Guided by Faith: Diocese of Youngstown Deacon Kevin Bertleff

Cortland native, Deacon Kevin Bertleff’s faith journey began at Saint Robert Bellarmine Catholic Church. He attended Lakeview High School and went on to graduate from Mount Union University with a bachelor’s degree in sports management and minor in business administration. After interning during his senior year of college, he was hired by Salem Sports Incorporated, a small company that makes signage, graphics, and does construction work for golf tournaments across the country. He would work the next 11 years for the company, mostly as a construction manager, based out of Winston-Salem North Carolina.

“So we’d go in and fully outfit the inside of a tent for a corporate client with hardwood floors and custom furniture and walls and graphics. It was great to be able to get out and see the world and to go to so many different big cities throughout the country,” says Deacon Bertleff.

As time passed by in North Carolina, Deacon Bertleff says he felt a call to become more active in his faith. He started attending daily mass and began thinking about forging another path.

“I spent a lot of my early career in my life kind of asking, well what do I want out of my life? And then it kind of shifted, where I started asking the question, well what do you want from me Lord? And it’s a dangerous question, but it changed everything and I wouldn’t change it for the world,” says Deacon Bertleff.

With the blessing of his family and friends, Deacon Bertleff moved back to northeast Ohio and enrolled in Saint Mary Seminary in Wickliffe. He recently completed a seven year journey that saw him present and defend a Master of Arts in Theology, passing with honors. 

“Why does he say that to us, how can we do greater works then what Jesus Christ did, and continues to do,” says Deacon Bertleff, reciting a favorite bible passage. 

Deacon Bertleff has spent the past year here at the newly named Saint John Neumann Parish in Portage County. Deacon Bertleff says in his experience he’s developed more patience with himself and looks forward to sharing the sacraments with others.

“Just to be present, and to meet people where they’re at, yeah it’s been a great grace for me,” says Deacon Bertleff.

Father Chad Johnson, the Diocesan Director of Vocations, who also was recently called to the sacred order of the priesthood, says his advice to Deacon Bertleff is to stay close to the heart of Christ and love the people.

“The will of God will never take you, where the love of God cannot find you. And if you stick to the very core of that love, there’s nothing we can do wrong,” says Father Chad Johnson. 

On June 1st, Deacon Bertleff and his classmate, Deacon William Wainio, will be ordained to the priesthood in the Diocese of Youngstown. He says with the ever-changing dynamics of parish life, there are challenges that await him, but excitement at the same time.

“It’s a beautiful thing of how we’re moving forward together as church and understanding church in a much wider sense and being able to bring different communities together to be God’s people together, but then to also serve others in our community in a new way because we’re stronger when we’re together,” says Deacon Bertleff. 

And his advice to seminarians to look to carve a path of their own, no matter your stage in life is never doubt “the call.”

“I would encourage that kind of openness and transparency from the beginning, that when you feel the Lord prompting you to something, don’t keep that just between you and him. Share it with someone and see where it goes by sharing it,” says Deacon Bertleff.

If you have experienced God’s call to the church, contact Vocations at the Diocese of Youngstown, and follow @doyvocations on Facebook and Instagram. 

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Dennis Biviano

Dennis Biviano serves as the Public Relations and Media Specialist for the Diocese of Youngstown as the diocese’s chief point of contact with journalists. Biviano brings 20 years of TV News reporting experience to the Communications Department. He is a graduate of John F. Kennedy Catholic School in Warren and Kent State University, with a Bachelor of Science in Broadcast Journalism. He has worked as a Multimedia Journalist in the Mahoning Valley for WKBN & WYTV, as well as Charter Communications (Spectrum News 1) for seven years. Biviano is an active member of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish in Niles with his family.
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