Deacon Kevin Welch leans over in his office chair, contemplating the question, “Why are you Catholic?” On the table next to him sits an orchid that he’s been nursing back to health. Behind him is a small trashcan affixed with a miniature basketball hoop.
“I am Catholic because I had two loving parents who had tremendous faith who had me baptized into our Catholic faith. I know that sounds simplistic but that’s why I’m Catholic,” he says. “But why do I continue to be Catholic might be the question.”
For Deacon Welch, his faith is a deep, personal relationship with Christ.
“It’s like saying, ‘Why do you continue to be a father or why do you continue to be a husband?’”
The permanent deacon serves as director of pastoral ministries for the Archdiocese of Portland, where he started in March of last year. In this role, he oversees all of the departments of pastoral ministry.
Deacon Welch was born in Connecticut. Despite a move across the country to California, he went through 12 years of Catholic school education. Deacon Welch considers his time attending an all-boys high school in Anaheim, California, to be one of the most formative times of his life.
While the academic program was rigorous, the deacon recalls his teachers pushing him and his peers to grow as a community and to understand faith on a deeper level.
Four years of college at San Diego State University left Deacon Welch with a degree in finance, which he took into branding and marketing.
His involvement with his parish grew after college. He was invited by his pastor to be a lector and then asked to teach the eighth-grade religious education class.
“I’ve always been faithful to my faith,” he says.
Not long after finishing college, Deacon Welch met his wife, Susan. He says he married up.
“She is way more compassionate than I am,” he says of Susan, who worked as a hospice nurse. “She’s the Mary and I’m the Martha.”
Life in the early years of the marriage was rocky.
As a 27-year-old newlywed, Deacon Welch lost his father to cancer. He calls that his midlife crisis. He left his job as a top salesman to open his own business, Eagle Graphics.
Then, Deacon Welch and his wife suffered through seven years of infertility before adopting their son and then having a daughter.
He and his wife used the time without children to become involved with Marriage Encounter and Cursillo.
“Going through those tough times of walking through the desert helps bring people together.”
He became a very involved father, from coaching basketball to traveling nearly always as a family.
“I was all in on everything,” he says. But when his son entered high school, Deacon Welch came to a realization: “This gig is going to end.”
He began to think of what life would look like when his children were grown. He decided to pursue the path toward the diaconate and see where the Holy Spirit led him.
Deacon Welch says getting through the master’s degree program for the diaconate was tough. He’s not an academic. But he made it with the help of the Holy Spirit and the support of his wife and kids.
He was one of the last men ordained by Archbishop John Vlazny in 2012. At the time of his ordination, Deacon Welch was still working in his full-time job as owner of Eagle Graphics.
“Then I just realized that it’s tough to dance with two jobs,” he says.
He decided that he needed to get a job in the church. He eventually began working as a pastoral associate at his home parish, Our Lady of the Lake in Lake Oswego.
Deacon Welch says he made mistakes in his parish work, but that time prepared him for his work now.
“I tell people, ‘In my old company, I sold thousands [of things] to people that they didn’t need. And now I sell one thing to everyone that they do need.”
Employing his love of Christ and his business background, Deacon Welch now serves as an agent of Archbishop Alexander Sample, carrying out the archbishop’s pastoral priorities.
Within this ministry, he hopes to leverage the “catholicity” of the church. He wants Catholics to learn from other Catholics, parishes to learn from other parishes, vicariates to learn from other vicariates, dioceses to learn from other dioceses, and so on.
“If we can harness the beauty of our faith by sharing that wealth of information, gosh, we can be the missionary disciples we’re called to be,” he says. “We just can’t do it in a vacuum.”