ALEX STEWART: THE SURFER SEMINARIAN
Former St Mary's student Alex Stewart spent 13 years managing a commercial aquarium near Galway while surfing the Atlantic breakers in his spare time.
But he has given up the sea for his faith. He is now studying in a seminary in Nebraska, USA.
The location of the mid-West state, thousands of miles from the coast, means he has had to give up the sport he loves…but he has done it for his beliefs.
'I MISS SURFING VERY MUCH BUT THERE ARE MORE IMPORTANT BATTLES TO FIGHT'
'I miss it very much' he said. 'I moved to Ireland so that I could surf as much as possible and at one point I surfed twice a day every day.
'I may now get the odd opportunity when I am on holiday, but that is all.
'Yes, surfing is an incredibly enjoyable and healthy pastime but in the grand scheme of things, there are more important battles to fight.'
He added: 'If I am serious about a vocation to the priesthood, then the least I can do is give up what is essentially a trivial thing'.
The 38-year-old, originally from Wallasey, says he wasn't one of St Mary's model students, having trouble with concentration and self-discipline.
'I didn't do very well!' he said. 'I would never have dreamed that I would end up studying Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas while discerning a vocation to the priesthood!'
After leaving St Mary's in 1990, he studied information technology before working for the NHS at Arrowe Park Hospital. He worked in Radiology, Theatre, A & E and finally the Intensive Therapy Unit.
It was during this time he got the surfing bug while visiting a student friend in Plymouth, before moving to Wales and then Ireland to manage the aquarium.
'DEEP BEAUTY AND REVERENCE' OF THE LATIN MASS
He said: 'I developed an interest in the Latin Mass, which I used to attend with my mother in St Anthony's in Scotland Road, Liverpool.
'Initially, I didn't understand it, and didn't like it at all, but after a while I started to appreciate its deep beauty and reverence.
'I fell in love with the particularities and intricacies of the ceremonies, while becoming an altar server.'
Then Alex went on retreat with the Priestly Fraternity of St Peter in Reading and realised that he was being called to the priesthood.
The Fraternity (Latin name: Fraternitas Sacerdotalis Sancti Petri or FSSP) was established by Pope John Paul II in 1988. There are two international seminaries ~ one in Bavaria, and one in Nebraska.
At 38, Alex is the second eldest man in a class comprised of mostly young Americans.
He hopes to be ordained in 2017.
Report by Elaine Webster
12 February 2013
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