Vocation hatches for fishery owner set to be ordained deacon

Categories: Around the Diocese

By Kristi Anderson
The Visitor

Craig Stich has a natural inclination for service. As manager of a four-generation private fish hatchery that spans nearly 2,000 acres of ponds and lakes near Battle Lake, he is well known for his hardworking but gentle nature as well as his sense of humor and devotion to his family.


Craig Stich

Stich and his wife, Kim, have two sons, Bennet, 24, and Grant, 22, who are part of the family business.

His commitment to service, God’s creation and family life will serve him well when he is ordained a permanent deacon by Bishop Donald Kettler at 10:30 a.m. June 6 at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Battle Lake.

Becoming Christ’s servant

About eight years ago, Stich had what he calls “a reversion to the Catholic Church.”

“I have been Catholic all my life and went to Mass every Sunday, but I didn’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ,” he said. “Jesus was there if I really needed him, but I trusted myself and my interests.”

Retired Father Paul Folsom, who was his priest at the time, suggested he pray the rosary in front of the Blessed Sacrament before going to work.

“I remember having to drag myself into church after the first week. Then slowly things started to change,” he said. “Topics, like abortion … took on a whole new meaning and I wanted to learn as much as I could about my Catholic faith.”
Later, Stich considered becoming a deacon, first, out of necessity.

“We have a tri-parish cluster at Our Lady of the Lake in Battle Lake which includes St. Edward’s in Henning and St. James in Maine. Our humble and overworked priest needed all the help he could get,” Stich said.

It was after attending a deacon information meeting that Stich felt moved by the Holy Spirit to pursue a call to the diaconate.

“Becoming a deacon is so much more than just helping out the overworked priests, as I first thought it to be,” Stich said. “The church describes the deacon as a servant to the bishop — being the bishop’s ears, his voice and his heart and soul.

“Deacons fulfill the role of Christ the servant by being sent forth by the bishop into a ministry of service. The deacon stands between the church and the world, has a foot solidly in each one, and interprets the needs of the world to the church. He is the icon of service to the church.”

Sharing his gifts

Permanent deacons in the Diocese of St. Cloud are required to have a master’s degree in pastoral ministry or the equivalent. Stich participated in a pilot program at St. Mary’s University of Minnesota in Winona, where he stayed in residence for a couple of weeks each June and then participated in online coursework for the remainder of the year.

After fulfilling courses there, additional classes were required to complete his degree at St. John’s School of Theology/Seminary in Collegeville.

During one of his courses there, he was assigned the task of writing and preaching a homily to his peers. “I was terribly scared and nervous,” he said.  Afterward, his professor told him that his voice “sings the Gospel.”

“That is how God works in us,” Stich said. “The Lord takes us out of our comfort zone to do things that we never dreamed we would ever do,” Stich said. “Even today, it is still uncomfortable for me, but I am able to do it because it all comes from him.” Just like the fishery business, his vocation to the diaconate is a family affair.

“Being able to balance my family, business and ministry — you would think that one of the three is going to suffer greatly,” he said. “I have found out that I need feedback from my wife and family.

They have to tell me when they see me neglecting duties because the bishop always says, ‘Remember family first.’ But that changes when your heart is engaged in ministry. I will need their feedback.”

Mostly, Stich is excited to share his God-given gifts with his parish family.

“I look forward to listening to the parishioners,” he said. “If pressed, I can offer advice, but the best thing I can do for anyone is to listen and offer my prayers. We oftentimes feel better ‘doing’ rather than being prayerful. That mentality will often result in running from one crisis to another need — totally forgetting that our ability to truly minister is the result of being empowered by the Holy Spirit.”

• Who is a deacon?
A deacon is an ordained minister of the Catholic Church, as one of three “orders” of ordained ministers — bishops, priests and deacons. Deacons are ordained as a sacramental sign to the church and to the world of Christ, who came “to serve and not to be served.”

• What are the ministries of a deacon?
All ordained ministers in the church are called to functions of Word, sacrament and charity, yet bishops, priests and deacons exercise these functions in various ways.

As ministers of the Word, deacons proclaim the Gospel, preach and teach in the name of the church.

As ministers of sacrament, deacons baptize, lead the faithful in prayer, witness marriages and conduct wake and funeral services.
As ministers of charity, deacons are leaders in identifying the needs of others, then marshaling the church’s resources to meet those needs.

Deacons are also dedicated to eliminating the injustices or inequities that cause such needs. But no matter what functions a deacon performs, they flow from his sacramental identity. In other words, it is not only what the deacon does but who a deacon is that is important.

• Is a deacon ordained for the parish or the diocese?
Whenever a person is ordained, he is to serve the diocesan church. Deacons are no different in this regard; they are assigned by the bishop to ministries for which the bishop perceives a great need and for which the deacon may have special gifts or talents.
Most often, this will be within a parish setting, just as most priests serve in a parish. Once assigned to the parish, the deacon, and any other clergy assigned to the parish, minister under the immediate supervision of the pastor.

 — Answers provided by the
Office of the Permanent Diaconate.
For more information, call 320-203-0554.