Alpha for Catholics held in Penang
Hindus, Christians of other denominations, Free Thinkers and Catholics, were hosted by the Holy Spirit Cathedral Parish Formation Team (CHS-PFT) to participate in the Alpha for Catholics course. The eleven-week course ran from February to May (Pentecost Sunday) with an extensive Weekend Retreat. This video-talk based programme was followed by small group discussions facilitated by CHS-PFT “hosts” and “helpers.”
As the combination of key terms “Alpha-guests-hosts-helpers” imply, the course helped all to explore and enhance their experience of the essentials of the Christian faith in a relaxed and fun way. It is appropriate to quote here Emeritus Archbishop John Ha’s own experience of it, “Alpha is a non-threatening and respectful way of leading treasure-hunters to find the real treasure in life. Anyone finding this treasure will not want to let go of it but will share it with others.”
Alpha is a Christ-centric experience that enables anyone to develop a relationship with Jesus as it is designed to take one through “A journey from the head to the heart.” Hence, Alpha is for everyone! Additionally, Alpha guarantees three good things: food, an enlightening video-talk and good conversation. The topics ranged from man’s search for meaning and purpose in life to man’s desire and need to be connected with others in a relationship since “It is not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). The Weekend Retreat topics included input by Fr James Mallon on the Four Marks of the Church and Mother Mary. Real life random street interviews on key life issues added a relatable human face to each episode. Some heart wrenching screen testimonies revealed how hardcore criminals had miraculously transformed into worthy people of God through their Alpha journey.
Table fellowship before each session enabled guests to connect with one another, followed by small group discussions.
Many guests eagerly testified how the Alpha experience had impacted them positively. It was heartening when non-Christians like Peter Khoo and Loh Thiam Hock shared the calm and joy as they journeyed. Lawrence Selvadurai was thankful for the love and prayers of his group members that helped to resolve an unpleasant family situation. Likewise, Ian Murugesu, Regina Xavier, Doris, Jane Loo, Gladys Ong, Jennifer Khoo and others highlighted the efficacy of God’s grace through prayer that empowered them to cope with negativity and challenges in life. Valerie Black asserted that journeying through Alpha helped her become more open and accepting. She affirmed, “I feel free to talk about God without treating it as a taboo subject.” For Elaine Oon, Alpha was a “Livewire”.
My non-Christian husband encouraged me as I was sceptical whether I could complete the whole course. God is working his miraculous way in my husband also!” Another positive post-Alpha outcome is that eight non-Catholics have signed up to join the RCIA course.
In his closing address, CHS parish priest Fr Joachim Robert concluded that all guests had stayed the course because they were open to God’s invitation to draw closer to Him. He noted, “Restlessness is significant, otherwise we just drift along aimlessly. Restlessness makes us stop and reflect so that we become better people, filled with gratitude and the presence of God in our life. Testimony helps us grow in our faith and points to God’s will and plan for us.” He reassured everyone that God answers all prayers, but in three different ways:“Yes,” “No,” and “Wait.” We therefore need to cooperate with God’s grace as we journey through life.
By Lucille Dass