By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Father Francis Odoom, a Ghana native currently studying at St. Ambrose University in Davenport, first discovered a love for his faith and leadership as the son of a catechist. Now he is bringing his passion for pastoral ministry to Iowa.
Effective Nov. 2, Fr. Odoom is serving as administrator of the cluster of Ss. Philip & James Parish-Grand Mound; Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish-Lost Nation; and, with the consent of the Archbishop of Dubuque and in accord with the Concord to Oxford Junction, of Sacred Heart Parish-Oxford Junction, with residence at the Lost Nation parish.
Prior to coming to Iowa last year, Fr. Odoom, 38, served as a pastor in Ghana. It was something he longed to do again in addition to his graduate work in organizational studies. He contacted the Archdiocese of Dubuque, which helped Fr. Odom change his visa so that he could legally work in the United States.
The archdiocese had an open pastoral position in its Oxford Junction parish. This parish is part of the cluster containing the Davenport Diocese’s Grand Mound and Lost Nation parishes. The three parishes were previously served by Father Bill Kneemiller, who was relieved of pastoral duties earlier this year in order to serve as a military chaplain in the Middle East with the Army Reserves. The Archdiocese of Dubuque and the Diocese of Davenport each approved Fr. Odoom’s assignment to the parishes.
Working in the rural parishes has been a unique experience for Fr. Odoom, and he has been encouraged by the warm reception. “I’m probably the first African to serve them. The reception is phenomenal. I see their appreciation and acceptance and I’m happy with that. What I experience every day energizes me and encourages me to be at my best and serve with an open heart.”
The demographics are a bit different than what he experienced in Ghana. In the African country, youths and young families make up the majority of the parish. In the rural farming communities, the congregation tends to be a bit older on average. It’s given him perspective on how to serve unique groups of people. Young people, he said, often seek an energetic, varying worship environment while older Catholics, in general, seem to prefer consistency.
In the intimate Iowa parishes, he’s observed how vital each member becomes. “My biggest lesson – and happily so – is the sense of participation. You don’t have thousands of people; if one person is missing, you notice it. That sense of belonging and participation is one thing which I admire and appreciate.”
Fr. Odoom doesn’t have a concrete plan of how long he will stay in the United States; much depends on how his educational goals evolve and whether he will pursue a PhD at St. Ambrose. He estimates returning to Ghana in three to five years.
“I have so much gratitude to the Diocese of Dubuque and the Diocese of Davenport and the parishioners that I have served so far and will continue to serve. I look forward to a fruitful ministry in this part of the world.”