Alpha is a tool for evangelisation. It is not the only tool but one that is very practical. It deepens the faith of faithful Catholics. As Fr Raniero Cantalamessa OFM Cap, the papal preacher stated: “It can do a lot of good. It has a clear purpose.”
The purpose of Alpha is leading people to Jesus Christ, and helping them to have a personal relationship with Him. Alpha is changing people’s perception of the Catholic Church as evident in Latin America and other parts of the world.
Archbishop Mark Coleridge, Archbishop of Brisbane, Australia, had this to say: “For many years now and in various parts of the world, Alpha has shown itself powerful in bringing faith alive in all kinds of people. Its focus is on Jesus. Its method is simple and its appeal is wide ranging. It is also well adapted for use in Catholic communities looking to provide the kind of ignition we need if we are to become a more missionary Church.”
The methodology of Alpha focuses on inviting people as guests, sharing a meal, a talk, small group discussion and building friendship. In today’s reality of the Church where numbers are dwindling, there is certainly the need to help Catholics strengthen their faith.
Fr John Ricardo from the USA offers a pastor’s perspective and delight at the impact of Alpha on the DNA of his parish. He says Alpha strengthened the parish, raised up leaders, and started the process of growing missionary disciples.
Alpha simply says to all: ‘Come and see’. Jesus sends us out to reach the lost sheep, those who have never been part of God’s family. It equips both clergy and laity to effectively preach the Good News.
One of the advantages of Alpha is that it focuses on Kerygma. This is the starting point of faith and the catechesis has to form the faith. Cardinal Mark Ouellet, Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America identifies Alpha as bringing people closer and helping them to find that power which unites.
“The Alpha experience is not only a means through which one finds true life, but also a way to share the good news of the Living Christ.”
It is recommended by Cardinal Raymond Damasceno, President of the Brazilian Bishops’ Conference and Archbishop of Aparecida, Brazil, as “an excellent method for the first proclamation of the gospel”. These are just some of the endorsements from Catholic Church’s hierarchy.
Alpha was founded in 1977 by Reverend Charles Marnham, at Holy Trinity Brompton, England, an Anglican Church. Nicki Gumbel, the curate, developed it further to its current format from 1986.
It involves sessions over a 10-week period. Some of the talks include: ‘Who is Jesus?’; ‘How to study the Bible?’; ‘Who is the Holy Spirit?’; ‘What about the Church?’. All this is geared towards introduction to the basics of the Christian faith, “an opportunity to explore the meaning of life”.
In Trinidad and Tobago, over 30 parishes have experienced Alpha. This was a mandate to have every parish run Alpha. Over the years only a few continued. St Finbar’s, Diego Martin has two Alphas annually. It has also been done in schools and prisons.
As the Catholic Church moves to Curia reforms with priority on evangelisation, it is expected that emphasis will be on the Church’s missionary mandate. Alpha as a tool will become even more pronounced and should be encouraged. So, come and see.
For further information contact: The Evangelization Commission 671-4177;
Facebook: Evangelization Commission