November 4, 2022

2022 Vocations Awareness Supplement

Joy-filled deacon strives to see the world through ‘the eyes of Christ’

Deacon Steve Tsuleff shares the Eucharist with Jean Kruthaupt in a home visit with the member of St. Michael Parish in Brookville. (Submitted photo)

Deacon Steve Tsuleff shares the Eucharist with Jean Kruthaupt in a home visit with the member of St. Michael Parish in Brookville. (Submitted photo)

By John Shaughnessy

Deacon Steve Tsuleff likes to wear Hawaiian shirts, revealing his often laid-back, lighthearted approach to life and his love of being by the ocean.

“I love the calming sound of the waves, and I like to reflect on God’s beauty,” he says.

In his office where he works as a video editor for a television station, there’s a crucifix, a photo of Pope Francis and an icon of the Blessed Mother holding Jesus—reflecting the way he believes that his professional life and his faith life are interwoven.

“I make no secret that I am a Christian, a Catholic and a deacon,” he says. “Sometimes, it starts a conversation.”

And after his love of his family and his faith, the other true joy for Deacon Tsuleff is the passion he has for creating and telling a story.

So, when he is asked to share the defining details of the story of his first five years as a deacon for the archdiocese, he starts with the way that God has changed him through this ministry.

“In these five years, I have been more successful looking through the eyes of Christ than through my own eyes,” he says. “By no means am I perfect, but I am a work in progress walking on the right path. If you have a Christ-centered heart, you will do what is correct in God’s eyes and love your fellow neighbor. You will have more patience in a fast-paced world. You will be able to handle difficult situations. It is no longer a me outlook on life but a you and them outlook.”

He embraces that approach as the deacon for St. Michael Parish in Brookville and St. Peter Parish in Franklin County, where his duties include preaching homilies, assisting the priest during Mass, celebrating the sacrament of baptism and presiding at funerals and weddings. Still, Deacon Tsuleff’s favorite ministry is to the sick and the elderly.

“These individuals remind me of my mom and dad, my grandparents, my aunts and uncles,” says the 60-year-old deacon. “When my mom and dad were at that stage, there were people who gave them comfort. That’s what I am hopefully doing.

“I am blessed to be able to bring Christ to them and share in the love they have for him. I also am able to develop friendships and trust, which allows them, as well as myself, to be honest about faith and where they feel they stand with God. We are able to pray, talk, laugh and even cry together.”

‘God sometimes has different plans’

During his visits, Deacon Tsuleff hopes to leave people with a smile. He believes God was smiling when he taught him one of the great lessons he has learned as a deacon.

“When we as deacons go visit those who are sick and dying, we find that God sometimes has different plans for us when we arrive,” he says.

That leads him to share the story of his visits to a woman, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and her son.

“I’m not really sure if she knew who I was, but her son would always tell her who I was when I arrived. I would talk and pray with her and give her Communion. This was also a time that I could talk with her son. He was struggling with some aspects of his faith, but I sensed a need for Christ. Why else would he want me to bring Communion to his mother?

“I always asked him how he was doing, and it was always, ‘OK, I guess.’ I reassured him that struggling with your faith is not uncommon, and it takes time to get reacquainted with our Lord. As time passed, I could tell he was getting closer to the Lord and his spirits seemed better. I told him I was always here for him and his family.”

He has that same approach for his co-workers and the people he meets as a video editor for a television station in Cincinnati.

“I have a dear friend that I have worked with for about 25 years,” he says. “His wife got sick. He would come in and he would just talk, and I would listen. Even though he wasn’t Catholic, we were still able to share our love of Christ. He eventually left work to take care of her. The doctors did diagnose her with Parkinson’s. She’s now in hospice care. We still keep in touch and talk.”

It’s all part of the Christ-centered approach that Deacon Tsuleff strives to bring to his life and to others, says Father Vincent Lampert, pastor of both St. Michael and St. Peter parishes.

‘It’s been such a beautiful journey’

“One of the things he’s really good at is he really knows how to be present to people,” Father Lampert says. “After Mass on Sundays, he visits a lot of people who are sick or homebound. He takes them Communion, and he listens to them, to let them know they’re still connected and still vital to the parish.

“He’s also a man of deep prayer. I enjoy working with him. We both have a great sense of humor. We laugh a lot together.”

Joy has also marked his 36 years of marriage with his wife, Kara, who notes that their joyful connection has increased since he started the process of becoming a deacon.

“It began with his five years of formation,” Kara says. “He’s become a better man, a better Christian, a better Catholic. I’ve truly enjoyed watching him in this ministry—and seeing how much joy it brings him. It’s helped me grow in my faith as well. One of the things that’s beautiful about the archdiocese’s program is that the wives are invited to be part of the formation process. We formed a community that was wonderful. It’s just been such a beautiful journey.”

It’s had an impact on their marriage, too. The couple met as students at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. A cradle Catholic, Kara introduced him to the Catholic faith, and he was received into full communion of the Church after their marriage and the birth of the first of their two daughters.

“I was the spiritual leader in the family,” she says. “Since he became a deacon, I see him taking the lead more. That’s been great to see.”

They work together as sponsors for engaged couples, sharing meals, stories and advice.

Being a deacon has also given him the blessing of baptizing their granddaughter, Elise.

It’s been such “a wonderful experience” for Deacon Tsuleff that he encourages other men to consider serving the archdiocese and the Church as a deacon.

“Christ will be there for you,” he says. “You’ll feel the love of Christ, and you’ll want to share that love with everybody. It’s a beautiful thing. You’ll be so blessed.” †

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