By Dan Russo
HIAWATHA — Deacons Stan and Andy Upah share a unique spiritual bond as a father and son who are both members of the Catholic clergy.
Deacon Stan, who was ordained to the permanent diaconate July 15 at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Hiawatha with 10 other men, had the opportunity to witness his son Andy assist Archbishop Michael Jackels at the altar during the liturgy. That’s because Andy is a “transitional” deacon. Having been ordained to the diaconate in 2017, “transitional” deacons like Andy are unmarried men who continue in formation for an additional year before being ordained to the priesthood.
“It was amazing seeing that knowing what we’ve been through together; to see him answering his call,” said Deacon Andy Upah of his feelings watching his father become a deacon.
The spiritual path of the two men to serving God in ordained ministry is deeply intertwined. The Upahs are longtime members of St. Patrick Parish in Tama. Now in his 30s, when Andy was in college in 2001, he had a friend of another faith who was attempting to convince him to leave the Catholic Church to join another Christian denomination. He turned to his dad for help in making sound arguments for Catholicism. Stan ended up sending his son resources for Catholic apologetics.
“As I was helping you, I was learning and growing to help you,” recalled Deacon Stan as he spoke to Deacon Andy after the recent ordination ceremonies.
The father and son continued to periodically discuss matters of faith. Years later, Andy was preparing to get married in the Lutheran Church.
Around that time, Stan invited his son to the Archdiocesan Men’s Conference, an annual event designed to help Catholic men grow in their faith.
“He would ask me and I would say ‘No,’” recalled Andy Upah. “Then I accepted. While there, I had the ah-ha moment.”
Attending the conference with his dad spurred Deacon Andy deeper into his faith, and he later ended his engagement. In 2011, he and Deacon Stan met Father Patrick Nwokoye, a priest serving in the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Father Nwokoye was leading a mission at the Upahs’ parish. He sensed something in Andy and asked him if he had ever considered becoming a priest. Father Nwokoye later accompanied Deacon Andy on a pilgrimage to Fatima and Lourdes. About five years ago, Andy entered seminary and around the same time, his father was accepted to diaconate formation for the Archdiocese of Dubuque.
Father Nwokoye attended Deacon Stan’s ordination and was happy to congratulate both father and son afterward.
“It’s amazing what God can do when people are open to his call,” said the priest. “For me as a priest it confirms that beautiful call to go out and proclaim the Gospel.”
Deacons Stan and Andy hope to one day work together in ministry, perhaps in marriage enrichment or preparation, which is a passion for both. When asked what the key factors were in helping them follow the call to their vocations, Deacon Stan gave credit to his wife, Charlotte.
“I think the common denominator would be a very supportive wife, mother and family around us,” said Deacon Stan.
Deacon Andy Upah is finishing his studies at Mundelein Seminary near Chicago and will be ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Dubuque next year.
PHOTO: Deacons Stan and Andy Upah pose together after Stan’s ordination July 15. Stan and Andy are father and son. Andy is a transitional deacon who will be ordained to the priesthood in about a year. (Photo by Dan Russo/The Witness)