BREWSTER, Mass. — Beginning February 13, Our Lady of the Cape Parish will host a unique, 12-week Alpha Catholic program at its parish center located at 456 Stony Brook Road in Brewster on Thursday evenings. Each weekly session will run from 6:30 to 8 p.m. and includes a free dinner, followed by a short film and small group discussion. All are welcome to participate and to enjoy free food and good conversation.
The Alpha Catholic series gives participants an opportunity to explore the meaning of life through the lens of their faith. Each weekly session will examine a different question around faith and is designed to create a conversation. Alpha participants will explore the role faith plays in their lives and how deepening that faith and personal relationship with Christ will bring meaning and fulfillment.
“(We) made a commitment to Alpha Catholic in the spirit of Bishop da Cunha’s desire to revitalize parishes,” said Kathy Russo, director of Adult Faith Formation for Our Lady of the Cape Parish. “Like many parishes, we thought there would be something to be gained by offering a program to help reignite faith and to also include those outside of the walls of the Church who have either been away or have never felt comfortable stepping forward.
“This program is aimed at the people who have been faithful and want to deepen their relationship with Christ. It is also a great fit for those have been away from the faith and are looking for a route back into the Church. In addition, Alpha Catholic offers a wonderful experience for those who are Spiritually seeking. In other words, Alpha is for everyone. Our hope is that we can meet everyone right where they are: with no judgment, just a lot of acceptance and respect. We will honor everybody’s place in their journey.”
In preparation for the Alpha Catholic program, Russo said parishioners have been encouraged to participate in a 21-day prayer campaign called 11:02, inspired by the Gospel of Luke, chapter 11, verse two, in which Jesus teaches the disciples to pray “Thy Kingdom come” in the Our Father.
“As part of the campaign, we’ve asked all the people in the pews to bring to mind three people in their lives whom they think would benefit from Alpha Catholic and to pray for them every day for three weeks,” Russo told The Anchor. “And if they’d like, to set the alarms on their phones to 11:02 — either a.m. or p.m. or both — and pause and pray for them. Then at the end of the 21 days, invite them to come to Alpha, and consider accompanying them.”
Russo said this grassroots effort is “totally in line with Church teaching that we are all called to be evangelized, but to also be evangelizers. We have been given the gift of faith, and we need to constantly open our hearts to Christ and grow closer to Him. But we also need to be sharing that faith with others.”
The format of Alpha Catholic isn’t academic or akin to a Bible Study. Alpha Catholic rests upon a foundation of prayer and hospitality. The environment will be very “warm and welcoming,” according to Russo.
“There will be a dinner served, with people sitting at a table in a small group, bonding, becoming friends, and sharing,” she said. “We’ll have a topic, so it won’t just be purely social. There will be a video to help people make the connection from the big questions they have in life. What is the purpose of my life? What am I here for? What is really the meaning of my life? And hopefully we can bring people from those questions to Christ — to what is in the Gospel about Jesus. Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life and our deepest desires can only be satisfied by Christ, not by the material things of the world.”
Among the weekly topics to be discussed: “Is there more to life than this?”; “Who is Jesus?”; “Why did Jesus die?”; “How can I have faith?”; “Why and how do I pray?”; Why and how should I read the Bible?”; “Why does God guide us?”; “How can I make the most of the rest of my life?”; “How can I resist evil?”; “Why and how should I tell others?”; “Does God heal today?”; and “The Church.”
Russo said the program provides a great opportunity for people to find answers to these “big questions” and to give them “a safe place to talk about them.”
“We also feed them with what’s in the Gospel, so that they can make the connection that the answer to all those questions lies in faith, lies in Christ, and that Christ is not a far away, distant God — but, in fact, is a God Who loves us so deeply that He lives with us, accompanies us, and guides us every day if we let Him,” she said.
Although weekly attendance is encouraged, participants can join the program for a week or two at any time or attend all sessions from beginning to end.
“We will gladly welcome people whenever they come,” Russo said. “Someone who comes for more sessions will get more out of it, obviously. But we welcome people at every stage. For anyone of college age or younger, it’s probably not the right experience for them. There is an Alpha Teen program, but that’s not what we’re offering at this time.”
Alpha Catholic has had success in other parishes and dioceses, including the Archdiocese of Boston, where Cardinal Séan P. O’Malley said: “Many of our Catholic parishioners have benefitted from Alpha Catholic.”
“Many other members of the Church hierarchy have endorsed Alpha Catholic and said it had a great impact on people’s lives of faith,” Russo added. “We’ve been told that in many of the parishes, when people get to the end of that 12th week, they want to keep it going, so we’re looking now at designing a post-Alpha experience for those who want it.”
Our Lady of the Cape pastor, Father William Kaliyadan, M.S., said he’s eager to “invite everyone to join our Alpha Catholic program in order to deepen their personal relationship with Jesus. Our church is a no-judgement zone — no pressure, no obligation — just come enjoy the free meal and interesting conversation.”
Our Lady of the Cape Parish is served by the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette, a religious community founded with the mission of reconciling people to Jesus and helping them to grow in their relationship with Christ, so the Alpha Catholic program perfectly complements this mission.
“We want people to experience the love and support and care of a small Christian community, and to come into a group and to be comfortable, to build trust, to be able to share, and to be authentic,” Russo said.
Those interested in Alpha Catholic or in arranging a more private setting to discuss their faith should contact Kathy Russo at 508-385-3252, extension 14, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit the parish website at ourladyofthecape.org for more information.