New minister fled reckless lifestyle


Daniel Weikert is the newest Roman Catholic Campus minister.

Brandon Zeris, Editor-In-Chief

Daniel Weikert is used to people giving him strange looks in church. He doesn’t always wear traditional minister attire, and he  has multiple tattoos.

He has a water-themed sleeve of tattoos along his left arm with a koi fish and manatee on his forearm.

Farther up, he has a slightly faded triumphant-looking snapshot of the Roman god Neptune — the first one he got.

“That one’s terrible,” he says, rolling up his sleeve.

Waves, flowers and tribal designs rise up his arm to fill the space between.  Weikert says he also has chest, back and ankle tattoos.

What surprises most, he says, is when people learn that he’s a minister — the newest Pitt-Johnstown Roman Catholic minister.

“I’m not your typical campus minister,” he says.

He’s lived an uncommon life for most ministers, according to Altoona-Johnstown Roman Catholic Monsignor Michael Becker.

“His path was not one of academics but of the school of hard knocks, and that carries some weight,” says Becker, who hired Weikert for the UPJ job.

The tattoos are reflective of his past music career, Weikert says.

“It was part of the culture. The scene was one where everyone had tattoos,” he says, pointing to another one he got before his eventual career change that wraps around his right ankle — a tribal band with Cherokee and Mayan symbols that illustrate a cross on one side and someone going to battle on the other.

He says he was entrenched in the scene from when he was 16 to about 27, performing for some time before working as an assistant producer in studios with Grammy Award winners Ziggy Marley, Leann Rimes and Count Basie.

“That’s sort of my claim-to-fame when I say I was in the music industry.”

He says music was his talent, citing more than 10 instruments he can play. He gave up the music career but continues to play at occasional shows.

“I’ll play once in a blue moon at maybe a high school function or at a community event,” he says.

He says he gave it up when he was 27 because he was suspicious that there may be some divine being behind our existence and wanted to find an answer.

Weikert didn’t have a deep-rooted religious upbringing, and until his mid-20s, he says he didn’t take organized religion seriously.

“I thought (religious authorities) were silly at first with their pointy hats,” he says. “Now I don’t think that way, of course.”

“I was agnostic … I wasn’t quite an atheist,” he says while sitting on a bench in front of Whalley Chapel’s elevated altar.

“I found that God works supernaturally, but we can study and get to know him logically. I mean, I don’t think he’s going to make someone levitate or anything,” he says.  “I believe in science and everything. I’m not crazy.”

“Everyone’s experience is different … sometimes people have these experiences that can be hard to describe. It can be a feeling, an emotion that’s indescribable.”

Weikert says that he had a turning point that made him realize that political and philosophical means weren’t appropriate avenues to solve life’s most important questions.

“That’s why I tried spirituality. I had studied other religions, too, but Catholicism worked for me. I wanted my heart and mind to be healed, repaired.”

He says his time in the music industry was wild and hectic and helped lead to his desire to change.

“We made poser biker gangs look like sissies … We were setting buildings on fire, guys were breathing fire, being in riots — just crazy stuff,” Weikert says, adding that that’s all changed now.

Building off his talents, he put his musical abilities to use as a music director for a Pittsburgh church. He studied religious history and theology. He also took classes, while working in different ministries.

For the last five years he worked for the Pittsburgh Diocese as the Young Adult and Youth Ministries Director and is trying to find a Johnstown-area home for his wife and three kids to move into.

For now, he’ll have to commute to and from his Pittsburgh home to fulfill his duties and work toward his goals at his new job.

Weikert says that more student leadership roles are being added to the UPJ Roman Catholic Ministry, including a liturgy and worship leader to help plan Masses.

“These roles help build job skills, too,” he says.

Becker says Weikert’s experience working with young adults is going to be beneficial for Weikert and the students he works with and mentors.

“The number of years he’s worked with young people will really make him a good fit,” Becker says. “He knows what they’re going through, and that can really help.”

Senior and Catholic Ministry Retreats Coordinator Caitlin Wolford says Weikert is a welcomed addition to the club that she’s been involved in for three years.

“He brings in a lot of new ideas and flair to the program that we haven’t seen before … he’s encouraged us to experiment with the music ministry,” she says.

Wolford says that, based on her limited time working for Weikert, she thinks the program is moving in a positive direction.

“He’s not looking to go backward and overhaul the program, and right now we’re interested in getting more people involved.

“(New members) can expect a friendly, welcoming environment. I’ve made memories and friendships that will last past my college years.”

Weikert says he wants students to give the program a chance, even if they aren’t religious.

“The students we have now are very involved. We develop friendships on multiple levels,” he says, adding that his job is to serve the students.

“I’ll be honest and supportive. If they need anything, they can ask me. And we’ll have some fun.

“I’m a little rough around the edges, but I’m not a bad guy or anything,” he says with a chuckle. “I’m like one of the guys on the ‘Deadliest Catch’ with the guts in their beards.”