Deacon Nick Stark
2020-21: Theology IV
St. Paul Seminary, St. Paul, MN

I can pinpoint several key experiences and events that led to my interest in discerning whether the priesthood is what God wants for me. First, I was asked by a friend to teach religious education with him. This request turned into four years of leading middle school kids in understanding and living their Catholic faith. By being an example to them, I learned what it meant to be Catholic myself.

Secondly was the pastor of my parish, Msgr. Joe McDonnell, asked me to attend the Andrew Dinner. As you know, the Andrew Dinner is sponsored by our Bishop Richard Pates and is an evening of conversation about vocations and hearing the vocation stories of priests in our diocese. Msgr. Joe said he wanted me to attend because he felt that I may have a calling to the priesthood. This blew me away, especially given the fact that I had actually considered this myself but had never said anything to anyone. At any rate, I have attended the Andrew Dinner for the past several years and remain open to the fact that God may be calling me to be one of his priests.

Finally, I had the opportunity to serve as a teen witness for a Christ Renews His Parish retreat and to participate in a Kairos retreat put on by Dowling. For the Christ Renews His Parish retreat, I was asked to deliver a talk on my life and my thoughts on the Eucharist. As a participant in Kairos, I saw that there are other kids out there who struggle with the same questions that I do, and my eyes of faith were opened wide. I got close to every person who went on the Kairos and all of them influenced and touched me with their stories and witnesses. Coming out of Kairos I was drawn more than ever to the Mass and to learn everything I can about my Catholic faith.

After much prayer and discussion with my parents and priest friends, I decided to pursue the seminary. I believe that the coursework, experiences and time to pray that the seminary offers will help me to discern whether I am truly called to be a priest. I am only beginning to understand what the religious life is all about. The priest has the amazing privilege of standing in the place of Jesus at the Eucharist and in other sacraments like reconciliation. Priests give up the possibility of a wife and children, but they gain so much more through time to pray and grow closer to Jesus. Priests serve others and get to be the "hands and feet of Jesus."

I believe that the religious life is all about becoming the best person that we can be through God's grace and building upon the grace God gave us, in order to create a more perfect union with Him. I hope that through the seminary, I will become closer to Jesus and to my fellow faith community and have a deeper understanding of my own faith-thereby discerning God's will for me. I don't know where this journey will take me, but my hope is that it will bring me closer to being the Nick Stark that Christ desires.