Alpha Canada has brought its programming for youth online during COVID-19. Photo courtesy Alpha Canada

Alpha Canada continues to offer gateway to faith

By  Quinton Amundson, Youth Speak News
  • May 20, 2020

Alpha evangelistic courses have been engaging both young and old in what it means to be Christian for over 40 years — and a pandemic wasn’t about to stop that mission.

Alpha’s explanatory videos and group discussion materials are “being used by thousands of Catholic parishes in over 70 countries around the world,” according to the Alpha Canada website. The company’s national youth director, Tim Gonsalves, says over 350 Alpha for Youth courses have been presented over the past two years.

Typically, Alpha before COVID-19 was in-person gatherings, often staged in a parish hall or café. Participants would typically share food and fellowship before watching a video that would spark conversations about the tenets of faith.

When the coronavirus struck, Alpha Canada switched gears, helping parishes and youth workers present its programming on video conferencing software such as Google Hangouts and Zoom.

“We went to the drawing board to come up with resources that would help running Alpha for Youth online,” said Gonsalves. “We created some PDFs and began offering training to workers who wanted to run Alpha online. We’re also listening to what the churches say about what they need day by day.”

Some of the topics in the Alpha for Youth series include the importance of prayer, the role of the Holy Spirit, how to resist evil and how to read the Bible.

Gonsalves is heartened by how online programming is making the Christian faith even more accessible for youth.

“I was speaking to some friends in Toronto who are running a new Alpha program for over 100 students. What we’re hearing is that because young people live online already — this is a native environment for them — now they realize they can instantly become involved in the mission of God. They can connect their world with the missional aspect of building the Church.”

Sandy Leia, who has shepherded Alpha courses at St. Michael Catholic Community parish in Calgary for many years, says she has witnessed these courses provide the life guidance that youth are seeking.

“There are young people who have come to our sessions seeking something that is missing. They come with a sense of not wanting to wander anymore or trying to go ahead in life alone. They want answers to life’s questions.”

Leia can speak to the power of the Alpha programs as she was a participant in a course back in 2002.

“As a cradle Catholic, you can marinate in the faith, but not really know why you know what you know. I have always had a relationship with God, I would pray to God, but I wasn’t really sure of Jesus’ role and why we needed Jesus,” said Leia, who also leads her parish’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program. “(Alpha) was like Christianity 101 for me. It broke things down so that I felt a dawning realization of ‘now I understand why this is important.’ ”

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