Faith. Trust. Commitment. Dedication. Love.
Those are qualities vital to becoming a deacon. And for Travis Welsh and Bruce Bot, those aforementioned qualities have led them to their upcoming ordinations in the Diocese of New Ulm in April.
“I'm super excited,” said Welsh, whose home parish is St. Eloi Church in Ghent.
“It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time now.”
Bot, whose home parish is St. Edward’s Church in Minneota, is equally excited for Ordination Day on April 21 at St. Mary's Catholic Church in Sleepy Eye.
“I’m looking forward to the upcoming ordination,” Bot said. “When we started out, five years seemed a long time. But looking back, the time has gone by quickly.”
Bishop John M. LeVoir, who last ordained a class of six permanent deacons six years ago, will again ordain six deacons during the ceremony this year.
The six deacon candidates will attend Mass at St. Mary’s Church with their families to profess their fidelity to do what the bishop asks of them. Besides Welsh and Bot, the others who will be ordained are: Kenneth Noyes of Holy Redeemer Church of Marshall, Anthony Grack of St. Peter Church of St. Peter, Ryan Pope of St. Catherine Church of Redwood Falls, and Barry Reindl of St. Raphael Church of Springfield.
During the Rite or Ordination which takes place within the context of Mass on April 21, deacon candidates will kneel before Bishop LeVoir and pledge their Promise of Obedience.
Deacons in the Catholic Church are required to be at least 35 years old in the United States. Welsh and his wife Jessica, and Bot and his wife Juanita, have been involved in a five-year formation process.
The first year is called aspirancy, which is a time when the Church and the deacon candidate evaluate whether he is called to the ministry.
If, after the completion of aspirancy, it has been determined that the deacon candidate should continue with the formation process, he then enters a four-year program with each year consisting of 10 weekend gatherings and one, three-day retreat in the summer.
“When I first committed to becoming a deacon and I knew I had to commit to one weekend a month for five years, it seemed like such a long way off and that I would never get there,” Welsh said.
“Now it’s hard to believe that it’s almost here.” When deciding they wanted to become a deacon, Welsh, Bot and others had to read and first fill out a large packet of information.
A spouse, any employers, and pastor, are all then required to put down in writing that they are supporting a potential deacon’s vocation. Each potential deacon is then put through both a physical and psychological evaluation.
“Deacon Mark Kober of Sleepy Eye then interviewed me and my wife,” Welsh explained. “He then goes back to a screening and admissions committee to inform them whether or not we would be a good fit for the program.”
Welsh and Bot will be ordained as “permanent deacons”, who can be married while serving God.
While all members of the church are called to minister to others by virtue of their baptism, some Catholics are also ordained to specific forms of ministry to serve the rest of the Church. A Catholic deacon is a member of the clergy. In the Catholic Church, the clergy consists of three groups of ordained ministers: bishops, priests and deacons.
Deacons are neither laymen nor priests. Nor are they a lesser version of the priesthood. The diaconate is a unique vocation unto itself.
“Deacons can be witnesses at weddings, funerals, baptisms and things just like priests,” Welsh told.
“But we can’t celebrate Mass, as we are unable to consecrate the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ. The only minister who can do this is an ordained priest.”
Following their ordination, a deacon is required to attend a retreat each year at Abby in the Hills in Milbank, SD. Following ordination, Bishop LeVoir will decide what the future holds for the six new deacons in terms if placement in the diocese.
A ‘calling’ by the lake
Travis and his wife, Jessica, have been married since 2001. They have two children; Teagan and Tyler, with a third child due in April. Travis has been plant operator for the City of Marshall's Wastewater Treatment Plant for the past three years. He graduated from Minneota in 1997.
The Welshs currently live two miles south of Ghent. Welsh is involved in many ways with the church, including: Lector, extraordinary minister of Communion in the parish and to the homebound, Fourth Degree of Knights of Columbus, Confirmation teacher, marriage preparation, RCIA, and Teen Talk.
“I was at an Emmaus Retreat at Lake Shetek (south of Tracy) a few years ago and taking some time to pray when I felt that Jesus wanted something from me,” Welsh recalled. “I had no clue what it was he wanted.”
When Welsh returned home, there were petitions at Mass asking for deacons.
“Everything all began to click,” he explained. “God showed me through a number of ways that He wanted me to become a deacon. I told my wife that I think I was being called to become a deacon and she fully supported me.”
Welsh’s wife is due to have the couple’s third child on April 21, the same day of ordination.
“They are going to induce her on the 14th if she hasn’t had the baby by then,” said Welsh.
“But there is another conflict with April 14. That’s the day I am supposed to be at a retreat for five days at St. John’s University in Collegeville. But they told me to come as soon as I can get there.” Welsh is grateful for being called to serve.
“My personal relationship with God has blossomed in way that I never thought was possible,” he noted.
Bot’s decision based on trust
The Bots have been married since 1988 and have five grown children; Amanda, Charles (and wife Mariah), Emily, Lee and Joshua. The Bots farm two miles east of Minneota and raise corn, soybeans, and farrow to finish pigs.
“Juanita and the kids have been very supportive ever since I have started the program,” said Bot.
Bruce is also involved with his church in a number of capacities, including: Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus, Grand Knight and Faithful Navigator, parish finance council, lector, extraordinary minister of Communion, Communion to homebound, choir member, RCIA, religious education teacher, and various committees.
When Bot first entertained the idea of becoming a deacon several years ago, time constraints with his farm and family played a part in deciding against it. But there was also more to it.
“I didn’t feel worthy or holy enough to be a deacon, and that is still true today,” he admitted.
“Over the last five years, I have come to realize that God doesn’t just call those who are worthy or holy. But that if we trust Him and follow Him, he can use us to further His kingdom here on earth and eventually make us holy, which is our goal.”
But Bot still felt that even though the kids were now grown, farming and raising livestock still took a lot of time.
“Taking one weekend a month for five years was a concern,” he stated.
“Juanita and I prayed about it and decided that if this is what God wanted me to do, it would work out.”
“It’s said that the more we get to know God, the more we are able to love Him. The diaconate formation has been a wonderful learning experience for Juanita and me, and through all the classes and discussions we have grown to appreciate the beauty and wisdom of our God and His church.”