Alappuzha (Kerala), Aug 7 (IANS) He is a man of God, but Kerala native Fr. Alexander Kurien also plays a crucial role in the American scheme of things. He is, after all, the director of strategic planning in the US Department of State.
He has been helping set up US missions across the world since he was inducted into the department in 1999 but also doubles up as a priest, providing solace to his church members.
‘In the last one decade of my job in the US State Department, I have travelled to 147 countries and have played a crucial role in opening 65 new consulates and embassies (also relocating existing ones),’ Washington-based Kurien, 45, told IANS here.
He was in his hometown in Haripad in Alappuzha district for a short private visit following a death in his family.
He is mostly busy travelling across the globe for his job. In India too, Kurien has been in charge of starting US consulates or
relocating them, be it in Hyderabad, Kolkata, Mumbai or Chennai. In 2004, he spent a year in Iraq to supervise Iraqi relief operations on behalf of the US government.
‘It was through my priesthood that I was able to maintain a balance in life wherein I could effectively manage spirituality and the pressures of my hugely demanding job. It is certainly tough but god has given me the strength and in return I never ever take money while I perform my job as a priest,’ said Kurien.
He was ordained in 1987 as a priest in the Orthodox Church, which has its headquarters in Kottayam district.
Leaving the shores of the small coastal village after completing his schooling at the age of 16, Kurien reached the US to join his sister who was already working there.
Studies were a passion. He first completed his bachelor’s degree in divinity from a university in Boston and then reached Athens from where he took a double masters in theology and philosophy from the Greek Orthodox Seminary.
He was busy studying even when he became the parish vicar of the St Gregorious Orthodox Church in Washington – a position in which he has served for the past 18 years.
‘Then I finished my MBA in finance and completed the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) course. I completed my fellow programme from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors,’ said Kurien.
Kurien is currently on a two-year sabbatical and wears the cassock only when conducting mass or important church functions.
In 1999, he was inducted into the US State Department as an international planning consultant.
This year, after the Obama administration took over, he became the first person of Indian origin to sit in the chair of director of strategic planning in the department.
But his passion for studies is yet to stop as he is currently doing a part-time master’s course in strategic planning at the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
While he is busy globetrotting, his wife Ajitha Kurien who holds a double masters is busy at home looking after their three children.
Having helped set up so many US consulates across the world, Kurien has a dream – to see a consulate office opening in his home state.
(Sanu George can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Fr Alexander Kuriens Snap:http://theorthodoxchurch.info/blog/news/2009/09/indian-orthodox-priest-helps-set-up-us-consulates/
OBL News www.theorthodoxchurch.info