Seminarian Spotlight - Deacon Nate Tapsak

Spotlight is a series of articles highlighting members of the Byzantine Catholic Seminary community, presented in a Q&A format.
This installment features Seminarian Deacon Nate Tapsak.

Where are you from originally?  What eparchy?

I grew up mostly in northeast Pennsylvania near Bloomsburg, though for all of my time in seminary my family has lived in Virginia. I am a part of the Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, since I never had any relationship with one of the parishes of the Eparchy of Passaic and I did my undergraduate in Pittsburgh. It felt natural for me to stay in the area.

When did you first discern your vocation?

I heard my call to the priesthood when I was fairly young, around 10-12, though I’m not sure specifically. My call was pretty special: I never thought of being a priest myself, but while I was in church one day, I heard a voice in my head suddenly say to me, “You will be a priest.” It was so direct, otherworldly, and foreign to my ears to hear that, so I was quite scared of the call for many years. I wasn’t really willing to accept the call until I was 19 and in college, at which point I finally felt such a great peace and fulfillment at resolving to enter seminary and pursue this vocation. I have only heard this “vocational voice” twice. The second time was when God told me I would marry my wife, Natalia, which confused me at the time because we had separated two weeks prior.

What kind of work did you do prior to coming to seminary?

I put in my application for seminary while I was finishing my undergraduate degree. I would have started here at the age of 20 immediately following graduation, but I had been accepted into the Fulbright program to teach English in Slovakia at a high school in Prešov for a whole year. I had a sort of interim spiritual year in Slovakia, as I taught English while living in the Greek Catholic seminary. I began seminary the following August. 

When will you graduate from the Byzantine Catholic Seminary?

I should be graduating in May 2024.

What is the most challenging part of seminary for you?

Earlier in my seminary days, the greatest challenge was maintaining a healthy sleeping schedule and having meaningful participation at 7:00 A.M. services. I never really liked the early morning back then.

What is the best part of your seminary experience so far?

My favorite part of the seminary experience has been the camaraderie. The seminarian student body is so small and we live in such a close-knit community that many of us become good friends and have many meaningful experiences together.

State one thing you wish you had known in your undergraduate days.

Take more philosophy courses, at least a minor.

What experiences have shaped you spiritually? 

What really draws me in to our Byzantine rite is our Liturgy. I felt so nourished by regular celebration of Vespers and the other hours, which I attended at the Byzantine Catholic Seminary even while in college. One tangible way I have grown since my first year at seminary is in the “call of the altar.” As I grow into my priestly vocation, I feel more and more at home in the holy place, especially as a server, for the psalmist writes that “one day in [the Lord’s] courts is better than a thousand elsewhere” (Ps. 84:10). The priest’s whole identity is tied to liturgy and especially the unbloody and rational worship of the Eucharist. All Christians ought to center their life on liturgy, but it is the awesome task and responsibility of the priest to be the gatekeeper and steward of the sacred mysteries, in participation of Christ’s own priesthood. I feel drawn to be as close to the altar as possible.

What do you do to de-stress?

I like to go to the gym, get outside, or cook to de-stress.

Morning or evening person? 

A funny question. I used to be an evening person, and I’ve always felt some mild resentment towards the morning because the world is ruled by morning people. Over the course of seminary. though, I’ve become more and more comfortable with going to sleep and waking earlier, because of a few things: the first is that my exercise schedule usually tires me out earlier in the evening, and I need good sleep for recovery. The second thing is that my years of attempting to maintain a morning and evening prayer rule while in seminary or at home have resulted in my finding that I need morning silence. My morning routine is based around morning prayer in quiet, for which I need to get up earlier. The third thing is that as a married seminarian living off-campus, I often need to rise early to make the drive in good time. My wife and I are about to have our first baby, though, so it remains to be seen how this will change…

Nate Tapsak was ordained to the diaconate on August 20, 2023 at Holy Ghost Byzantine Catholic Church, McKees Rocks, PA.

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