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He is an avid baseball fan, speaks fluent Spanish, has a gentle and down-to-earth way of presenting the Word of God (sometimes basing his homilies on Johnny Cash lyrics), has an extremely quick and keen sense of humor, is a graduate of Notre Dame and is a dedicated priest.
Those are the words of parishioner Mary Ellen Taylor to describe Father David Polich, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Mount Ayr, who has announced his retirement after over 40 years in the priesthood.
Following his graduation in 1968 from Dowling High School in Des Moines, Polich earned a Bachelor of Arts in history from Loras College in Dubuque followed by a Master of Arts in Theology at Notre Dame University in South Bend, Indiana.
Polich was ordained into the priesthood in 1976 at St. John Parish in Des Moines and has subsequently served several parishes throughout Iowa. For the past six years, he has served as pastor of St. Bernard Parish in Osceola, St. Patrick Parish in Grand River and St. Joseph Parish in Mount Ayr. (Polich served from 1989-90 as the last resident priest in Ringgold County when he was pastor at Immaculate Conception in Maloy along with St. Joseph in Mount Ayr.)
Polich’s fluency in Spanish was instrumental in his return to southern Iowa. After having served seven years at Christ the King Parish in Des Moines followed by another 2 ½ years in a sabbatical program at Notre Dame and three brief “fill-in” pastorates, Polich said he knew he was ready for a change. Having turned 50 that year, he moved to Bolivia and spent the next 5 ½ months immersed in the Spanish language and culture while attending a missionary-run language school and living with a Bolivian family.
Upon his return to the United States, Polich served at Hispanic-centric Visitation Parish and Guadalupe Chapel in Des Moines before being assigned to St. Patrick Parish in Perry, which had a large Hispanic population. Following 10 years there, Polich relocated to Osceola, which also has a growing Hispanic population.
As a cornerstone to his Catholic faith, Polich has been a lifelong advocate for social justice. His grandparents were immigrants, and he grew up in an integrated neighborhood in Des Moines, where his father was an active leader with the United Auto Workers union. At Notre Dame Polich attended a black Catholic parish and credited his college professors who encouraged their students “to learn to think.” A member of the Peace and Justice Committee of the Priest’s Council, Polich was a founding member of the Catholic Peace Ministry in 1981.
Approaching his retirement July 7, Polich reflected on three takeaways on a career that spanned over four decades:
1) The significance of funerals and the importance of grieving. (At this time Polich was preparing to officiate at the funeral of a lifelong friend.)
2) The importance of living the message of love, mercy, and justice at the heart of the Sermon on the Mount.
3) The bonds he has formed with his parishioners through the years. “The people have made it home for me,” he said. “They’ve taken care of me in my times of need.”
Polich already has a full list of plans to keep him busy in his retirement. First, he wants to travel “until the snow flies” to visit friends and relatives across the nation. He also intends to serve as a fill-in priest wherever he is needed and to stay active in his social justice activities.
First on his list, however, is downsizing. He jokes that his lifetime collection of books, periodicals, baseball cards, and other possessions that currently fill two buildings and a storage unit cannot possibly fit into his new two-room priest’s residence near Dowling Catholic.
St. Joseph Parish in Mount Ayr will honor Fr. David Polich at a farewell potluck dinner after mass at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, June 29 with a short program to follow.