July 9, 2021

Deacon Anthony Lewis had ‘God-given ability to meet people where they are’

By Natalie Hoefer

Deacon Anthony LewisWith the passing of Deacon Anthony Lewis, 47, on June 23, his family, friends and the community he served lost “a very humble, helpful, compassionate, sincere and trustworthy person.”

These are just a few of the words of praise offered by Father Robert Hankee, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Fortville, and Deacons Steve Tsuleff and Matthew Scarlett about Deacon Lewis, whose funeral Mass was held on June 30 at St. Michael Church in Greenfield. Deacon Scarlett was the homilist, with Archbishop Charles C. Thompson serving as the principal celebrant.

Deacon Lewis was ordained with his friends, Deacons Scarlett and Tsuleff, on June 24, 2017.

“He was so passionate about the diaconate and his ministries,” which included ministry at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Fortville, ministry to the sick and homebound and prison ministry, said Deacon Scarlett.

Before being ordained to the diaconate for the archdiocese, Deacon Lewis served at St. Thomas the Apostle as a Grand Knight of the parish’s Knights of Columbus council and founded the parish’s men’s club.

“He was very active in the parish,” said Father Hankee. “He loved God, the Church, his family and his parish family. You got that sense just by talking to him or being around him.”

For his parish ministry as a deacon, Deacon Lewis “helped people with the annulment process, baptism classes, he was involved in RCIA [Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults],” said Father Hankee.

“Even in places where he wasn’t directly involved, he still made his presence felt. He was very welcoming of newcomers and in helping new parishioners find their place here. He would do just about anything you asked, even getting in a dunk tank at the parish festival.”

When it came to serving outside of his parish, Deacon Lewis “especially loved his jail ministry,” said Deacon Tsuleff. “He would often talk about how fulfilling it was—how he felt he was helping inmates find God and peace. He always had ideas to improve his ministry.”

Deacon Scarlett agreed, saying Deacon Lewis’ only problem “was that there were never enough hours in the day to serve.”

He also described Deacon Lewis as “very well-rounded,” noting that “in each of the four aspects of the diaconate—intellectual, spiritual, pastoral and human—Tony was excellent at all of them.”

Whether serving in jail ministry, at his parish, as a spouse or parent or friend, Deacon Lewis had the rare quality of “ever-presence,” Deacon Scarlett said.

“Tony had this really great, God-given ability to meet people where they are,” he said. “When you talked to him, you felt like you were the most important thing. He was engaged, listening and focused on you.

“He was ever-present as a father and husband and deacon. It was an amazing feat he pulled off, balancing his family and his ministry.”

Father Hankee agreed, saying that Deacon Lewis, “from what I can see, knew when it was time to listen and when it was time to speak. He wasn’t afraid to speak the truth and share the truth, and I always knew him to do that in a loving way.”

Yet Deacon Lewis “shrugged off” compliments, said Deacon Tsuleff.

“Tony was very humble,” he said. “He would get praised for something and would just shrug it off, saying it was nothing, often complimenting the person that gave him the praise in the first place.”

But there was plenty of joy in him, too, his friends noted.

“Tony was a joy to be around,” said Deacon Tsuleff. “He picked you up when your spirits were down. And he had a great, joy-filled laugh. … His laugh went through his entire body.”

He recalled a particular incident when Deacon Lewis intended to send a text saying, “Woo-Hoo!” but actually sent, “Woo-Boo!”

From then on, the three friends “used that for hello, goodbye, I love you—whatever!” said Deacon Tsuleff.

When it came to his family, Deacon Lewis “indeed” loved them very much, Deacon Tsuleff continued.

“He did indeed love his wife, Angie,” he said. “You could see that when they were together and how they would smile at each other.

“He was also a devoted father and was very proud of his kids. He spoke of them often.”

Father Hankee noted that in the end, Deacon Lewis’ “faith never waivered through his suffering.”

Deacon Lewis was buried at Gravel Lawn Cemetery in Fortville after the funeral Mass.

“I have to say that there’s a part of my heart that will forever hurt because of the loss of my dear friend and brother, Tony,” said Deacon Tsuleff. “I will miss him dearly.” †

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