When Kate Yuzyk was introduced to Alpha in Grade 9, she found a great opportunity to explore her faith with kids who had the same questions that she had.
“There aren’t a lot of chances to do that,” said Yuzyk, 17. “Hearing other people’s points, and what they believed, led me to self-reflect on what I believed in, and I realized how important my faith was to me.”
Alpha is an interactive series that leads participants through the basic tenets of Christianity. Sessions can be held anywhere, from Catholic parishes and schools, to bars and even in prisons.
A typical meeting involves a meal, followed by a video and a small group discussion to make people feel comfortable enough to ask each other questions and learn about Jesus together.
Yuzyk said the Alpha program has strengthened her own Catholic faith.
“Instead of doing (Alpha) because my parents raised me to be Catholic, it was me making a conscious choice to participate and grow in my faith, and it was awesome for that,” said Yuzyk, who has since led Alpha sessions with her classmates at Archbishop Jordan High School.
The question is “How can we, in a simple and clear way, proclaim the core of that faith? Alpha does that in a really good way,” said Josh Canning, the Catholic Church coordinator for Alpha Canada.
Canning is responsible for bringing the program to parishes across Canada.
He estimates that more than 700,000 people have gone through the Alpha program since it was brought to Canada.
The program was created in 1977 by an Anglican priest and it was introduced to Canada and adapted for the Catholic faith in the early 1990s. Alpha is now in more than 70 countries.
The Alpha program was first introduced to the Archdiocese of Edmonton at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Parish in 2013.
“Our greatest passion is to serve the Church in Canada in the area of evangelization, to see it really flourish and find ways to connect, not only with those who are lapsed from the faith, but those who have never even considered Jesus,” added Shaila Visser, the national director for Alpha Canada.
The problem is that many Catholics have experienced the sacraments, but have not been taught what the Gospel is and who Jesus is, says Father Matthew Hysell, associate pastor of Corpus Christi Parish in Edmonton.
Evangelization can’t happen unless we personally experience Jesus, and the Alpha program helps, said Hysell, who brought the Alpha program to Corpus Christi in 2016.
“It is only after encountering the Risen Lord that we are fired up for mission.”
“We forget that behind the sacraments is a person who wishes to meet us with His embrace of love, mercy, and abundant life. If Catholics are uninformed of the basic Gospel message, then everything about Catholic life becomes formality.”
More information on the Alpha course for Catholics can be found at: www.alphacanada.org/catholic