The Rev. Roque D'Souza, from India, spends his free time touring the neighborhoods of Fort Dodge on a bicycle.
"It's a good way to survey the area and see the beauty of the houses," said the visiting Catholic priest. "On a whole, as I go about, people are friendly. We say the American culture is 'high five' - everyone waves in greeting. That sort of humanism, I value such things."
D'Souza is serving the residents at the Marian Home and Village, 2400 Sixth Ave. N., until September when he will return to his position as a professor of theology at St. Joseph's Seminary in Mangalore, India.
Mangalore is a diocese on the west coast of India where a significant Christian population has existed for the last 400 years, D'Souza said. Portuguese settlers encouraged the establishment and growth of Catholicism in the region, as well as heavily influencing the prevailing culture and traditions.
St. Joseph's Seminary offers a six-year course of study. D'Souza is one among a staff of around 20 people, and after serving seven years on the facility, professors are offered a one-year sabbatical.
D'Souza is finishing his year here in Fort Dodge after connecting with members of Opus-Sip, the Holy Spirit Secular Institute of Priests. A support group, Opus-Sip meets every month in Storm Lake where its members spend the day in prayer, study, worship and fellowship.
"We share from our spiritual orientations and provide mutual support for the joys and struggles of priestly life," D'Souza said. "This allows me to be in touch with my fellow priests and that is a good part of keeping up the spirit."
D'Souza spent the first sixth months of his sabbatical in a spiritual counseling course at St. Anslem Institute in Kent, England. He arrived in Iowa in March and spent three weeks in Carroll before coming to Fort Dodge.
"This is a well organized and lively city, I would say," D'Souza said. "Residents show concern for one another and support for one another."
In India, parishioners have elemental concerns based in survival, he said, while here, in a more affluent society, people focus on questions of mental and spiritual well being. He also noticed an acceptance and mutual respect between the religious organizations here.
"There are many churches and many denominations," D'Souza said. "One of the things I've found impressive is the good, mutual feelings and working relationships among them."
Even if a resident at the care center is not Catholic, he said, they and their families have no problem asking him to come over and pray with them.
"What matters more is commonalities rather than differences," he said.
D'Souza has served as a priest for 27 years. He received his training in Germany and continues to visit the parish where he studied each year. He said his desire to be a priest was a "natural flowering of the faith life at home."
Contact Dawn Thompson at (515) 573-2141 or firstname.lastname@example.org