Paddy Monaghan describes how theAlpha course is growing in Ireland
Pope Benedict XVI, announcing the forthcoming Synod on New Evangelisation, stated that ”the Church exists to evangelise”. But how do we evangelise?
The Alpha course is certainly one way. It is a 10-week course on the basic truths of Christianity. It brings people into a personal relationship with Jesus and gives them a new love for the Scriptures.
Archbishop Ruiz, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Promoting New Evangelisation, endorsed Alpha as ”a providential tool because it tries to reach those who are far from the Church”.
”By means of a simple tool, based on fraternity and friendship, Christ is introduced to them and enters little by little into their hearts.”
Cardinal Seán Brady highlights Alpha’s ”reputation as an inspirational programme of Christian education and formation”.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin commends Alpha ”as one pathway whereby people can come to a knowledge and understanding of Jesus Christ today.”
Tanya Casey from Dun Laoghaire is one of the many whose lives have been deeply impacted by Alpha.
She says: ”From 18 years old, I was on a major destructive path of drink, bad relationships, depression and addiction. I took a chance and went on an Alpha Course.
”To my surprise there were ‘normal’ people like me there. It was the best thing I ever did, I didn’t feel judged or pressurised. I was a closet Christian and found that doing Alpha was a catalyst for bringing my faith alive.”
Last July, Alpha Ireland joined with Catholic Youth Care and Scripture Union in appointing Jonny Somerville as youth Alpha coordinator.
In autumn, Jonny, along with school chaplains and RE teachers, ran 13 youth Alphas for 272 students in secondary schools, mainly in transition year.
This included schools in Tullamore, Sligo and Dublin. It is wonderful to see young people enjoying these courses and many coming alive in their faith.
A youth Alpha training day will be run in Dunshaughlin Parish Centre on Saturday, March 24 — email email@example.com for details.
In south Dublin/Wicklow, a media campaign, involving billboards, cinema ads, bus shelters and 50 banners was launched in autumn. 17 Alphas were launched as a result e.g. the joint Alpha by Johnstown Catholic/St Matthias Church of Ireland was attended by 60 people.
Fr Joe McDonald says: ”It is a real delight to meet parishioners who, through the Alpha course, are encountering the person of Jesus in a real and vibrant way.
”For some, this is a new experience, for others this is a return, for all it is a new experience of God’s grace breaking through in their lives.”
Other exciting developments are: An Alpha for the Deaf DVD has been filmed over the past 10 months. The Catholic Institute for the Deaf are planning to launch an Alpha in Spring 2012.
A team of Alpha leaders led by Susan O’Toole are going to Cambodia this spring to train some 60 Church leaders over three days on how to run the Alpha course.
Alpha has developed a seven-week marriage enrichment course, which is proving very helpful to couples who participate in strengthening their relationship. Two five-week parenting courses for parents of teenagers and small children have recently been launched; a number of parishes are already running them.
It is a tribute to the impact of Alpha for both evangelisation and for ecumenism that its pioneer, Anglican Minister Rev. Nicky Gumbel, will be an invited speaker at the Eucharistic Congress in the RDS on Thursday, June 14.
He will lead a workshop entitled Communion in our common Baptism.
Let us pray that our parishes will embrace evangelisation and thus contribute to the renewal of the whole church.
Paddy Monaghan is National Coordinator of Alpha Ireland. www.alphacourse.ie