Q&A - Deacon Roberto Keryakos - How I am handling coronavirus lockdown

Liverpool Deacon Roberto Keryakos.

Liverpool Deacon Roberto Keryakos.

This week we continue with our series of Question and Answer articles where we speak to a Western Sydney resident about how they are handling self-isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This week we speak with Liverpool Deacon Roberto Keryakos, resident at All Saints Catholic Parish, Liverpool, who tells us what he's been doing to keep mind and body active during this time.

What are you reading?

At the moment I'm reading St Augustine of Hippo's famous work, 'Confessions'. It's probably the first autobiography of a Western writer (c. 400 AD) and it is a very frank, honest and inspiring story. Augustine was someone who reflected often and I think this unique time of pandemic presents us with an invaluable opportunity to slow down and reflect more!

What are you watching?

I don't keep up with TV shows, however I have seen a few great films over the last month - 'Heat', 'Unplanned', 'A Walk Among the Tombstones', 'Risen' and 'Ad Astra'. In particular I enjoy space-themed films and 'Ad Astra'was a great watch. It had the right blend of action, drama and stunning shots of space.

What music are you listening to?

I'm a huge fan of John Mayer so his albums get a regular play. I also love listening to ABC Classic FM in the car, and have recently found a group called "Mision Pais". Their song, 'Bajo tu amparo'is on repeat! I have an eclectic taste in music, and I come from a musical background myself, so my favourite musicians are those who sound good live. It's easy to sound good on a CD with production effects and the like, but more difficult to sing or play live and sound excellent. So, when I went to a John Mayer concert last year, I was blown away by how excellent he was playing and singing live.

What are you cooking?

I wouldn't call myself much of a cook but I recently spent a few days at my family home attempting to make crunchy roast potatoes. After three hours of boiling, seasoning and then finally baking them (almost four kilos worth), I realised that whilst they were crunchy, I preferred my mum's method of roasting them... in about a quarter of the time too!

I also made smashed burgers which were great. I'm never getting take-away burgers again!

How are you staying fit, both physically and mentally?

I'm not very consistent with my physical fitness but I've been going for walks in the evening.

Mentally, I try and have a regular pattern of sleep, and of course, spending time each day meditating, and reflecting on all the many blessings God has given me in my life, from family, to friends, to my faith, and to the vocation and parish I'm currently in.

I'm trying to be more grateful for what I have!

What's the one thing keeping you sane?

Other than seeing the smiley faces of some of our parishioners over Zoom recently, it's really been the time I spend each day in prayer. I can't say that I'm always 100% focused, but my time of daily prayer and meditation has really kept me sane, not just during this time, but all throughout my years in the Seminary, juggling my studies and other responsibilities.

Are you working from home? If so how's that going, if not what's work like for you now?

It's quite unique being a clergyman as our workplace is quite often also our place of residence. So, on that front, at All Saints Catholic Parish, not much has changed, but what has changed recently is that we had to close the doors of our church to our beloved parishioners and we really, really miss them enormously. We are very keen on doing all we can to help stay in touch with them. We recently installed a camera inside the church and we've been livestreaming our Masses and prayer liturgies over YouTube and Facebook each day which has been great (find us at cpasl.org.au and check out our Facebook page and more!). Zoom has also been the new kid on the block and we're staying in touch with people over that, as well as through our new 'phone buddy ministry' which aims to reach out to the regulars and not-so regulars in our parish. Checking up on how they're travelling and letting them know we're still here for them! I've noticed a huge increase also in emails!

What's something positive you've witnessed or experienced since the coronavirus hit?

I've noticed how this pandemic has forced people to keep in touch more regularly. I've found myself calling people more, current friends, old friends, the elderly, to check up and see how they are going, and I've been very impressed with how many people, especially our wonderful parishioners, have been randomly getting in touch with me to see how I'm travelling.

What have you learned about yourself amid the crisis?

I recently installed a timer on my phone to track how much time I spend on it each day and I was pretty shocked by how easy it is to clock up a few hours! So, I'm trying to be more intentional with how and when I use my phone, trying to not take it with me to bed at night where I can easily spend an hour endlessly scrolling through news articles or funny cat videos. So, in short, this time has made me realise how I need to spend my time better, and not waste it as much!

What's your advice for others to cope with the crisis?

Turn to God! There has never been a more unique opportunity in our lifetimes to slow down, be still and hand over all our cares and concerns to God. Easter reminds us all of Christ's victory over sin and death, and this should give us great hope too, that we will also rise above all those things which chain us down. What ever divisions there may be in our families, or what ever addictions we might be struggling with, with the help of God, we will be able to rise up over any challenge. Even this current pandemic!