A new place to call home

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 26, 2003

For Father James Dean, there is no place to call home, but he is at home every place he goes.

&uot;Jesus had no place to lay his head and it is much the same with Catholic priests,&uot; Dean said. &uot;We have no place to call ours but we are at home everywhere.&uot;

Dean was pondering pulling up roots that he has put down at Saint Martin's Catholic Church and in Troy over the past four and a half years and anticipating his move to Montgomery where he will assume the leadership of Our Lady Queen of Mercy Parish.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

&uot;I have been very happy here at Saint Martin's and, when I was informed of the move, I was apprehensive,&uot; he said. &uot;But, that is where I am needed and where I will gladly go, just as I was glad to come to Troy.&uot;

Dean's two brothers had attended Troy State University so he was familiar with Troy when he was appointed to Saint Martin's. Having served as a campus minister at Auburn University, Dean welcomed the opportunity to serve in another university community.

&uot;College students have many struggles and many challenges,&uot; he said. &uot;Secular campus life is too often geared toward drugs, alcohol and other temptations. I welcomed the challenge to bring the gospel into their lives.&uot;

To continue his college ministry on the TSU campus was a priority for Dean when he arrived in Troy. Through the Focus ministry, Dean said four fulltime missionaries are working with the Catholic students, and others who choose to be a part of the Bible study ministry, in the area of three challenges - chastity, sobriety and excellence.

&uot;Living in the Bible Belt, our challenges on the college campus are to help Catholic students understand and grow deeper in their faith,&uot; Dean said, adding that working with college students is an important part of his ministry. Montgomery's universities will, hopefully, continue to provide him with those opportunities, he said.

The challenges of leadership in the Catholic faith, while living in the Bible Belt, also includes bringing to his parishioners a deeper understanding of the Catholic faith and helping them grow deeper in their faith.

Pike County's non-Catholic population far outnumbers the 130 households that make up Saint Martin's Catholic Church.

&uot;The fundamental differences in our church are in the areas of structure hierarchy, the sacrament system and salvation,&uot; he said. &uot;I come from a mixed background - Catholic and Baptist - so I am very familiar with the differences and the similarities between the Catholic faith and other faiths.&uot;

Being in a leadership role in a &uot;minority&uot; faith has provided Dean with many opportunities for understanding of other faiths and growth in his own.

In his own church, he has found &uot;growing in the faith&uot; to be a mutual process.

&uot;I have learned a lot along the way, &uot; Dean said. &uot;I have been blessed by the knowledge that I have received at Saint Martin's. I have a lot of energy and I hope my enthusiasm has spilled over into our parish.&uot;

Dean will carry that same energy, enthusiasm and willingness to learn and grow in his faith to Our Lady Queen of Mercy Catholic Church.

He will also have new opportunities there.

The church operates a school and Dean will be a classroom teacher on a regular basis.

&uot;This is a wonderful opportunity,&uot; he said. &uot;Faith planted in a child can take root at and early age and grow and, being deep implanted, can guide and direct them throughout their lives. Yes, there are many opportunities and challenges ahead for me. I will go where I am needed and I go with the attitude that I can do what I am called to do.&uot;

Dean's love of his parishioners and the Troy community will bring him back from time to time.

&uot;I will be back and I will be back at Saint Martin's but not soon,&uot; he said. &uot;I don't want to be a fly in the ointment as Father Spotswood is welcomed to Saint Martin's and the community. But, I will be back.&uot;