Deacon Daniel Welter retiring as archdiocesan chancellor

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Deacon Daniel Welter retiring as archdiocesan chancellor

This slideshow shows Deacon Daniel Welter in service in the Archdiocese of Chicago. He will continue serving as deacon at Holy Name Cathedral following his retirement. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Auxiliary Bishop Andrew Wypych signs the Book of the Elect for Deacon Dan Welter following one of the Rite of Election liturgy at Holy Name Cathedral on Feb. 18, 2013. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
From left, Judge Thomas More Donnelly, Deacon Dan Welter, Archbishop Blase Cupich and Auxiliary Bishop Francis Kane look over the corporation sole documents on Nov. 18, 2014. Archbishop Cupich signed the document prior to his installation as archbishop of Chicago. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon Welter plays Santa at Macy’s on State and Randolph Streets on Dec. 15, 2017. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon Welter plays Santa at Macy’s on State and Randolph Streets on Dec. 15, 2017. Evan McManus, 4, tells Santa what he wants for Christmas. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon Welter incenses the congregation during Midnight Mass at Holy Name Cathedral on Christmas Eve 2017. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon Welter makes the sign of the cross as Cardinal Cupich gives the final blessing at Midnight Mass on Dec. 25, 2018. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon Welter distributes the Blood of Christ during Communion at Midnight Mass on Dec. 25, 2018. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon Welter proclaims the Gospel during the closing Mass on April 25, 2019 for the NCEA Convention & Expo at McCormick Place West. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon Welter leads the last Stations of the Cross on March 13, 2020 at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago before all services and Masses were suspended in the archdiocese the next day due to COVID-19. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon Welter holds up the book of the Gospel during the Easter Vigil Mass at Holy Name Cathedral on April 11, 2020. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Bishops-elect Robert J. Lombardo, Jeffrey S. Grob and Kevin M. Birmingham, sign their pledges of fidelity to the Holy Father prior to their ordination as bishops in the St. James Chapel at the Archbishop Quigley Center on Nov. 11, 2020. Bishop Casey, vicar general, also witnessed the documents. Archdiocesan Chancellor Dan Welter administered the signing. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon Welter signs the pledges of fidelity on Nov. 11, 2020. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon Welter holds the candle from which others lit their candles to proclaim their baptismal promises during the Easter Vigil Mass with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults at Holy Name Cathedral on April 16, 2022. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon Welter joins Father Gregory Sakowicz, rector of Holy Name Cathedral, in the Eucharistic Prayer for the third annual Child Abuse Prevention Mass on April 30, 2022. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Deacon Welter, chancellor for the Archdiocese of Chicago, approaches newly ordained deacons during the sign of peace at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago on May 14, 2022. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

When Deacon Daniel Welter retires from his position as archdiocesan chancellor June 30, he will be leaving a post that on paper is all about keeping proper records, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.

The chancellor, after all, is in charge of all the diocesan records, under canon law.

But that’s not what Welter is all about, according to friends and colleagues. What he is about is serving people, the charism of a deacon.

“He always found the need of being of service,” said Father Dominic Grassi, who has known Welter for “decades and decades.” “He would go into any ministry wanting to find out, what did that ministry need? And then serving the people of the parish, the diaconal community, now he ministers to the people who work in the chancery. … In this day and age, where people are concerned with titles and roles, rules and regulations, he is concerned about the task at hand.”

Welter, 73, said he is not retiring from ministry. He will continue serving as an active deacon at Holy Name Cathedral, where he spends many evenings preparing couples who are planning destination weddings for marriage, and he will pull out his Santa suit every holiday season as long as he is able.

Welter has been one of the Santas at Macy’s department store on State Street, usually serving as the jolly old elf for special meals with Santa. That didn’t happen in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and in 2021, the store had its “Santaland” but no meals. Welter chose not to participate, noting that many of the other Santas rely on the job for holiday income.

He did, however, portray Santa Claus at private events and even a few home visits.

“I’ll always be Santa Claus,” he said, adding that he would be happy to return to Macy’s as well.

What Welter will give up is the job of making sure the archdiocese keeps records in order and serving as the archdiocese’s official notary.

In reality, Welter said, most of the actual keeping of records is done in the archdiocesan Archives and Records Center, ably directed by Meg Hall, Welter said.

His job, he said, is “really more about the ‘other duties as assigned.’”

That includes advising Cardinal Cupich and other archdiocesan leaders as well as helping others, whether they are clergy or laypeople, when they need to understand and then figure out what to do about their own situations relative to the church.

“Say you have a couple that got married, and then they go to get their marriage certificate from the [county] clerk’s office, and the priest or deacon never filed it,” Welter said. “That’s something we would deal with.”

Welter served for 22 years as a judge in Cook County Circuit Court, and started working in the Office of Canonical Services the day after he retired from the bench in 2008. He was originally brought on board to work on the laicization of former priests in the wake of changes to policies having to do with clerical sexual abuse.

Laicization of clergy, both voluntary and involuntary, is something the chancellor deals with as well, along with letters of good standing for priests ministering in other dioceses or coming from other dioceses to the Archdiocese of Chicago.

After dealing with a couple of health issues, Welter decided it was time to retire around his birthday last year. He almost set the date for the end of the calendar year, until his wife, Martha, pointed out that it would be winter and he would be cooped up at home too much.

Deacon Tom Lambert doesn’t think that’s likely.

Lambert is co-chair of the archdiocesan Commission on Mental Illness, a ministry in which Welter has been active since before being ordained in 1991. Lambert and his wife, Rita, were doing a retreat for incoming candidates for diaconal formation when they met Welter, Lambert said, and they soon found they had a lot in common, including being the parents of adult children with mental illness.

“What immediately strikes me about Dan is a compassion for people,” Lambert said. “He’s been in a lot of areas that require interpreting the legal part of things, but he does it with compassion. And all along he has been involved in the Commission on Mental Illness both in an advisory capacity and speaking [at presentations]. Hopefully this gives him the time to be even more active in the ministry.”

While Grassi and Welter never ministered at a parish together, they got to know one another from working with the Association of Chicago Priests, Grassi said. Welter made it clear to him that deacons also were ordained clergy, and their role should be respected.

The two became close friends, and Grassi, a writer as well as a pastor, included a deacon character who becomes archdiocesan chancellor in his last book, a mystery novel.

“It was clearly based on Dan,” Grassi said. “And I wrote that years before he became chancellor.”


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