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Alpha retreats helps with transition that comes with renewal


The Buffalo Diocese of today bears a certain resemblance to the story of the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. After exile, people returned to the temple to see it in ruins. The older folks were saddened by the state of things. The younger ones were excited that the temple still stood.

Monica Martinez leads one of two Alpha retreats held in the diocese in May. (Photo courtesy of Alpha USA)

“Kind of like the Church today. There are those who are looking forward to the Road to Renewal and this whole Family of Parishes, and those lamenting what it used to be like. We have the lamenting and hopeful sides existing side by side,” explained Sister Louise Alff, OSF, evangelization consultant for the Road to Renewal.

Alpha USA Catholic Context presented that temple metaphor at a recent set of retreats held in Clarence and Akron.  

With a theme of “A God Who Hears His People,” Monica Martinez and Joshua Danis, from Alpha USA presented talks on “A People Cry unto their God,” looking at the hopes and disappointments attached to transition; “A God Who Comes to His People,” re-examining the daily lived reality of work in parish life and the role we decide to invite Jesus to play in it; and “A God Who Empowers His People” sharing the Gospel through love, teaching and inspiration.

“The idea is with every transition there is change that is both letting go and building up,” explained Sister Louise. “Recognizing the reality of what we see in terms of demographics and in terms of the trends, but to also know that within our diocese we have the gifts and capabilities of building up again.”

Alpha, a leadership organization based in Indianapolis, trains parishes on five core values – listening, hospitality, empowerment of the people within the parish, dependence on the Holy Spirit, and intentional evangelization.

“Given those five values, we would hope that as parishes rebuild, they would have core values that would enable them to make this family of parishes a very positive experience for everyone,” Sister Louise said.

Sister Louise Alff, OSF, Joshua Danis, Monica Martinez, and Father Bryan Zielenieski gather at the beginning of the recent Alpha retreat. (Photo courtesy of Alpha USA)

The invitation went out to parish leaders and saw 62 parishes represented by RCIA teams, pastoral associates, eucharistic ministers, lectors and business managers.

Sister Louise, who organized the event on behalf of the Road to Renewal team, was pleased with the results.

“People left there excited, hopeful, (with a) sense of direction, eager to implement some of these ideas in their parishes,” she said. “The Holy Spirit was mentioned throughout the whole thing. It was really talking about empowering us with the gifts that we already have. And using those gifts to build up the Church.”

Comments from those who attended asked for more parish-based retreats from Alpha.

“Our takeaway included new hope, fresh ideas, and the knowledge that there is a plethora of dedicated people available for us to call upon as we take part in the endeavor to restore Christ’s body, His church,” said Tony and Christine Shilen from St. Jude the Apostle Parish in North Tonawanda.

Sister Louise encourages people to take part in an 11-week Alpha course this fall. The course will share the Gospel message and contribute to parish renewal, enable lay people to exercise their call to be missionary disciples, and develop Catholic leaders.

For more information contact Sister Louise at LAFF2@buffalodiocese.org or visit AlphaUSA.org.


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