International spotlight: Fabian Moncada Benavides keeps smiling

After leaving the complex traffic of 15 million residents and three generations of family members in Bogotá, Colombia, Fabian Moncada Benavides decided to come to the United States to visit a bishop in Michigan. Two years of moving around the United States (Michigan, Pennsylvania and Iowa) followed, and he landed in Minnesota.

Moncada Benavides wanted to be in an area with a historic seminary and with exceptional English classes, and he has found exactly that in the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity and ELS Language Centers. Although these changes were stressful at times, he coped with a smile and a positive attitude.

Fabian Moncada Benavides

Fabian Moncada Benavides

Moncada Benavides can only speak highly of his home country Colombia: “It is a very diverse cultural mix of Caribbean and European, traditional and international. Food and music (especially salsa) are the largest parts of Colombian culture and life. Beauty and excitement can be found in its botanical gardens, parks and mountains," he said. "Overall, it is a good place where the people are friendly.”

Although he has been in Minnesota for less than a month, Moncada Benavides has enjoyed many of the possibilities available in the Twin Cities area. He enjoys downtown Minneapolis and the Mall of America. He watches many popular movies and TV shows, such as "Transformers" and "Heroes,"  in his limited free time; here at St. Thomas, he enjoys the beautiful campus, gardens, bikers, architecture, and the harmony of natural and human resources.

“The people here are hospitable, friendly and welcoming,” he said, but he is still trying to get used to and get over the culture shock. In the United States, he said, “It is always ‘schedule’ and ‘agenda.’ Life is busy and more focused on business,” he said.

Transitioning to a more dependent lifestyle also has been difficult. “Back home I was independent. I have a master’s degree in psychology and was used to running my practice, paying my bills and driving my car,” he remarked. The transition has been a bit stressful, but through it all he is working on patience and humility. 

“Open yourself, your mind, and your heart, and enjoy the process of learning,” he advised, adding, “if God gives me the opportunity.”

Moncada Benavides’ plans to continue studying at ELS and the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity. If all goes well, withing a few years he will be ordained a deacon and then a priest. He will then return to Des Moines, Iowa, which will become his permanent home. “I will take what I have learned here to guide my future work with parishioners,” he said. 

To learn more about Colombia, attend the Brown Bag Lunch Discussion from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. today, Wednesday, Sept. 30, in Murray-Herrick Center, Room 155. Dr. Luz Saavedra, an associate professor of economics from Colombia, will lead the discussion.