Best of Alpha 2014: Features Fr. John & Fr. Steve

Best of Alpha 2014: Alpha USA

Alpha
Quick Registration Links for Winter 2015
  • See the Winter Alpha course offerings listed on this page under WHEN is the Winter 2015 Alpha Course, or use this registration link.
  • To volunteer as a table host or helper for the fall sessions, please use this form.
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Getting to the Heart of the Gospel is the Goal of Alpha
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A number of years ago now Pope John Paul II said in a speech in Haiti that we in the Church of today need "a new evangelization." By this he didn't mean that we needed to come up with some new Gospel, as if a new Gospel could be invented (cf. Galatians 1: 6-9). The newness of the new evangelization wasn't the message, for "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow" (Hebrews 13:8). What, then, is new in "the new evangelization?" Well, according to our late holy father, we need an evangelization that is "new in ardor, method and expression." Several weeks ago at all the Masses we mentioned one of the many ways we at OLGC are trying to employ new methods for communicating the Gospel when we spoke about the many ways we are capitalizing on the gift of technology to get the Good Word out, whether via our smartphone app, our own Youtube channel, our website, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. This fall, however, the biggest way we are trying to embark on the new evangelization will be the full parish immersion of what's known as the Alpha Course.

Planting seeds in concrete is not recommended

Let me take just a minute and address the reason why we are doing this. I heard a friend recently say that trying to catechize someone who has never been evangelized is like planting seeds in concrete; they won't grow. What did he mean? Well, as we have said on many occasions, in recent months especially, many people in the Church grew up Catholic, went to Catholic schools or religious education, received their sacraments of initiation, but somehow never got truly introduced into a friendship with Jesus, and through Him, by the power of the Holy Spirit, with the Father. The result? Faith was reduced to a subject, a set of things to memorize, a code, an ethic, some rules to abide by (when convenient). But at the heart of the Gospel is not a code or a set of rules but a person: Jesus. Rules don't change people's lives, they don't bring peace that can't be stolen, they don't lead to conversion, to joy, to unshakeable hope. Friendship with God, the God who loves us, made us, became one of us, went to the cross to atone for our sins, and gloriously rose from the dead for us does.

Proclamation comes before teaching

On the day of Pentecost, when the Apostles went out into the streets to preach to the people, they didn't start with a systematic treatise from the Catechism. They didn't launch into a full blown RCIA program. They didn't event start with a teaching on the Eucharist and the other sacraments. They preached what is known as the kerygma. The kerygma is a Greek word meaning "proclamation." In short, what the Apostles did on that day was to proclaim in a very basic fashion what God had done for the world in His Son Jesus. This proclamation was directed to the hearts of those listening to move them to act, to make a decision, to repent and to accept the love of God offered to us in Jesus. Only after this was a second, and very necessary, step added: what's known as the didache, or "teaching." I think it's safe to say that many people who have grown up Catholic never heard the kerygma; we started right away with the didache which, as my friend put it, is like planting seeds in concrete. Pope John Paul II put it this way: "Initial proclamation has a central and irreplaceable role, since it introduces man 'into the mystery of the love of God, who invites him to enter into a personal relationship with himself in Christ' and opens the way to conversion. Faith is born of preaching, and every ecclesial community draws its origin and life from the personal response of each believer to that preaching" (The Mission of the Redeemer, 44).

Why I’m so interested in the Alpha Course

I've heard a few people express concerns about the non-Catholic origin of Alpha. It's true. It was founded by an Anglican pastor, Nicky Gumbel, with whom I have corresponded several times, by the way. (He, and our Archbishop, are both watching with great interest what will come from our full immersion attempt this fall.) Though it's origin might not be Catholic, it has been spoken highly about by people ranging from Father Raniero Cantalamessa, who is the Pope's preacher in the Vatican, and Archbishop Arenas, the Secretary for the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization. Recently, Cardinal Christoph Schonborn, the man responsible for editing The Catechism of the Catholic Church, was interviewed by Nicky at a massive event to help promote Alpha in the UK. Now, is it perfect? No. Of course not. We will make some tweaks and modifications along the way. But, as Father Cantalamessa says, "We need a new evangelization which, while being open to all the fullness of the truth and the Christian life, will yet be simple and basic. This is the reason I look with interest and appreciation to the Alpha Course. It seems to me that it answers precisely this need of ours. The very name shows this. It is not called 'Alpha and Omega course' but simply 'Alpha Course' because it doesn't claim to lead people from beginning to end in faith; only to help them get acquainted with it, to foster a personal encounter with Jesus, leaving it to other Church departments to develop the newly kindled faith."

So, who should come to Alpha? Well, would you like to have a greater friendship with the King of Kings, The Lord of Lords, the Ruler and Maker of the Universe, the Best Friend you can imagine, the Most Interesting Man (OK, God-man) in the World, the One who triumphed over sin, death, hell and the grave? If so, then come. It just might change everything.

In His love,
Fr. John

What Can You Do to Promote Alpha?
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It is incredible to think that it has been one full year since we began our parish-wide journey to bring Alpha here. The point? The purpose? The reason? To bring us closer to Jesus, and in many ways to introduce us for the first time to Him.

Here we are at the start of year two. So what's new? We've learned from our mistakes in how to run the program but all-in-all, nothing is new whatsoever. Alpha is much more than a "canned program,” but what it offers isn't something that changes from one year to the next.

In one short year, we've had over 1,500 people come through the Alpha program—that’s more than one thousand, five hundred people! That is just incredible! Were you one? Has your life been changed? We have heard story after story of people who are "different" since going through Alpha. For example, people are coming back to confession after 20-30-40 years.

If you are sitting on the fence about Alpha, now is your chance. What are you waiting for? Jesus wants more from each of us, and this is a very non-threatening opportunity to grow in our faith.

What we're asking from the rest of us: Invite! Whether you've been through Alpha already or not, invite others to come. Faith is NOT private. We must get over this false modern idea that it is. Invite a neighbor, sibling, co-worker, or your spouse and tell them they're in for a life changing experience.

Serve! If you've been through Alpha already, now we ask you to serve in some capacity. We need your help and this is a great way to give back for the growth in your faith.

Know that Fr Clement and I will be praying for all participants in Alpha as we begin, please join us in praying for all involved.

In heart of Jesus & Mary,
Fr. Steve

Alpha is for Everyone
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It is such a joy to get to know families, especially in the setting of a nice home cooked meal!  I always enjoy asking couples to share with me how it is that they met many moons ago.  Each story is unique, but there are certain aspects that are quite common: a certain openness and willingness to take a risk, to make one’s self vulnerable, in order to encounter that person with whom one might just spend the rest of their lives. That first encounter doesn’t necessarily or magically become the foundation of a life lived together, but it is a beginning; it is essential to a relationship; and it does become the foundation of a family.

As much as I enjoy, as a priest, hearing how husbands and wives meet, it is also my experience that couples and families enjoy hearing about how a young man ends up embracing either religious life or the priesthood. I was a freshman at U of M in the fall of 1992.  I was running from our Lord and from my vocation.  Although during my freshman year at Detroit Catholic Central, I discovered for the first time a strong desire to love Jesus and to love His people as a priest, I was at U of M with the intention of going into international business.  I wasn’t happy, not just because I was running from our Lord, but also because I began to distance myself from Him and from His Church.  As I got involved in the student pro-life group on campus, I met two wonderful persons, Bridget and Sue.  They were happy, and I soon discovered they were happy because they lived out a personal relationship with Jesus.  I did the math: if a personal relationship with Jesus brings happiness, then that is what I want. In my dorm room, on my knees, I freely handed my life over to our Lord: I surrendered!  The freedom, the hope, the joy that flowed from that encounter changed me, changed my life.

This fall, our parish is all in for the Alpha Program for Catholics: a wonderful opportunity to open yourself up to a personal encounter with Jesus, to deepen your knowledge and love of Him, and to bring back to our Lord a soul that has strayed. The Alpha sessions foster a wonderful environment not only to encounter our Lord, but also to do so as a parish family, allowing us to get to know and love better one another.  The program is designed in such a way that no one has a valid reason for excusing oneself: no one is so far advanced that the program is beneath them and no one is so far away and lost that the program wouldn’t be able to reach them.

For all of you that are excited about the Alpha sessions, please share your enthusiasm with friends and family!  For all of you that are hesitating or afraid to make the commitment, I’m asking our blessed Mother to take you by the hand and lead you gently, yet firmly to her Son! 

Fr. Clement, osb

Alpha for Catholics: Introductory Video
Alpha for Catholics: Testimonials

The Alpha Course: Questions and Answers
What is the Alpha Course?

The Alpha Course is a practical introduction to the Christian faith, a place where guests have an opportunity to explore the meaning of life in a relaxed, friendly setting. The course usually meets once per week for 10 weeks and includes a day or weekend getaway in the middle. Each session, people enjoy great food, laughter and learning about the teachings of Jesus in a fun and friendly atmosphere where no question about life or God is seen as too simple or too hostile. There is no charge to attend the Alpha course.
Who is Alpha For?

Alpha is for anyone. People attend Alpha from all backgrounds, religions and viewpoints. They come to investigate questions about the existence of God, the purpose of life, what happens after death, the teachings of Jesus and more. Many guests have never been to church; others may have attended church occasionally but feel they have never really understood the basics of the Christian faith; others attend church regularly. Everyone is welcome.
What is Alpha For Catholics?

Alpha for Catholics is simply
the Alpha course hosted in a
Catholic setting. Alpha is a
practical tool that parishes use
to inspire Catholic renewal
and answer the call of Christ
and His church to “go and
make disciples of all nations.”
The Alpha course is often lay-driven and has proven to be
an effective tool for awakening
faith in people who are on the
fringe of parish life, faithful
Catholics and those outside
the faith.
How Did Alpha Start?

The Alpha course began at
Holy Trinity Brompton Church
in central London in the late
1970s as a means of presenting
the basic principles of Christianity to new Christians. The Alpha course teaches only the basic biblical teachings on which all Christians agree. Alpha has spread around the world, as more churches and courses found it an effective way to answer people’s questions about the Christian faith.

WHEN is the Winter 2015 Alpha Course?
OLGC Parishioners may now register for the winter Alpha Course. All sessions begin the week of January 5, 2015 and conclude the week of March 16. A fee for meals only applies if you are a Catholic registered at another Catholic parish. The fee for the course is $125 for the sessions held at OLGC. The fee for home-based Alpha is $50. Again, these fees are only to cover the cost of the meal. Priority will be given to those who have been OLGC parish members for longer than 3 months. The course offerings are as follows:

Tuesday evening, 6:30-9 PM - Social Hall
Thursday afternoon, 12-2:30 PM - Social Hall
Friday evening Young Adults, 6:30-9 PM - Home of John and Patrice Gorzalski
Alpha for Veterans (VALOR), Tuesday evening, 6:30-9 PM - Knights of Columbus, 150 Fair Street, Plymouth, MI 48170 (No fee!)

Online registration is available. If you do not have Internet access, please call the Parish Office and a paper form will be sent to you.

Volunteer to Assist the Winter 2015 Alpha Course
Volunteers are being sought to assist as table hosts and table helpers for the winter Alpha sessions. Table Hosts are small group leaders, but in the context of the Alpha Course, their role is more like a host welcoming guests to their home and facilitating conversation rather than as a leader who teaches and takes control. Table Helpers are just that – helpers. They will assist the Table Host and provide service to guests, providing drink refills, etc. Table Helpers should, if necessary, be able to cover for the Table Host if for some reason that person is unable to attend a session (e.g. illness).

You may use this registration form to volunteer.

WHAT happens in an Alpha Course?
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The Alpha course lasts for 11 weeks, with a retreat-type session in the middle. The talks each week cover the following topics, acting as a springboard for the small group discussions:

Session #1:  Is There More to Life Than This?
Session #2:  Who Is Jesus?
Session #3:  Why Did Jesus Die?
Session #4:  How Can I Have Faith?
Session #5:  Why and How Do I Pray?
Session #6:  Why and How Should I Read the Bible?
Session #7:  How Does God Guide Us?
Retreat
Session #8:  How Can I Resist Evil?
Session #9:  Why and How I Should Tell Others?
Session #10:  Does God Heal Today?
Session #11:  What About the Church?
A Typical Evening on the Alpha Course

Part 1:
Each gathering begins with a meal, snack or refreshments. This is a time of relaxation and fun. You may be asked to bring food to share, or to contribute to the cost of the food

Part 2:
Welcome and introduction.

Part 3:
Then there is a talk that looks at a different aspect of the Christian faith each week. Some of our talks will feature Nicky Gumbel, the senior pastor of Holy Trinity Brompton Church in London. Other talks will be presented by our Parish priests or Pastoral staff members.

Part 4:
Coffee, snack and refreshments break.

Part 5:
A time of small group discussion follows where everyone is welcome to contribute opinions and ask questions. People will usually stay in the same small group for the duration of the course so they will get to know one another, continue discussions and deepen friendships. The emphasis is upon exploration and discovery in a relaxed and nonjudgmental environment.

Alpha for Young Adults
Where did I come from? Where am I headed? Is there an ultimate meaning or purpose to my life? If you're a young adult between the ages of 21-35 who has asked these questions, Alpha for Young Adults is the perfect place to begin your search for answers. John and Patrice Gorzalski have graciously opened their home to host Alpha for Young Adults beginning on Friday, January 9, 2015 from 6:30-9 PM. Please register now and join in the conversation or call 734-453-0326, ext. 222 for further information.

Alpha for Teens
Alpha for Teens will return in the fall of 2015.

Alpha for Parents
Two parenting courses, one for children (0-10 years) and one for teens, will be offered for five weeks beginning April 15, 2015, from 6:30-9 PM. Full of valuable advice and practical tips, the courses are a resource for parents to come back to again and again.

The Parenting Children Course is for any parent or care giver of children up to ten years-old (whether all is going well or they are facing challenges) to help equip them for the task of parenting, and to build a healthy family life.Over five sessions parents and care giver will learn about building strong foundations, meeting children’s needs, setting boundaries, teaching healthy relationships and keeping the end in mind.In the small group discussions guests have the opportunity to discuss issues with parents and care giver who have children of a similar age.

The Parenting Teenagers Course is for any parent or care giver of 11 to 18 year-olds (whether all is going well or they are facing challenges). It is designed to equip parents to build a strong relationship with their teenagers while guiding them toward adulthood. Over five sessions parents and care giver will learn how to keep the end in mind, how to keep love at the center, how to set appropriate boundaries, how to help their teenagers to be emotionally health, and how to help them make good choices.

Guests have the opportunity to discuss issues with other parents and care giver with children of a similar age. Registration is required and there is a $10 fee for the workbook. A free will offering for meals will be accepted. For further information, please contact us by email.

Alpha for Married Couples: Eight Great Alpha Dates
8 Great Alpha Dates has been designed to help married couples learn practical tools to build strong and healthy marriages.

While enjoying a catered dinner from local restaurants at private candle-lit tables for two, couples have the chance to discuss important issues often ignored in the rush of daily life. Topics covered include: 1) learning to communicate effectively, 2) resolving conflict, 3) healing past hurts, 4) recognizing each other’s needs, 5) how to make each other feel loved, 6) relationships with parents and in-laws, 7) make love a gift (a.k.a. the sex talk for grown-ups), 8) how to have fun together.

The program begins on Friday, January 16, 2015 from 6:30-9:15 PM and continues on January 23 & 30, February 6, 13, & 20, and March 6 & 13.

For additional information, please contact Tim Haase, 734-748-8155.

Cost is $225 (50% due at registration, with a balance due 2/6/15)

Registration form and flier

Location:
OLGC Parish House
1160 Penniman Avenue
Plymouth, MI 48170

Non-parish members are welcome.

HOW can I help?
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Volunteers are Needed for the following:

Babysitters: Adults or teens in grade seven and up are needed to supervise children at various locations (at OLGC or in participant’s home) for approximately three hours per week for ten weeks. Everyone age 16 and up must have a background check on file at the Parish. Everyone age 18 and up should have completed a Protecting God’s Children Workshop. Visit this page for additional information about the Safe Environments program or click here for a copy of the babysitting flier. Adults and teens who wish to serve as volunteers can use this registration form.

Childcare coordinators: Persons age 18 and up responsible for securing childcare volunteers for each Alpha Course.

Meals Assistants: While the main food (entreés) will be catered, help is needed setting up placemats, utensils, food, and desserts; preparing coffee and beverages; and cleaning up. There are four session times, and we ask you consider serving for one session each week for all eleven weeks, but other possibilities can be arranged. The two session times are (weekly, from the week of January 5 to the week of March 16):

Tuesday evening, 5-8 PM
Thursday mid-day, 11 AM to 1 PM

All meals will be served in the church Social Hall. For more information or to volunteer, please email Angela Hill or Mary Zick.

Prayers: Everyone can help pray for people to come to Alpha!

The real power behind the success of the Alpha course is an army of prayer warriors who understand that behind the humorous talks, pasta suppers and cartoon illustrations, is a real spiritual battle for hearts and minds. At this time we are limiting the Alpha experience to those within the parish boundaries of OLGC. We encourage you to think of family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances (in our parish boundaries) you could invite to Alpha. Pray daily for these people and ask God to open their hearts to your invitation.

Alpha Praise and Worship Music Resources

WHAT is Your Alpha Story?
The Alpha course is having a tremendous impact on our parish family at Our Lady of Good Counsel. We would love to hear how Alpha has changed your life. In Mark 5:19 after Jesus heals the Gerasene Demoniac, He tells the man to "Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you." This is Jesus' exhortation to us as well. Consider sharing your story and proclaiming what the Lord has done in your life by using the provided template.

WHAT happens after Alpha?
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This fall the whole parish is invited to participate in the Alpha course. Alpha gives everyone the opportunity to explore the meaning of life, the existence of God, the purpose of life, and the afterlife in a relaxed friendly setting. Once questions like this are internalized the journey of life takes on a new perspective and additional questions start to bubble up like, what are my priorities, what do I do now, how do I act, etc. What’s needed at this stage is follow up to Alpha to support this new outlook. OLGC is planning a group of sessions directly focused on Alpha follow up:

  • The RCIA program for adults who are not baptized Catholics or returning Catholics seeking a renewed faith; meetings are on Thursday evenings at 7 pm in the Social Hall. RCIA is an ongoing program that usually begins in the summer or fall.
    New Leaven is for those desiring a deep immersion into Christian discipleship. The next entry date for the New Leaven program will be September 2014. For information and registration, please visit the New Leaven website, or ask questions by email.
    • The Called & Gifted workshop explores the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Please watch the parish website for information about the next workshop.
    • If scripture study appeals to you there will be a variety of study sessions available starting in the fall, including a Quick Journey Through the Bible that begins Wednesday, October 8, 2014 for 8 weeks. 
  • Watch for information about the Unbound Conference to be held on Friday, October 17 (7-9pm) and  Saturday, October 18, 2014 (9-2pm) in the church.
  • Attend the Advent Parish Mission with Peter and Debbie Herbeck, December 10-12, 2014 in the church.
    • Participants in the fall Alpha Course will have the opportunity for an off-site weekend retreat with one of our priests.  One is scheduled for April 10-12, 2015.

There is something for everyone. Additional details for follow up sessions will be available at the Alpha courses. Please consider this an advance notice and save room on your calendar.

Alpha 201 Resources
The Alpha 201 course was offered on Wednesday evenings during the months of January and February 2014. Participants and interested individuals may view videotaped recordings of each session on the parish YouTube page.

Fr. Riccardo uses presentation software for many of the talks. Copies of those presentations are available for download below:

Internet Resources for Alpha
  • Alpha for Catholics website.
  • Marc De Leyritz of Alpha Course-France Speaks on the New Evangelization: The Essentiality of the Kerygma in Preaching the Gospel-Part 1 and Part 2.
  • Archbishop Octavio Ruiz speaks about using Alpha as a tool for the new evangelization.
  • Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household, gave this address titled How Covenant Communities and Ecclesial Movements Fit Into the Plan of a New Evangelization at a recent Awakening the Domestic Church conference in Norfolk, Virginia.
  • Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household, gave this address titled The Baptism in the Spirit, A Grace for the Whole Church at a recent Awakening the Domestic Church conference in Norfolk, Virginia.

Alpha Leadership Conference 2014
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Fr. Riccardo attended 2014 Alpha leadership conference in London along with members of the parish Alpha ministry team. The talks from that conference are available on the Alpha website.