Those of us who have been hanging around the Church for a few decades have noticed a disturbing trend: fewer people are in the pews. Fewer couples are getting married in the Church and fewer parents are baptizing their children. How has this happened and what are we going to do about it? There are many reasons for the decline in faith and participation in parish life, but I think much of it boils down to the fact that many people have not had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ, despite devout parents who took them to Mass and sent them to Catholic schools or religious ed.
Too many of us have thought a relationship with the Church was the same as a relationship with Jesus Christ.
Statistics show that most Catholics do not believe a personal relationship with God or Jesus Christ is even possible, and few Catholics ever speak about their relationship with Christ to another person! But the Church is not the same as Jesus Christ. And a Christian cannot be a disciple without a relationship with Jesus.
Our recent scandalous history has made it easy for some to walk away from the Church. But those of us who have felt the loving presence of an attentive God or who have encountered Christ in the Sacraments cannot easily walk away. Those of us who remain have the responsibility for reversing the trend. We must speak of Jesus to others!
We must tell our great stories of answered prayer and redemption from sin in a way that invites others to their own experiences of Christ in His Church. We must find ways to introduce people to Jesus Christ, and Alpha is one way for us to do this.
I converted to Catholicism in 2011 and Alpha interested me because I thought it might challenge my belief system, and it sounded fun. The course did help me rethink some topics, but mostly I developed a stronger social network. Before Alpha, I went to mass and knew very few people. Now when attending, I have more people that I am acquainted with and have made a few new friends. I have experience with facilitation, and since Alpha was such a fun time, I decided that I would offer to volunteer at a table as a group helper. ~Leza Ulrich
Alpha is a series of sessions that explore the basics of Christianity in a way that makes faith relevant to modern life. Each session starts with a meal, because food has a way of bringing people together and creating community. After the meal is a video talk on an aspect of Christianity like “Who is Jesus?” or “How Can I Have Faith?”. Finally, after the video, participants have a chance to share their thoughts and ideas on the topic through discussion in an honest, friendly and open environment.
For a people unused to evangelization, Alpha is a tool we can employ to help others begin a relationship with Christ in the context of the Catholic Church.
Alpha is highly relational and deeply dependent on the Holy Spirit to guide both the hosts and guests to an experience of God. At the end of the Alpha series, guests are invited to continue to explore and deepen their relationship with Christ by being involved in RCIA or other faith formation opportunities at the Cathedral.
So, Why Alpha? Because we need to do something different, something evangelizing, something that can help us grow disciples! Evangelization is the task of every Christian disciple, and we need volunteers to plan and cook meals, serve as table hosts, and do the clean up. We need you to help launch the next Alpha in January. To volunteer contact Vicki Compton at [email protected] or at 522-3342.
“ I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ.” Pope Francis