Dan Soares recently earned his MA degree in Theology and Educational Ministry while working full time as CDU’s IT director. Born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, Dan was raised Catholic and was an active participant in the life of the Church, serving as an altar boy, a reader at Mass, and as a choir master and youth leader.
With a mathematical mind and a strong interest in science, Dan earned his undergraduate degree in Physics at the University of Mumbai at the age of 21. “The curriculum was rigorous and very much focused on memorization instead of practical application, unlike our system of education in the U.S.,” he says.
Like many other young Catholics in India and elsewhere, Dan fell away from the Church. “At the age of 23, I left to join a Pentecostal church in Bombay,” he says. “During my time as a Protestant, I encountered God through Sacred Scripture, through fellowship with other ‘believers,’ and in the movement of the Holy Spirit in my life. They taught me to love God’s word, to see God as my Heavenly Father, to pray, and to seek to be a disciple. For this, I am very grateful.”
Dan’s parents wanted their children to have better opportunities, so they immigrated to the United States with Dan, his brother, and sister in 1987. The family’s port of entry was New York, where they lived for a number of years. “My uncle, Monsignor Nicholas Soares, was the first in my family to come to the U.S., and he sponsored his brother (my dad) and his other siblings,” Dan says. Adjusting to life in the U.S. was not especially difficult for Dan, who turned 26 the year he arrived.
“Catholics in India are fairly westernized,” he says, “and we spoke English at home, so language was not an issue.” Dan did have to speak slower to be understood, and he needed to learn local idioms and cultural practices that were different. “I quickly came to realize that ‘How are you?’ is the American equivalent of ‘hello.’ They weren’t really asking how I was doing. Community is a big deal in India, and I
missed that in the individualistic culture that is part of the way of life in the U.S,” he says.
Reflecting on his time away from the Church, Dan is reminded of the famous Fulton Sheen quote: “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”
“In the 30+ years that I was away, Jesus’ prayer for unity (John 17:20–23) was a constant thorn in my flesh,” Dan says. “I could not reconcile that with the numerous denominations around me.” He also recognized that there was no ultimate authority to settle doctrinal disputes among Protestant brethren. “If you disagreed with a doctrine, you left and found a church that agreed with what you believed, or you started a new church.”
“God used some painful circumstances in my own family to start my journey back to the Catholic Church,” Dan says. “After a couple of years of reading the Catechism, attending daily Mass (while discerning what to do), calling Catholic Answers with my questions, and interacting with other converts to the Catholic faith, I finally returned to the Catholic Church at Easter in 2013.” When asked what inspired him to study theology, Dan points to his lack of formation. “Because I was so poorly formed in Catholic teaching and so easily led away from the faith, I wanted to understand why the Church teaches what it does and to be equipped to help ‘cultural’ Catholics who have grown up in Catholic homes but have not really appropriated the faith for themselves.”
“The MA program at CDU was challenging because I was working a full-time job while going to school,” Dan says. “It really helped that I was very interested in Theology as a subject, so that kept me going.”
Now that he has earned his degree, Dan plans to get involved in Faith Formation at his parish in the near future. In the past, he served in the choir, RCIA, and led a Men’s group and Bible study. When asked what the biggest takeaway from his educational journey is, Dan responds, “The knowledge I have acquired is not for my own sake, but rather to be shared with others. I look for opportunities to
share my faith with others, to pray with them, to meet them wherever they may be in their journey, and accompany them.”
“Getting a well-rounded education in Theology in an online setting where I could study at my own pace” is what Dan enjoyed the most about CDU. He highly recommends the program to others, both as a staff member and as one who has critically evaluated the program as a student. “This is a fantastic program with a great curriculum that is faithful to Church teaching and amazing professors who love the Catholic faith and are gifted teachers,” he says.
“The online format is convenient for working adults because it lets you learn at your own pace in the comfort of your own home, and the school is accredited by multiple agencies, so you can be assured that high standards are being met.”