For the past 26 years, Rev. Ricardo Alcoser donned a stab proof vest and pepper spray before going to work.

As a chaplain with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, most recently at the Federal Medical Center in Rochester, Alcoser was a pastor to all inmates.

Whether it was Christians, Hindus, Rastafarians or Muslims, Alcoser, and his staff ministered them all.

“I was dealing with pluralism,” he said.

At the beginning of July, Alcoser was appointed to lead the congregations of the Richville and Ottertail United Methodist Churches.

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While he’s led churches in Douglas and Hammond, Minnesota, for the last five years, it was a change of pace to leave his job working in the prison.

Alcoser said he enjoyed the prison ministry, but after his youngest daughter graduated college, he knew he wanted to leave on his own terms, before being forced to retire.

“I’d been thinking about it for a year,” he said. “If it was last year, I wouldn’t have done it.”

Alcoser says the UMC in Richville and Ottertail has a relaxed atmosphere, where people visiting for the summer can fit in immediately in jeans and T-shirts.

The difference in congregations between the two locations means Alcoser has to vary the context and emphasis of his sermons to fit each audience.

Alcoser moved to Navasota, Texas, from Belize City, Belize, formerly British Honduras, when he was 13 years old.

“I got to Texas on Feb. 17. To me it was cold, now I’m in shorts at that temperature,” he said, laughing.

While attending Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Alcoser said the government came in search of prison chaplains. Before working in Rochester, Alcoser was at the Federal Medical Center in Fort Worth, Texas, and the Federal Correctional Center in Forrest City, Arkansas.

Alcoser has been married to his wife Rosalie since 1987. They have two daughters, Rosalia, 28, and RosaLin, 22.

“It’s three roses and a thorn,” Alcoser said.