Two university professors ordained to diaconate

Veronica Novotny

Bishop Jeffrey Monforton of the Diocese of Steubenville ordained two men to the permanent diaconate at a 10 a.m. Mass Saturday, Nov. 20, in Finnegan Fieldhouse. Around 300 students, faculty, friends and local parishioners attended.

After three years of formation, Robert Rice and Michael Welker were ordained permanent deacons of the Diocese of Steubenville.

Robert Rice, who holds a doctorate in theology, is a professor of catechetics and directs the online Masters of Catechetics and Evangelization program.

Michael Welker, who holds a doctorate in international economics, is a professor of economics and directs Catholic Business Management and Entrepreneurship on campus.

After the ceremony, Welker said, “To be now a deacon is a humbling and beautiful blessing from Our Lord. He doesn’t call the qualified. He qualifies the called. To see so many people being joy filled, supportive, giving their unqualified thanks — this is, to me, a blessing, too.

“I was grateful on Saturday afternoon to be deacon of the word for the vigil of the solemnity of Christ the King. I gave a homily people tell me was well received. On Sunday, I was deacon of the word at my ‘internship’ parish, St. Agnes in Mingo Junction.”

In speaking of his future ministry as a deacon, Welker said, “If I can — and, often, with my beautiful and dynamic wife, Cynthia — be a participant and servant in this task (of salvation of souls), then I hope to have joy and peace in my own heart and in our family. I hope to encourage all to pursue a deepened and enriched prayer life, because the encounter with Jesus is the essence of our becoming like him, to be able to live eternally with the Holy Trinity.”

Welker is assigned to Holy Family Church in Steubenville and Rice is assigned to Blessed Sacrament Church in Wintersville.

Bishop Pierre-André Dumas, the founding bishop of Anse-à-Veau and Miragoâne, Haiti, concelebrated. According to, Dumas co-led a pilgrimage to the Holy Land with Rice in February 2020.

Benjamin Gessler is also in candidacy for the diaconate with the Diocese of Steubenville and is expected to be ordained in 2022, according to the diocesan website.