News: Seminarian Nick Stark to be Ordained Transitional Deacon

December 28, 2020

Deacon Rob Stark and his son, seminarian Nick Stark

Answering God’s call and serving the church is a family affair for the Stark family, who call St. Pius X Parish in Urbandale home.

Rob Stark was ordained a permanent deacon on Aug. 4, 2018. Little more than two years later - this Wednesday, Dec. 30  - his son, Nick, will be ordained a transitional deacon, the last major step on his journey to priesthood. The ordination will be livestreamed beginning at 3 p.m. from St. Pius X Parish in Urbandale.

Father and son have a love for God and the Catholic faith. 

Nick’s callingnull

Nick attended St. Pius X Catholic grade school and Dowling Catholic High School. He always enjoyed religion classes at school and being an altar server. He also had stirrings here and there prompting him to consider the priesthood. But by high school, he had drifted, setting his sights on biology and becoming a veterinarian.

That all changed after attending a Kairos retreat his senior year of high school.

“It got me to refocus on my priorities and refocused on what God wanted me to do with my life,” Nick said. “I was starting to think about what I wanted to do instead, and so I was reoriented. God gave me quite a clear call.”               

Father John Harmon also had an influence on Nick.

“I told Father John I was going to Loras College [to study theology and philosophy] and he informed me that there was a seminary and would be studying a lot of the same stuff. He said, ‘So maybe you should give it a shot.’

“And so that was a pretty clear signal, I thought, and I really felt it,” Nick said. “And so I decided to give it a shot.”

Nick enjoys the spiritual atmosphere of seminary, which includes daily, structured prayer time, regular spiritual direction, classes and the community of fellow seminarians.

“I feel stronger now than ever in my call and it’s gotten stronger as time has progressed,” Nick said.


Rob’s calling

“We were at Mass one afternoon on a Saturday evening and we always got there early,” Rob said. “I was done praying and sat down and started staring at the crucifix and starting wondering why we did the things we did to [Jesus] and all of the things he endured.”

Those ponderings turned into something more.

“As I am thinking about all of these things the outside world is starting to close off and I am really focusing on the crucifix and the altar and not paying attention to what it going on around me,” Rob continued.  

It was then that Jesus spoke to him, Rob said.

“I hear a man’s voice telling me that he would like me to do a little bit more,” Rob said. “And at the time, I was in Christ Renews His Parish, I was the lay director and I was in the scouting program and a scout master.”

He was also a lector and religious education teacher. He started wondering how else he could possibly get involved.

“Now I recognize this [voice] to be Jesus,” Rob added.  

It was during that Mass when the deacon read the Gospel and started preaching that Rob realized Jesus was calling him to the diaconate. 

Serving Others

Rob’s wife and Nick’s mother, Carol Stark, said she is excited for the two men in her life.

“I’m just really proud that Nick had the courage to listen to that call and pursue it,” Carol said. “One of the things that Nick said was that, ‘You date girls to determine who you want to marry. Shouldn’t I date God? A lot of people don’t even give it a chance and you have to get into seminary and give it a chance to determine if this is what God is calling you to do.’”

Nick looks forward to the sacraments, counseling others and serving alongside his dad at Mass.

“Having my dad with me on the altar – that’s one thing I’m really looking forward to…,” Nick said.

“I just want to be a good priest,” Nick concluded.  

“The Holy Spirit clearly came to our house and got both of us,” Rob said. “Clearly we have the innate feeling that we are called to serve others, and wholeheartedly believe that and we’ve done that and we have a desire to continue that service.”

This is an edited version of a story by Kelly Mescher Collins that appeared in The Catholic Mirror in June, 2018.