March 10, 2015 // Local

Alpha training planned in April

FORT WAYNE — Alpha, a new initiative for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, is being offered as a parish tool for evangelization that is based on hospitality, sharing and prayer. The program, which is inviting people to encounter Christ in 112 languages in 169 countries worldwide, consists of a series of 10 weekly interactive sessions that include a meal where guests can relax and get to know each other, a short faith-based talk on who Jesus is, the Bible and the personal testimony of the speaker, and small group discussion where trust and friendships are built.

The Alpha program training will be held on Saturday, April 18, from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. Vincent de Paul Msgr. John Kuzmich Parish Life Center located at 1502 E. Wallen Rd. in Fort Wayne. Deacon Steve Mitchell, Alpha USA national director, Alpha in a Catholic context, Mary Guilfoyle, Alpha administrator of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish in Plymouth, Michigan, and Laura Lies, Alpha in a Catholic context advisor, will speak on the content and facilitation of the program.

Cindy Black, director of faith formation for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, says of the program, “Alpha is a program of hospitality and building trust to invite people to a basic course to explore the purpose of life, who Jesus is and to provide a context to personally encounter the love of Jesus Christ. It really answers Pope Francis’ call to go to the peripheries to meet people where they are and introduce them to Jesus. … It begins by simply inviting people to a meal. There is no pressure beyond to do anything. They are just invited to return each week. It allows people a safe context to ask questions about Jesus and share their experience of God without judgment, while we listen.”

Alpha training speaker Deacon Steve Mitchell says, “Alpha is more than a video talk series. Over a meal, guests encounter Christ in a loving community, they listen to compelling talks that appeal to the head, the heart and the will, then, in small group discussion, have the opportunity to examine the claims of Christ against the backdrop of their lives and our culture. Over the weeks together in these small groups the Holy Spirit is given the freedom to move in their hearts as trust is built and community formed. Barriers crumble and guests open up to the presence of our risen Lord, relationships of trust allow the guests to enter into prayer together as they are invited to ‘drop their nets’ and become intentional followers of Jesus. A moment of conversion is a most beautiful moment to witness, that moment when faith meets grace changes everything.”

And Alpha Catholic Advisory Board member, Father John Riccardo, who hosts Catholic radio program, “Christ is the Answer,” adds that in his 18 years as a priest he’s never seen any other program that has had as far reaching an impact at the parish level. The Alpha program has the capacity to draw people into a relationship with Jesus. “It builds a relationship with the Lord on a kind of a vertical dimension, but then it does this tremendous job of building community with people who are having a conversation sitting around a table talking about whatever topic that might be at hand,” he says. Once they encounter Jesus, he says, then they can be brought into understanding how they can encounter Him in the sacraments, Bible studies and other ways to help them grow and mature as disciples. It is the beginning, he says.

Cost of the April 18 Alpha program training, which includes lunch, snacks and training materials, is $15 for diocesan participants and $20 for those outside the diocese. For information contact Cindy Black at 260-399-1436 or [email protected].

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