A friendly chat over a meal is helping Catholics in Brisbane reconnect with the Church and rediscover their faith.
Sharing a meal followed by a multimedia presentation on the kerygma (the preaching or proclamation of the Gospel) and a discussion group once a week for 10 weeks is what happens when a group of people decide to try Alpha.
And parishioners around Brisbane have found that the experience can be transformational – for faithful Catholics, non-Catholics and those outside regular Sunday worship.
“One of the wonderful aspects of Alpha is that it creates an environment where the difficult and big questions about life can be asked and total acceptance is assured,” one of the participants said.
Several parishes across Brisbane archdiocese are offering Alpha to give people the chance to come for food, a talk and then discussion about faith-related questions.
In small groups, participants “explore the big issues around faith and unpack the basics of Christianity, addressing questions from ‘Who is Jesus?’ and ‘How can we have faith?’ to ‘Why and how do I pray?’ and ‘How does God guide us?’”
Priscilla Rowe is one of the hundreds giving Alpha a go and she couldn’t be happier.
“My sister invited me to come along, and I’ve found it to be a fantastic program. I’m so glad I agreed to go,” she said, as she reaches the halfway point in the Alpha program running at Our Lady of Mt Carmel Parish, Coorparoo.
“I went because I want to have a relationship with Jesus and I want that relationship to grow. I had drifted away from the Church in the past but I have returned in search of that relationship. Alpha has taken it to another level and has helped me to experience this ‘joy in my heart’.
Mrs Rowe said she “really looks forward to going every week and when I come away I feel happy and loved”.
“Growing up, I didn’t feel that joy that comes from having a relationship with Jesus,” she said. “I felt God was watching me and looking for all the things I was doing wrong. Before Alpha, I used to wonder what the Good News actually is – now I know”.
Alpha does not require commitment to attend all 10 weeks but the length of the course promotes deep connection with exploring the Good News with others – “that Jesus Christ loves you; he gave his life to save you; and now he is living at your side every day to enlighten, strengthen and free you.” (Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium 164)
“Alpha has to go that long for people to be able to open up and build trust (among the group),” Mrs Rowe said. She attended Brisbane’s Ignite Conference recently, joining many young people from around Australia, and she found that inspiring and uplifting.
“I found it hard to be honest about faith and spirituality throughout my life and Alpha has helped me with that,” she said.
Mrs Rowe said there was “a seed” within her that held the urge to find the love of Jesus. “As I drove home from Alpha one night, it came to me – God is head over heels in love with everyone of us – how Earth-shatteringly good this is.”
For other Alpha participants, like Dennis Harison, who were well established Mass-goers, the program has been a welcome renewal of faith.
Evangelisation Brisbane project officer Mike Humphrys said the Alpha course “is another option for parishes to run so that Catholics can ask someone to ‘come and see’ by experiencing a meal, a talk and a discussion”.
(used with permission from Catholic Leader Newspaper Brisbane)
For information about Alpha, contact Evangelisation Brisbane on (07) 3324 3440 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.