OTTAWA -- At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in early April, Father Alex Michalopulos was dangerously ill.

After spending a few days at home in isolation, his wife called 911 and he was rushed to the hospital.

The doctors told him he was a very sick man and might have to go on a ventilator.

He told them “if my condition is so bad that I’m in the ICU and on a ventilator and my heart stops just let me go.”

Luckily for the congregation at the Dormition of The Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church, the man widely known as simply "Father Alex" recovered.

After 28 years on the pulpit, he is back, but with the lingering effects of COVID-19. 

Father Alex

“Many times it’s almost like it’s tightening,” Father Alex said. “I cannot take a deep breath and have to force myself to take a breath.”

Not everyone at the church was so lucky. Three other members, who are altar attendants, came down with COVID-19. One had to go on a ventilator and remains very ill. Another one died. 

Andreas Andreadis was just 39 years old and was the chanter at the church for years. According to Father Alex he never made it to the hospital.

“It was terrible news to me,” said Father Alex. “Of course you don’t believe it in the beginning that this is going to happen.”

Now that church services have resumed, precautions have been taken to insure the safety of churchgoers. Priests and parishioners wear masks, half of the church pews are closed to provide enough space for physical distancing and, when you arrive, your temperature is taken and hand sanitizer is provided.

Even though it has been months and Father Alex is still not feeling 100 per cent, he says he is getting better daily and looks forward to welcoming his community in person and online every Sunday.