Rev. Fr. Alexander James Kurien, a priest of the Indian Malankara Orthodox Church and a senior staff member of the United States Department of State in Washington, D.C. celebrated the 25th anniversary of his Holy Ordination to the priesthood on Sunday, July 1, 2012 at St. Gregorios Orthodox Church located in Bensalem, Pennsylvania. Very Rev. Fr. Yesudasan Pappan Cor Episcopos, Fr. Shibu Venad Mathai, Fr. Joice Pappan, Abu Chemmassen, and twenty five plus altar boys of all ages joined Alexander Kurien Achen in the altar to celebrate the Holy Qurbana. Over 500 friends and families from throughout the United States attended the Thanksgiving Holy Qurbana and follow-on ceremonies.
The public meeting began with a prayer and welcome speech by Rev. Fr. Shibu Venad Mathai, vicar of St. Gregorios Church. Ciby Abraham and Gregory Varghese were masters of ceremony. They read felicitations from Baselios Marthoma Didymus I, His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, President Barak Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mr. Mammen Mathew the Chief Editor and Managing Director of Malayala Manorama, Ex-Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton, Ex Secretary of State Colin Powell, Metropolitans of dioceses of the Indian Orthodox Church: Nicholovos, Eusebius, Geevarghese, Pachomius, Athanasius, Yuhanon, Clemmis, Theopilos, Yulios, and Thimotheos. In addition, they read “Greetings, Patriarchal Blessings and Prayers for many more years” from: 1) Greek Ecumenical Patriarch, Constantinople, Turkey – His Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew; 2) Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow, Russia – His Holiness Patriarch Kirill; 3) Georgian Orthodox Church, Tbilisi, Georgia – His Holiness Patriarch Ilia II; 4) Armenian Orthodox Church, Ejmiatsin, Armenia – His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II; 5) Syrian Orthodox Church, Damascus, Syria – His Holiness Mor Ignatius Zakka I.
Representatives of various organizations and churches across the United States highlighted Achen’s 25 years sacrifices and unconditional service to the American and Indian communities, various churches, and families. Sunil Samuel, Saju Varghese, Kallelil Kuruvila Appachen, Korason Varghese, Shalom Mammen and Arun Philip, Abraham Joshua, Seema and Philps Thomas, Jos Thomas, Dr. Alex Polachirackal, Paul Mathai, and Dr. Swamidos spoke at the event – everyone shared similar theme – “Mr. Jos Thomas, a very close family friend of Achen for years said — I wish to congratulate Rev. Fr. Alexander J. Kurien on this solemn occasion of celebrating the 25th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.
Achen has been a vibrant presence in the spiritual and social lives of so many people in the Washington DC metro area for about two decades. It is very hard to list Achen’s contributions to our community in a few words. He’ll be long remembered as a visionary, an exceptionally talented organizer, an efficient motivator, a sincere friend, and above all a compassionate spiritual leader.
Achen’s flair to connect with, motivate and stimulate our youth is indeed incredible, to say the least. Achen would be present in the homes or in the hospital room of any member of this community who might be going through any kind of difficulty. He is one of the very few spiritual leaders who are capable of recognizing the changing social, spiritual, emotional needs of Syrian Christians who migrated to the US in the last 40 plus years. Sometimes we often wonder as to how it is humanly possible for anyone to juggle a hectic official life that demands a lot of international assignments to various parts of the globe with the spiritual needs of the community members. But it’s a fact that when anyone is in the hospital he is by his/her bed and when there is a loss of a dear one, he is the first to appear at the door with the incense-fragrance of comfort and consolation. Through his ministry, he was able to touch the lives of so many people of our community.
We sincerely pray and wish well for Achen’s ministry. We are deeply obliged to Achen for his prayers and support. We thank Achen for his remarkable contributions to our community. We pray sincerely to God Almighty to give Achen strength and divine guidance in his future endeavors.We wish to thank members of St. Greogorios Church, Bensalem, PA, for organizing the 25th Anniversary of Achen’s Ordination on July 1st, 2012.”
In recognition of his services, Very Rev. Fr. Yesudasan Pappan and Fr. Shibu Venad Mathai clothed Alexander Kurien Achen with “Ponnada”. They also clothed Ajitha Kochamma (Anna Kurien) with a “Ponnada” in recognition of her 25 years of sacrifices in Achen’s ministry and their 25 years of married life. The public meeting ended with a prayer by Fr. Joice Pappan. The thanksgiving celebration continued with an authentic Malayalee Luncheon. During the Luncheon, the congregation surprised Achen and Kochamma with a 25th wedding anniversary cake cutting ceremony. The unconditional hospitality of the members of the St. Gregorios Indian Orthodox Church from the “City of Brotherly Love” was the primary reason for the amazing success of the overall celebration of Achen’s anniversary. The overall function ended at 3 pm.
Fr. Alexander came to the United States of America after finishing high school. He is the youngest son of Koshy Kurien and Pennamma Kurien of Kadackal House, Pallipad. Upon completing Bachelor of Arts in religion and business, Master of Philosophy, and Master of Divinity, he was ordained as a deacon in 1983 by late His Grace Philipose Mar Theophilos of the Mumbai Diocese and late His Grace Dr. Thomas Mar Makarios of the American Diocese. On June 28, 1987, he was ordained to priesthood for the Kottayam Devalokam Chapel by late His Holiness Baselius Mar Thoma Mathews II in the blessed presence of His Holiness Baselius Mar Thoma Mathews I, late His Grace Mathews Mar Epiphanios, and late His Grace Dr. Thomas Mar Makarios. He served at St. Mary’s Orthodox Church of Tampa, Florida during the first two years after his ordination. In 1989, he was appointed as the officiating priest of St. Thomas Orthodox Church of Baltimore, Maryland, and St. Gregorios Orthodox Church of Greater Washington, D.C., and became the vicar of both in 1990. After serving 18 years as the vicar of St. Gregorios Orthodox Church of Greater Washington, where he acquired a church campus consisting 4.5 acres of land and church facilities in 2000, he took a sabbatical from the day-to-day administration of the parish. He has conducted religious services in over 50 countries and had official meetings with Holy Patriarchs of Russian Orthodox Church, Greek Orthodox Church in Constantinople and Jerusalem, Georgian Orthodox Church, Armenian Orthodox Church, Syrian Orthodox Church from Damascus; and the Archbishop of the Albanian Orthodox Church in Tirana, Albania. He continues to enjoy his ministry in close coordination with and under the guidance of the Metropolitan of the North East American Diocese of the Indian Orthodox Church, His Grace Zachariah Mar Nicholovos.
Fr. Alexander leads a well-balanced spiritual and secular life. In addition to the theological studies, he has completed Master of Business Administration in Finance, Master of Science in Strategic Planning, Chartered Financial Analyst, Fellow of Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, Counselor of Real Estate Valuation, Certified Business Valuer, and Member of the Appraisal Institute.
He is currently employed as the Director of the Office of Strategic Planning at the United States Department of State in Washington D.C. Within his office, he directs the Knowledge Management and Long Range Planning Divisions, which manage eight major initiatives and programs. He has 26 years of private and public sector experience conducting and assisting in politically sensitive, high-level negotiations with private entities and foreign governments in 147 countries. His responsibilities include long-range strategic planning involving the Department’s overseas portfolio of more than 18,000 constructed assets valued at over $53 billion, publishes the Long-Range Plan consisting $13 billion in requirements, as well as the day-to-day oversight of the portfolio database and digital archival records. He has coordinated the holistic requirements for the construction of the three largest U.S. embassies located in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and ninety newly constructed embassies and consulates in five continents. He collaborates with 30 United States Government Executive Departments and agencies to accommodate their operational platform to conduct their mission in 324 embassies and consulates. He has won the international award for Excellence in Innovation and eighteen awards for exceptional performance from the United States Department of State. He is married to Anna (Ajitha) of Kallelil house, Karthikapally, and they have been blessed with three children: Alyssa, Natasha, and Elijah.
He says his priesthood began by answering the call; not only the call to enter seminary, but to keep answering that call every day of my life. For him, being a priest has been an awesome honor and responsibility. Personally, the ordination was not an end but a beginning to grow in new ways. According to Achen, growth can be exciting and painful, and has met these opportunities with an openness of mind and heart. He has embraced the human condition and challenging circumstances with the eyes of my faith. To be of service to His people, a channel of God’s grace has been the heart of his ministry. Nothing gave him greater joy than to have served His people, especially at a significant or difficult time in their lives when they were at a crossroad.
His family and friends helped put everything in proper perspective. Ajitha, his dearest friend, and wife for 25 years, their beloved children Alyssa, Natasha, and Elijah have kept him rooted in who he is, sometimes quite pointedly. His father, late Koshy Kurien, who planted in him a strong Christian faith based foundation and his father-in-law, late Varghese Mathew, who guided him to become a strong leader as well as excel in everything, are the heroes of Achen’s life. The spiritual guidance and shepherding of his spiritual fathers, the Elder Archimandrite Amilianos of the Holy Monastery of Simonos Petras on Mount Athos in Greece and Very Right Reverend Archimandrite Dionysios of the Sacred Monastery of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross have been invaluable.
While priesthood called him to reveal God’s presence to others, he also knew that God always stood before and behind and beside him. Therefore, he has never acted alone and never relied entirely on his own attributes. Achen is so grateful to God, Blessed Holy Virgin Mary, all holy saints, His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Didymus I (Valiya Bava), His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Paulose II, Diocesan Metropolitan His Grace Zachariah Mar Nicholovos, his wife and children, and friends for being his strength and refuge. Achen asks for your continued love and prayers.
OCP News Service