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Breakdown to breakthrough: How Alpha brought Chris back from the brink

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Chris Toal with his Alpha group. Photo: Supplied
Chris Toal with his Alpha group. Photo: Supplied

At the end of 2021, as COVID-19 laid waste to the life he once knew, and with his wife and daughter stuck overseas, Chris Toal’s life was coming apart.

“I was angry at God. I had a bit of a breakdown. My wife and daughter were overseas, and I was struggling,” he said.

His only support, best mate and fellow Irish ex-pat Austin, took him to St Patrick’s Church Hill, the Irish church in the Rocks, and introduced him to Irish nun, Sr Fidelis McTeigue SM.

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“She took one look at me at me and said, ‘Alpha is starting tomorrow and you’re coming.’ I trusted her and I went,” he said.

Just over two years later, Chris is adamant he’d be totally lost without his “Alpha family.”

Over the next few weeks the Alpha program gave Chris, a cradle Catholic whose faith had lapsed, the foundation to rediscover and finally embrace his Catholic roots.

More importantly, the weekly meetings gave Chris the community of friends and the deeper relationship with Christ he craved.

“We would meet, have food together and watch a video, and then we have a talk at the end. It’s about faith and community. And that’s just what I needed,” he said.

Alpha is working transformations across Sydney. Fr Josh Miechels, Berala parish priest, was “all in” for the program after seeing how it transformed six of his parishioners.

“I thought, ‘Alpha is exactly what we need here.’ I saw that after Alpha they were looking to live a more holy life and had a greater desire to participate in the sacraments, and openness to serve in the parish,” Fr Josh said.

St Peter Chanel Berala and St Joseph Auburn will soon offer Alpha to the parish community, for the first time.

Alpha is a series of interactive sessions that create a safe and honest space, where people can explore life, faith and meaning.

For those who want to learn more about Alpha and how to lead Alpha in their parish, the Parish Renewal Team from the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation is hosting a session, “Equipping Parishes for Mission with Alpha’ on Saturday 24 February at St Martha’s in Leichhardt.

Tania Rimac, from the Parish Renewal Team, will lead the day, covering how Alpha fits into the wider parish vision for renewal, as well as the practicalities of how to run Alpha.

“This training is for individuals and parishes who are interested in learning more about what Alpha is and how to run it,” Tania said.

Today, Chris is serving on the Alpha team at the very parish that brought him back to the church and encourages others to come along to the training day, so that other parishes can offer this life-changing opportunity for their community.

For those interested in attending the training day, registrations close on Thursday 22 February 2024.

Register Now at https://gomakedisciples.org.au/cas-events/ 

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