Bishop Paul Sirba ordained Steve Schuler and Chuck Welte as deacons at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary Nov. 25, the Solemnity of Christ the King, before a large congregation of family, friends, and other faithful.
Both are transplants to northern Minnesota. Deacon Schuler, a retired law enforcement officer, and his wife Sue have two sons and live in Grand Rapids, where he will serve St. Joseph parish. He also will serve St. Augustine in Cohasset. Deacon Welte and his wife Lynn own a grocery store in the Brainerd area and have five children. They are from Immaculate Heart Church in Crosslake. He will also serve St. Emily in Emily.
|Chuck Welte (front) and Steve Schuler kneel before Bishop Paul Sirba as he prays over them during their ordination Mass Nov. 25. The two were ordained permanent deacons for the Diocese of Duluth. (Photo by Buzzy Winter / For The Northern Cross)|
Deacon Schuler grew up in a farming community in central Iowa and first came to northern Minnesota for family vacations, and he fell in love with the lake country. “After high school, I moved to northern Minnesota in the Walker area,” he said.
God didn’t play a big role in his life at the time, but when he met Sue, a Catholic, that began to change. He attended RCIA and was baptized and confirmed before they were married in 1979.
Even then, through 27 years working for the Minnesota State Patrol, he says he “didn’t give Jesus a lot of time” while raising a family and pursuing his job and other interests.
But that changed upon his retirement in 2012. He joined a Catholic book club and did Bible studies and started reading Catholic books, and he returned to confession after many years away. He says in part he was challenged by his son, Daniel, who is discerning a call to the priesthood with the Carmelites in New York.
With some prompting by the late Deacon Jim Sura and with “prayer, discernment, time, [and] patience,” he discerned that God had a call for him in diaconal ministry.
“I just had to get out of his way, surrender myself to him, and trust in him,” Deacon Schuler said.
“The Lord has blessed me an empathetic, compassionate, and loving heart,” he said. He says he has already found “humbled enjoyment” bringing Communion to hospital patients, those in assisted living and nursing homes and to the homebound and is looking forward to assisting his pastor in other needed ministries. He and Sue also teach RCIA, adult faith formation, and marriage preparation.
Deacon Welte lived in Rockford, Illinois, until he was 12 years old and then lived in northern Wisconsinn until his senior year in high school, when his family moved back to Illinois. He studied aerospace engineering at the University of Minnesota, where he met Lynn. His career path took him into the Air Force and then into working as a contractor intelligence agencies, living in West Virginia and commuting to Washington, D.C. He also earned a master’s degree in telecommunications and computers.
“But something was missing,” he said.
His diocese in West Virginia had a deacon program, but the time wasn’t right, and then the diocese didn’t run the program after the first group.
“I was secretly relieved, because I was starting to feel a call from God regarding the diaconate, but I didn’t want to have to make the choice to pursue it,” he said.
When the program restarted in 2010, Deacon Welte said he was torn. With a growing family, a busy work schedule, and formation taking place a six-hour drive away, he “reluctantly decided not to enter formation.”
But soon after, he visited Minnesota and met with Deacon David Craig, who was then director of the deacon program for the Diocese of Duluth. Deacon Craig invited him to consider coming to Minnesota if he was serious about entering the program.
“As improbable as it sounds, 16 months later we were moving back to Minnesota, having bought a grocery store, and 16 months after that I entered formation,” Deacon Welte said.
He said God has blessed him with gifts of service and teaching, reflected in 10 years of teaching conformation and years of working on mission projects in the Appalachians. But one of the things he’s learned in formation is to “love what the will of God has called me to do.” By doing that, he believes he will serve the people of the diocese even in the midst of challenging times for the church.
The two new deacons begin ministry in their parishes immediately and continue their formation until spring.
— By Deacon Kyle Eller / The Northern Cross