Deacon learning, teaching in Chanute and Humboldt

The Rev. Mr. Caleb Kuestersteffen assists Fr. J.D. Betzen at Mass in St. Patrick Church in Chanute during his last summer as a seminarian. (Photo courtesy Elaine Colvin)

The Rev. Mr. Caleb Kuestersteffen is putting all of his years of seminary training to work this summer.

Deacon Kuestersteffen is preparing and delivering homilies in English and Spanish at St. Patrick Parish in Chanute and St. Joseph Parish in Humboldt under the tutelage of Fr. John Betzen, the pastor.

“It’s all new for me and very exciting,” he said. “The creativity that you’re able to bring – it’s an outlet for creativity that I hadn’t expected.”

Deacon Kuestersteffen said he is eager to share what he’s learned in the last six years in seminary training, but never too much. “To be able to say, ‘Oh, this is something that moved me and I think it could be helpful to share it with you now.’ I think that’s what the Lord is asking.”

Prepping for preaching

The deacon said he has developed a rhythm this summer: the day before he is to preach he goes through the readings and asks the Lord what He has for tomorrow.

Most of the seminarian’s preparation time is spent on Sunday homilies.

“Fr. J.D. said that at almost all of the Masses every weekend you’re here you’ll preach,” he said, including the once-a-month Mass in Spanish.

Totus Tuus team visits

A few weeks ago a Totus Tuus team visited, resulting in an opportunity to preach to children.

“It was the first time I preached to kids – we never even practice that at the seminary or talked about it,” he said. “And so I said, you know, I’m going to try the whole leave-the-ambo-behind and wander around and try and be a little more engaging. I had such a blast with that. You can be a little more expressive, or even a little silly sometimes, and keeps the kids engaged.”

The deacon, a veteran of three summers of Totus Tuus, said it was a great experience to be able to engage with children in his new role where he could hang around and be silly with them.

Summer a bit slower

Summertime for families is a little less hectic, he said, which allows him to get to know the families of the two parishes. The assignment is also a good transition to his final year of study, he added, as he looks forward to ordination in less than a year.

There is also time for him to talk about the day with Fr. Betzen.

“We sit down and talk. He’ll share and give context about different situations, or pieces of advice, or stories – building friendship,” Deacon Kuestersteffen said.

“I think the thing – as far as transitioning into ministry – that I’m most grateful for is to have his example of a prayerful sacrificial life, one with and for the people.”

A connection to the region

The region is old stomping grounds for the Kuestersteffens. The deacon’s father grew up in Yates Center, and his father’s father and mother grew up in nearby Piqua, and retired in Humboldt. Deacon Kuestersteffen remembers walking the four blocks from their house to St. Joseph Church for Mass celebrated by Fr. Tom Scaletty who retired to Humboldt before passing away in 2018.

“There’s a feeling of a bit of a homecoming here,” he said. “This is familiar territory. The love that folks have shown because they knew my grandparents – they loved my grandparents, my grandparents had loved them, they, in turn, are sharing that back with me.”

Fr. Betzen comments

Fr. Betzen said Deacon Caleb’s presence had been a great blessing at St. Patrick and St. Joseph parishes.
“His joy is contagious, and he’s a very gifted homilist. We will certainly miss him when he returns for his final year of seminary formation.”