In the winter of 2023, St Mary’s parish council, after reviewing the diocesan synodal synthesis, invited an interested group of parishioners to start the conversation of pastoral renewal in our parish. As part of the process, a group of 24 individuals began to discuss, reflect on and research parish renewal.
Through our research, we discovered the dynamic parish ministry, Divine Renovation. Originating in Canada, Divine Renovation currently has a worldwide reach and extensive resources and stories to share. Central to Divine Renovation’s ministry is Alpha.
Following prayer and discernment, study of Divine Renovation, consultation with our pastor and further exploration of the Alpha program, the renewal group decided to host an 11-week Alpha session for our parish. Many parishioners were unfamiliar with the current Alpha program and were interested in knowing more about this new ministry in our parish.
We were thrilled when 63 people registered! 42 came as guests who fully received, and the remaining 21 received as they gave generously of themselves in various volunteer positions such as the core planning team, prayer, registration, advertising, hospitality, set up, food donations, and so on.
For those unfamiliar with Alpha program and looking for inspiration for parish pastoral renewal, this is a wonderful renewal resource and experience. It particularly addresses priorities 1 and 2 of the diocese’s renewal plan: Forming missionary disciples in Christ and Becoming a Church of encounter and witness.
Alpha invites others to know Christ and to learn the great story of Jesus and His Church (Priority 1). It is the perfect opportunity to build relationships that listen to others’ lived experiences (Priority 2). This is the heart of Alpha. Leaders have many chances to exemplify Christ's values to lead with mercy and passion. Divine Renovation deems Alpha vital to their mission, a sentiment we share based on our experience.
Alpha fosters an inviting space for engagement, nurturing discipleship and leadership. It's a program that lays out Christian basics, and is a doorway to faith for those who are searching. It is open to anyone and is meant to be a place where people can come up with honest questions to engage in community, compelling content, and conversation. One of our major wins was the fact that this group heard the gospel message, was invited to start or renew a relationship with God, had the opportunity to be empowered by the Holy Spirit, and was given tools in the areas of prayer, scripture, discernment, spiritual warfare, evangelization, and healing. At the end of Alpha, individual participants discerned their next steps, with different options in the areas of growing in personal holiness and mission.
As our session drew to a close, the Alpha core team created an exit slip to provide feedback from our first Alpha experience. Here are only some of the highlights:
Alpha was welcoming and not judging."
Alpha is just a piece in the puzzle of the bigger picture of Parish Renewal for St. Mary’s in Brooks. It has been one of our first steps, with many more steps to come.
Parish Renewal is a marathon, and we need to have a long-game mindset. It has been recommended that we run Alpha 3-4 times, as Alpha has the potential to be the pump from which our parish draws to flow into our other ministries. Divine Renovation encourages this and reports that they have seen parish ministries and groups flourish after successfully running multiple Alphas. With this in mind, our parish has just completed our second Alpha session this fall and we look forward to Alpha remaining at the heart of our parish.
We are also thrilled to share that as a result of our first Alpha session, our local Catholic school: St Joseph’s Collegiate, has begun an Alpha for Teens initiative. Stay tuned about this exciting development through Faithfully!
Submitted by Christine Kleiboer & Bonnie Annicchiarico, parishioners of St. Mary's Church in Brooks.
Catholic Pastoral Centre Staff and Guest Writers