve as support for persons with a mental illness, a ministry of accompaniment. I would hope that we can also begin to be intentional about civility in all aspects of our lives, personal, professional and communal. We need to listen and to give others the benefit of the doubt regarding their motivation. The model in the Prayer of St. Francis would be great for us as individuals and as a society.
Dr. Knight: What do you like best about serving at Holy Name?
Deacon Welter: I like the civility of the people. The dignity and energy of being human is an important aspect also. The parish of HNC as well as the Cathedral is building a good staff. The Rector cares about people. The people have a real sense of service. The work of ministering to people in the hospitals has continued to be a source of comfort and faith for all. There is a wonderful experience of the diversity of people. I am blessed to be here – hopefully for a long, long time.