Parishioners inspired to step up for their community
The parish of St Thomas More at Brighton-le-Sands recently completed an Alpha pilot with “miraculous” results.
Out of the 23 parishioners who began the pilot supported by the Parish Renewal Team of the Sydney Centre for Evangelisation during May and June, all of them completed it, and several expressed interest in volunteering either as a catechist, Eucharistic minister or an acolyte.
So pleased is the parish with the success that it has already scheduled another to commence on 27 July, which will be open to all.
Parish priest Fr Manuel Santiago said he was delighted with the success of the pilot and impressed by the way parishioners took responsibility for the various roles, being welcomers, leading the sessions, arranging a simple meal or preparing the hall and cleaning it afterwards.
“My part was to support them with the liturgy and to be their prayer warrior,” he smiled. “We have found Alpha to be very good and I’m happy to promote it here. We are in a unique situation, trying to live our faith in this digital age which makes us so very busy all of the time.
“But if we make the time to open the parish to seekers of faith, or of deeper faith, if they are given the opportunity of an invitation not just to attend Mass and put some money on the collection plate but to discuss faith and life in Jesus Christ, people will respond.”
The Alpha team included two parishioners who had already attended Alpha at St Declan’s in Penshurst which has been using the tool as part of its evangelisation efforts. Team member Karen said in addition to the weekly gatherings, a highlight was the Alpha Retreat weekend focusing on the Holy Spirit, which was held at Varroville last month.
It allowed the participants to foster deeper friendships and “become more like a family”.
Alpha also unlocked participants’ gifts for parish ministry, Karen said. “I would really encourage parish priests to see the potential for Alpha to bring out these gifts in our parishes, the way Fr Manuel has done,” she said.
“To me, that was a miracle to see how the Alpha graduates wanted to put their hands up to become involved or deepen their involvement in the parish.”
Feedback from participants was enthusiastic. One parishioner said she valued both finding her “Alpha family” and being inspired to share her faith others. Her husband, not a Catholic, now understands her better, she said. “It has brought us closer together.”
Alpha Parish Development Coordinator Tania Rimac said that while Alpha is an invitational, evangelistic tool for those outside of parishes, it is also valuable for those already in the pews. “We find that people are reignited in their faith and respond with wanting to serve, as is evident in this parish,” she said. “Through encountering Jesus and his Church, people find a place to belong and serve, transforming them and advancing them on the path to becoming missionary disciples and allowing them to grow into a deeper relationship with Jesus.”
Interested in Alpha for your parish? Contact Tania via: [email protected]