The Diocese of Des Moines
September 2017

September 21, 2017
Written By: Anne Marie Cox

Franciscan Father Chinnappan Devaraj – he goes by Father Chinna – debated whether or not to change his flight to Des Moines to begin his new ministry at two parishes.

 He was leaving his longtime ministry to the aged and infirm in West Palm Beach, Florida and rode out the hurricane with them, getting very little sleep.

He kept his plane ticket though and, after the winds and rain ended, he left Florida knowing that the people he served were okay aside from a few days’ lack of air conditioning.

After 14 years of ministry to the elderly, he begins anew serving the parishes of Ss. Peter and Paul in Atlantic and St. Mary in Anita here in the Diocese of Des Moines.

 His move to Iowa comes after having met Bishop Richard Pates, who stopped by Lourdes Norreen McKeen Residences occasionally, where Father Chinna worked, to visit friends.

He grew fond of Bishop Pates and they visited when the bishop would stop by.

“I was deeply touched by his pastoral heart and simplicity,” said Father Chinna.

Coincidentally, the Diocese of Des Moines was in need of a priest to serve the Atlantic and Anita parishes at about the time Father Chinna needed to move on.

 Father Chinna was born and raised in southern India, the fifth of six children. He holds two bachelor’s degrees (theological studies and English literature) and two master's degrees (English literature and Franciscan theology).

After his 1994 ordination, he directed the pre-novitiate program for Indian Franciscans for six years, then moved to St. Bonaventure in New York for advanced studies in Franciscan theology. Afterward, he went to West Palm Beach, Florida, where he served as chaplain offering pastoral care at a facility that offered independent and assisted living and nursing/rehab services.

“I sought to reveal the face of God who gently transforms the world with the tenderness of love,” he said. “That has been my spiritual focus.”

His ministry in Florida extended to weekend pastoral care at three parishes, mentoring seminarians engaged in palliative care, serving spiritual assistance in Campus Ministry and a hospital and was a pastoral facilitator for interfaith marriages.

 Father Chinna has a passion and love for the elderly.

“They led me to places I would never have been able to travel and discover the beauty of human life from within its fragility,” he said.

Working with the elderly has been a big treasure.

“I was a shy, kind of closed-up individual. But they brought so much out of me, to a place of freedom and love,” he said.

One 95-year-old lady wrote him a formal letter before he left.

“I want something from the heart,” he told her. She stepped back and then said, “You know that freedom of love? That’s what I see about you. You are joyful and you relate to all”

The core of his spirituality comes from the love of God.

“The God who gives himself on the altar limitlessly, embraces our poverty and shows the way to abundance,” fuels him, he said. “Being a friend and companion of this God has been the joy of my heart and focus of priestly ministry.”

Since he is moving from Florida to Iowa, he was asked if he has a winter coat. With a chuckle, he said, “I lived in Buffalo and Boston.” He can handle winter.

September 19, 2017
Written By: Anne Marie Cox

Diocesan and Catholic Charities offices are closed today, Tuesday, Sept. 19, for a staff retreat day at St. Thomas More Center in Panora. In case of emergency, please call or text 515-333-8387. In all other cases, please know your inquires and messages will be answered tomorrow morning.


September 5, 2017
Written By: Anne Marie Cox

I join the voices of the leadership of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in deploring the cancellation of the DACA program.  This action engenders needless fear among many of our young people who have already established their credentials for being good citizens:  education, employment in needed industries, extensive contributions throughout the economic spectrum. I personally know many of the individuals affected.  They are people of strong community and religious values.  Their departure from our midst would create a cultural and societal deficit which our country can ill afford. Gov. (Robert) Ray set the standard for outreach to refugees and immigrants for us Iowans.  All of us have benefited from the arrival of these brothers and sisters and have been significantly enriched.  I encourage the Iowa delegation to the U.S. Congress to take on the mantle of Governor Ray's compassion and caring. In the very process we will manifest our humanitarian instincts and be much the better off.

Me uno a las voces del liderazgo de la Conferencia Episcopal Católica de los Estados Unidos lamentando la cancelación del programa DACA. Este acto genera temor innecesario entre muchos de nuestros jóvenes quienes ya han demostrado su condición de buenos ciudadanos: educación, empleo en industrias que los necesitan, amplias contribuciones en todo el espectro económico. Yo conozco personalmente a muchos de los individuos que están siendo afectados. Ellas son personas con fuertes valores comunitarios y religiosos. El alejarlos de nuestro entorno crearía un déficit cultural y social el cual nuestro país difícilmente pudiera soportar. El Gobernador Ray estableció los estándares de alcance hacia los refugiados e inmigrantes en Iowa. Todos nosotros nos hemos beneficiado de la llegada de estos hermanos y hermanas y nos hemos enriquecido significativamente. Exhorto a la delegación de Iowa en el Congreso de los Estados Unidos a que tomen el ejemplo del Gobernador Ray sobre la compasión y el cuidado. En este mismo proceso manifestaremos nuestros instintos humanitarios y estaremos mucho mejor.