Rev. Amalraj Roche’s inspiration to become a priest began in his home.
“My parents were devoted Catholics. They never wanted to miss Sunday Mass,” he said.
Each Sunday, Roche and his siblings joined their parents in walking a little more than a mile to and from church.
“How devoted they were. They were so faithful, thanking and thinking about God. We never missed family prayers before we went to bed,” he said. “Their spirituality and their faith made us think about vocation.”
Roche recently began a new journey in his vocation of the priesthood.
Earlier this month, he began serving three area parishes – St. Mary Magdalene Catholic Community in Waupaca, Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Weyauwega and Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Manawa.
He follows Rev. Brian Belongia, who will soon begin studying canon law at Catholic University in Washington, D.C.
Roche grew up in a small town in southern India, where his parents ran a restaurant.
Hinduism is the predominant religion in India, with 90 percent of the population that religion, Roche said.
A total of 2.5 percent of the population are Christians, with 1.5 percent of them Catholics, he said.
“Lots of missionaries came to India and preached about Jesus,” he said. “They (his grandparents) converted and were baptized.”
The youngest of six children, Roche said he was 15 when he knew he wanted to be a priest.
“Personally, for me, there were two reasons,” he said.
As an altar server, he listened to the priests at his church preach about Jesus.
Secondly, his mother often spoke of her hope that one of her sons would become a priest.
“That could have been in my mind,” Roche said. “It is the call of God. God has given me the gift to be open to that vocation.”
He was in 11th grade when he entered the seminary, and on April 14, 1998, Roche was ordained.
The 41 year old has three brothers and two sisters.
His two sisters also chose the vocation of the religious life. They are both nuns.
His siblings and mother live in India. His father passed away in late 2006, several months after Roche moved to the United States.
Following his ordination, Roche served at three different parishes in India over the course of eight years.
In 2006, his work took him to the United States.
“Jesus said, ‘Go and baptize all the nations throughout the world,'” Roche said. “So, I thought why not go to different countries and learn different cultures.”
He approached the priest who was selecting a priest to go to Bismarck, N.D. and expressed his interest in serving there.
“I applied through that priest and got my VISA to come to the U.S.,” Roche said.
On Aug. 23, 2006, he arrived at Bismarck’s airport.
Roche smiled as he said, “If I had arrived in Bismarck in the winter, I would have gotten back on the plane.”
His first winter in North Dakota was his first experience with snow.
“I had never seen snow. There is snow in the mountains of India, but I had never seen it,” he said.
Driving in snow was something he had to get used to.
He does, however, enjoy the beauty of a snowfall.
In Wisconsin, he likes the trees, which was something he did not see as much of in North Dakota.
“It’s nature. It’s God’s creation. I enjoy the beauty of nature,” Roche said.
He had a six-year contract with the Diocese of Bismarck and said that around 2010, he began thinking about continuing to serve there or going to a different diocese.
“I decided to write different dioceses,” Roche said.
One weekend, a deacon from Chilton, Wis. visited the three parishes Roche was serving and preached about Food for the Poor.
“He told me about the shortage of priests in the Green Bay Diocese,” Roche said. “He was an amazing help in getting me here. It is through him I started thinking about it.”
In late 2010, Roche visited Green Bay and met with Bishop David Ricken.
“He was intersted in getting me to the diocese,” Roche said. “I did the paperwork with my home diocese in India.”
Days after arriving here, Roche was in Waupaca’s July 4 parade as part of the Knights of Columbus float.
“It was fun. I was waving to everybody,” he said.
Some families held signs, welcoming him.
He said what he likes most about being here is how friendly and helpful people are.
“The reception, the hospitality – I like that. I saw it right away in North Dakota,” Roche said.
He is excited to serve the three area parishes and said they are larger than the parishes he served in North Dakota.
Roche said people may call him “Father Amal,” and he asks and appreciates prayers to help him run the three parishes.
He spends time in Waupaca on Tuesday and Friday, in Manawa on Wednesday and in Weyauwega on Thursday.
Roche visits his family in India once a year, usually in January, which he said is just the right time to get away from the snow.
He likes to play basketball and ping pong and loves to sing and dance.
“I feel very welcomed here and happy,” he said.