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Fr Stephan continues to journey with his flock

Contributing writer Ottrisha Carter spoke with diocesan priest Fr Stephan Alexander on how he’s coping during the pandemic

To keep in contact with his parishioners, Fr Stephan Alexander has made use of different types of social media. Using WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, emails, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet, Father can communicate with a lot of his parishioners.

In addition, he has made his personal number available to all his parishioners. He believes that the pandemic has really helped him to connect with the flock entrusted to his care. Fr Stephan is always only a phone call, message, or email away.

He is not very sure how his parishioners are coping during the pandemic since not everyone is open and shares about their experiences. However, he has tried his best to provide avenues to assist parishioners who are struggling in one way or another.

Hamper drives are carried out as Fr attempts to provide food for families who are struggling financially. He has also created the programme ‘Encountered By The Word’, as he attempts to share more about our faith and God’s unconditional love for us.

Celebrating Mass virtually and not being in the presence of his parishioners is very difficult for him. According to Fr Stephan, “It’s not easy to celebrate Mass alone since there is the need for dialogue and interaction.”

The most challenging aspect of the pandemic for him as a newly ordained priest was his attempt to cultivate his priestly identity in the absence of celebrating Mass with his parishioners and the lack of physical connection with the people.

In addition, not being able to hear confessions, or visit the sick to anoint them were difficult. However, he was able to accept that our plans and expectations don’t always come into play, but we must trust God and adjust our lives to suit our everyday life experiences.

In Fr Stephan’s opinion, despite the challenges, the pandemic has positively affected people’s lives. He believes that people have become more open to accessing religion and opening their hearts to God.

Many persons who had drifted away from God and had stayed away from church, are using this time to reconcile themselves to God and others. There is also this longing for God, to be able to receive Jesus in Holy Communion and to be reunited at Mass as community.

Fr Stephan’s advice to anyone who is struggling emotionally: “Find somebody to talk with, call a friend or reach out to your priest.”

Fr Stephan’s message of hope to those who have lost loved ones either due to the coronavirus or suicide – “Always presume that God is working.”

He further explained that no matter what we are going through, know that God is working, better will come. As Romans 8:28 states, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”