Music plays a role in conversion to Catholic faith

By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

ALBIA — At age 3, Alex Steines was baptized in the Lutheran faith in Dubuque. He and his family attended church through sixth grade. “After that we would sporadically attend a Congregationalist church down the road from our house.”

Sharon Crall
Alex Steines plays the organ at St. Mary Parish in Albia. After playing the organ at the parish for several years, he decided to join the Catholic Church and received the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil.

“From these experiences, I always associated church with welcoming, caring people.” However, as the family drifted away from church, he did, too.

During his sophomore year at the University of Northern Iowa, while studying music and education, Steines saw a posting for an accompanist at St. Edward Catholic Church. He interviewed for the position with then-parish music coordinator, Faye Hansen, and got the job.

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He accompanied rehearsals each Wednesday at the church and played at two or three Masses each month. “I am so thankful Faye gave me a shot at it. I loved it. The experiences from being a church musician at St. Edward’s helped me tremendously in my studies and career.”

Initially he took that position for extra money. “However, it quickly became more meaningful than that. I got a chance to get to know Faye and the students. It was not about the money any longer. It was meaningful to be out in the community playing and helping young people lead the congregation singing.”

Steines graduated from UNI in 2013 with a choral music education degree; he is certified to teach from preschool through 12th grade music and choir. “I also studied piano with the piano majors during my four years at UNI. People couldn’t tell if I was a piano major who liked to sing in choir or a choir education major who liked to play the piano. A bit of both I suppose,” he said.

He applied to various school districts in Iowa and immediately received two calls for interviews — one from Albia and another from a town closer to Cedar Falls. Driving home after his interview in Albia, he received a call from the district’s superintendent, Kevin Crall, offering him the job.

The district’s high school principal, Linda Hoskins, took note of Steines’ previous accompanying experience. “She invited me to cantor and play at St. Mary in Albia. She was wise to reach out to me early — playing piano and organ can be a lost art.”

He moved to Albia on July 8, 2013, and was scheduled to cantor at St. Mary’s that next weekend. The following month, he played the organ.

Throughout his time at St. Mary’s, Steines said he has been asked many times about entering the Catholic Church. “It was never in a pushy way. Just a very friendly and welcoming question. My answer was ‘not yet’ or ‘maybe someday.’” He said he enjoyed singing and playing music for the parish.

In July 2019 Steines and his wife Ally, who is Catholic, welcomed their daughter Ira. They agreed their daughter would be baptized and raised Catholic. “I felt the church calling me stronger than it ever had,” Steines said. “I have found a family in the Catholic Church. Now I hope to set an example for my daughter.”

After seven years in Albia schools, Steines submitted his resignation to spend more time at home with his family. “This was a huge testament to the role of faith in my life.” He prayed and ultimately made the decision to leave teaching.

He now works primarily days as an assistant manager for Absolute Cleaning Systems. The job is fulfilling and rewarding. “I find enjoyment in what I do and I realize you can glorify God and make a difference in someone’s life no matter what your occupation may be. I have great people there that I learn from. It is exciting to work for a small business.”

Last fall, Sharon Crall, pastoral associate and director of religious education at St. Mary Parish, called Steines and invited him to participate in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). “I wasn’t listening very carefully. I assume she was asking me to help out with music (for religious education) as she had in the past. I hastily told her no.”

Steines hung up and told his wife that Crall asked if he would help with RCIA — again. His wife asked if it was CCD or RCIA. “RCIA is to learn about becoming Catholic,” she pointed out. Steines said he “picked up the phone and called Sharon back. The time was right.”

Crall said Steines is “incredibly talented.” The educator in him came out during classes. He wanted to know more and go deeper into topics. Steines recorded his journey on video, which was shared with the confirmation class during Lent. In the video Steines told the youths how he wished his family had been more involved in a faith setting growing up.

Steines plans to get more involved in the church. He has helped with the Election Day dinner in the past and enjoyed it. “Now that I have more time in the evenings and weekends, I would like to help with special events at the church. I am blessed to be surrounded with caring, supporting and knowledgeable people. I cannot wait to see where my faith walk takes me. I have found my home in the Catholic Church.”


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