Alex Turpin, 31, is currently studying at St. Isaac Jogues House of Formation and Pre-Seminary in Albany, and was selected to continue his formation in Rome at the Pontifical North American College and Gregorian University. Turpin has been a parishioner at St. Pius X in Loundonville since he was a child. (Emily Benson photo)
Alex Turpin, 31, is currently studying at St. Isaac Jogues House of Formation and Pre-Seminary in Albany, and was selected to continue his formation in Rome at the Pontifical North American College and Gregorian University. Turpin has been a parishioner at St. Pius X in Loundonville since he was a child. (Emily Benson photo)
Alexander Turpin makes his way around the altar of St. Pius X Parish in Loudonville with ease. He points out the old choir loft nestled above the back doors of the church and the marked area where he sings at Mass. Off to the side, there’s a plaque hung on the back wall, marking the dedication of the church’s organ built in 2004.

Turpin, 31, remembers watching the construction of the massive instrument as a kid, after all his family lives “only a stone’s throw away” from the parish. Turpin attended St. Pius X School with his sister, Carla, until sixth grade, then transferred to Shaker Middle School and High School. It was only natural that St. Pius — and faith in general — was so instrumental in his upbringing.

Now, St. Pius is illuminated with a mix of red and white, thanks to the parish’s lit Christmas trees and colorful poinsettia display. It’s the final Sunday before the decorations will be stowed away for the season, something Turpin is sad to see go.

But just maybe, when Turpin is ordained to the priesthood, he’ll be able to keep them up a little longer. 

Turpin has been studying at St. Isaac Jogues House of Formation and Pre-Seminary in Albany, and was selected to continue his formation in Rome at the Pontifical North American College and Gregorian University.

“It’s an amazing opportunity,” Turpin added. “I feel so honored that Father (Anthony) Ligato (Vicar for Faith Formation) and Bishop (Edward B.) Scharfenberger are entrusting me with this opportunity.”

Even when studying and working in music, the call for Turpin to become a priest never went away. And after years of introspection, Turpin has found where he’s meant to be. While standing on the altar of St. Pius, the singer caught himself in front of the organ and the tabernacle. “Jesus and the organ,” he said. “This is all I need.”

Born and raised in Colonie, Turpin comes from a small Italian-American family. His family’s English Sheepdog, fittingly named Alfredo, was like another sibling for Turpin and his sister. Growing up, Turpin immediately knew what he wanted to do with his life. At 14, he knew he would study music and find work as a singer. It was a path he never had to look for; music was just a part of his life. Turpin’s father was a successful musician, and a strong appreciation for music was “baked into the family from Day One,” he said. “Just like how Catholicism was baked into the family life.”

Turpin started singing at St. Pius in the church choir from an early age, and attending Mass with his family was a regular Sunday activity. Father Michael A. Farano, the late pastor of St. Pius, was a huge influence on Turpin and his first “Catholic role model.” Father Farano, who was well known across the Diocese, died in March 2021 at 78.

“You can’t mention St. Pius without talking about Father Farano — a blessed memory,” Turpin said. “He was my first real contact with the priesthood in any real way. He would stop into our classes and say ‘Hi,’ so it was a warm idea about the priesthood.” In high school, Turpin received an invitation to a “Called by Name” event from the Diocesan Vocations Office, which at the time was overseen by Father Jim Walsh, now pastor of St. Pius. “Called by Name” events invited young men in the Diocese who have been noted by someone, typically a parishioner, they think would make a good priest. For Turpin, it was like looking at a fork in the road.

“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t interested (in the priesthood), but at the time it was like, no way, that’s totally crazy,” he said. “I was so into music and I was working toward and preparing for auditions to go to college and be a musician. I had all that lined up and then this comes along. It was like who becomes a priest? Not me.”

Turpin went on to receive his Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance from the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music, and his Masters in Vocal Performance from the University of Michigan.

While at Eastman, Turpin was the recipient of the Ornest Award for excellence in vocal study, as well as a prizewinner in the Jessie Kneisel Lieder Competition. During a fellowship study, Turpin spent time abroad at Humboldt Uni­versity in Berlin, studying German language and culture, as well as at St. Petersburg State University in St. Petersburg, Russia, studying Russian language and literature.

After coming back to the states, Turpin joined the voice faculty at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs where he is currently an adjunct professor. Once Turpin came back and started teaching, the thought of becoming a priest became harder to push away.

“I loved my job and what I was doing, but I was daydreaming about being a priest,” he said. “Then it’s like whoa, how do you deal with that? I tried for a number of years to be like, ‘No Alex, you have all these opportunities in music, just keep doing that.’ But the more I told myself no, the more I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”

Turpin, then 28, gave in. He visited Father Walsh’s office at the parish to talk about the priesthood, for real this time.

“I was at a point where I said, ‘I’m never going to be happy until I try it out and I get my answer.’ And if I get a quick no, that’s fine and I can move on. And if I like it, I can just keep going,” Turpin said.

After starting in the fall of 2020, Turpin is working toward completing his Pre-Theology at the St. Isaac Jogues House of Formation, and his Master of Arts in Catholic Philosophy from St. Bernard’s School of Theology. He leaves for Rome this summer, where he will continue his formation.

“Every day I feel more at peace with this calling … and I feel more in the right spot,” Turpin added. “It’s like how did my life turn out like this? To go live in (Rome) and learn how to be a priest. Who gets to do that? How lucky am I.”