Trinity alumnus traveling personal road to priesthood
Published 12:04 am Wednesday, August 19, 2015
Last Friday, Alex Allain, 28, packed the last of his bags and headed out of town.
After years of study, Allain was ordained on June 13 as a transitional deaconate by the Episcopal Church. In September, Allain will begin serving as a chaplain in the pastoral care department of the University of Alabama at Birmingham Hospital.
It’s been winding road for Allain, but the Rev. Walton Jones of Trinity Episcopal Church, Allain’s home church, said no one road leads to a life of ministry.
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“There’s a lot of different roads by which to come to the priesthood,” Jones said.
Allain’s road began in Natchez, where he was born to Lisa and Tom Allain. He attended Trinity Episcopal Day School, becoming involved with groups such as the Key Club, the varsity football team and Mayor’s Youth Council.
He also spent time working as an acolyte at Trinity Episcopal Church and with the youth group at Jefferson Street United Methodist Church.
“He was very active in the Jefferson Street Youth Group from seventh grade to 12th grade,” Lisa Allain said.
However, Alex Allain said he didn’t think he would become involved in ministry. When he attended Millsaps College, he did it for a degree in religious studies.
“Initially I thought I was going to teach,” Allain said.
As time went by, Allain started to wonder about alternative paths.
“During my senior year I thought that I might be called elsewhere,” Allain said.
During that year, Allain discussed the possibility of going into ministry with then-Trinity pastor the Rev. Chip Davis.
“Chip was a very good mentor to Alex,” Lisa Allain said.
But Alex Allain decided he needed more time to think about it.
So, after graduation, he joined the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, working as housing counsellor in New Jersey for one year and as a housing coordinator for a homeless shelter in New Orleans the next.
“It was during that direct service that I felt as if I should move toward ministry,” Allain said.
In New Orleans, Allain began attending meetings of the Young Adult Discernment Process, a program to interest young people in joining the ministry.
“At the end of that year I was approved to go into seminary, and I accepted the invitation,” Allain said.
But although he was approved, the application deadline for graduate school had already passed.
While he waited, Allain worked at the Natchez Children’s Home as a teacher’s aide from September to December 2011, occasionally writing for The Natchez Democrat. From January to June, Allain returned to New Orleans to work as a permanent supportive housing case manager for Alternatives Living, Inc.
Afterward, Allain attended the Virginia Theological Seminary for the three years master of divinity program.
“It’s the largest Episcopal seminary in the U.S.,” Allain said.
During Allain’s time there, Jones said he visited Allain and had discussions about parish life.
Whenever Allain returned home for breaks, Jones said he would occasionally preach at the church. When he graduated in May, he continued to assist in services, getting additional experience.
“I did have some experience, but being at home with the people I know and care about, it’s been an honor to serve in this role,” Allain said.
During the summer, Allain said he learned more about everyday parish life with Jones, who wishes him the best in Birmingham.
“He’ll be a gift to the church and the world as he was certainly a gift to Trinity Church in the time he’s been here,” Jones said.
Lisa Allain said their Trinity Church family was very supportive of her son, some even showing up to his ordination ceremony in Jackson.
“There were a lot of people there,” Allain said.
And in a few short weeks, Alex Allain will begin work at Birmingham.
“It’s going to be tough,” Allain said. “Hospital ministry is extremely difficult, but I know it’s worthwhile.”
It’s been a long road for Allain, and one that’s not over yet. As a transitional deaconate, he’s working toward priesthood.
“God willing he will be ordained a priest in the church before too many months pass,” Jones said.
Allain has been grateful for the few months he’s been able to spend at home before heading off to Alabama.
“It’s definitely been a transitional time, but it’s helped me to gather up some valuable time with friends and family,” Allain said.
While Allain said he is sad to leave Natchez, he also believes it is time to take the next step in his journey.
“There’s some frontiers I still need to explore,” Allain said.