Alpha is a series of sessions exploring the basics of the Christian faith, typically over the course of eleven weeks. Each session is designed to create informal and honest conversation around questions people have about Christian faith. The format is very adaptable, but the three core elements are a meal, a talk or video presentation, and small group discussion. The Salem Catholic Community, the South Boston Seaport Collaborative, and the Apple Valley Catholic Collabroative in Acton and Stow among others, are using it in the Archdiocese of Boston.
The parish in the US that has probably had the most success with Alpha is Our Lady of Good Counsel in Plymouth, MI. Saint Benedict Parish in Halifax, Nova Scotia has had among the most success with Alpha of any Catholic parish in the world. Catholics who endorse the use of Alpha include Cardinal Seán and Archbishop Fisichella, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelization.
Evangelical Catholic Reach More Small Groups
EC Reach More is a way of building a culture of community and discipleship formation in your parish through small groups. An on-line system supports the site coordinator in leading the establishment of the small groups and the training and ongoing support of the small group leaders. By design it is a flexible platform for small group discipleship. St. Julia’s in Weston started using this program in 2015. The Living Water Catholic collaborative of Holy Family Amesbury and Star of the Sea Salisbury, the Catholic Community of Billerica, and the Lynn Catholic Collaborative started using this program in 2016.
Light of the World
LOTW is a parish-based weekend retreat experience designed to provide an encounter with Jesus Christ through the kerygma and a renewal of the Sacraments of Initiation over the course of the weekend, with small group follow-up. It involves parishioners coming to the parish for days and evenings over the course of the weekend, but does not involve an overnight stay. The program is also available in Spanish. Sacred Heart East Boston recently ran their first Light of the World retreat weekend and St. Mary’s Uxbridge in the Diocese of Worcester is reporting tremendous success. St. Thomas the Apostle in Crystal Lake IL has been running Light of the World longer than any other parish.
ChristLife is a three-part evangelization process that begins with a seven-week kerygmatic series titled “Discovering Christ,” followed by two more similar series entitled “Following Christ," which addresses Catholic discipleship, and “Sharing Christ," which addresses sharing Christ with others. There is a day-long retreat in week five. The series is hosted at your parish and includes dinner, welcoming, prayer, a 30-minute video presentation, and small group discussion. The program is also available in Spanish. St. Andre Bessette in Laconia NH reports success with this program, which they have run for a number of years.
Cursillo is three-day weekend retreat experience; a short course in Christianity. It helps its participants encounter Christ in a profound way so that they will be equipped to answer Christ’s call to “go out and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19). There are talks by priests and lay people, small group discussions, prayer, reconciliation, and Mass. It is followed up by optional monthly group reunions called Ultreya as well as small faith sharing groups. The weekends serve men and women separately. Cursillo is also offered in Spanish, Vietnamese and Portuguese in the Archdiocese of Boston. For more information, contact the Cursillo community that works best for you:
Resources to facilitate small group discipleship are available. Study programs range from Bible studies, Church history, prayer, marriage enrichment, baptismal preparation, divorce support to Theology of the Body for those in middle school through adults. Forming disciples in a variety of thresholds of conversion can take place via small groups meeting at the parish, in home or by way of online study forums. If your parish does not offer adult faith formation you can find a program in the Archdiocese by way of the “study locator” feature offered by Ascension Press and then register online. Many resources are also available in Spanish.
Called & Gifted
Called & Gifted is a workshop which typically takes place in a parish over the course of one evening and the following full day. The workshop is actually only the first step in a three-step discernment process. The second step is a gifts discernment interview and the third step is a small group discernment process, a period of testing and evaluating one's charisms and learning how best to use them in one's life. This process has been designed to help Christians discern the presence of charisms, particular gifts of strengths given by God, in their lives. St. Dominic Catholic Church in San Francisco CA and Saint Kateri Tekakwitha Parish in Santa Clarita CA have both used this process extensively to transform the culture of discipleship in their parishes. They report that attendees consistently become more involved in the parish and more committed to bearing witness through their life and work outside the parish. The Diocese of Lansing in Michigan also heavily promotes participation in this process.
Be My Witness
Be My Witness is a unique, practical approach to equipping staff, pastoral councils, and key leaders to create a vibrant parish culture for making missionary disciples. Engage and form parishioners by exploring key insights from Pope Francis’ Joy of the Gospel, and develop the attitudes and behaviors of missionary disciples. The goal then, is to move to mission, and take evangelization to the next level by creating an ever-widening circle of commitment where the parish is the center of constant missionary outreach. Program content includes scripture passages that depict transformational encounters with Christ, catechetical content which deepens understanding of the call to be evangelizers, and action steps that suggest ways to live as Christ-like disciples. Also included in the Be My Witness process is a video series that presents witness stories for the New Evangelization. These videos show everyday Catholics who came to know Christ and grew in faith through the words and actions of friends, family, priests, and others along the way. By watching and reflecting on these videos, participants are encouraged to become joy-filled witnesses to people they know and meet. For reference, speak with Greg Kremer of RENEW International at firstname.lastname@example.org or 908-242-0447.
Entertaining Angels is a unique one day hospitality training seminar directed at helping each member of your staff be an open door to Jesus Christ. Unlike other customer service seminars, the first priority of this workshop is the mission of the Catholic Church to make disciples. This training is geared toward those who are “first contact” staff and volunteers. Employees who commonly are the first to interact with guests have a crucial role in determining whether visitors and parishioners stay or leave – even though their job description may not include evangelization or ministry per se. Entertaining Angels provides preparation for receiving others in the name of Jesus Christ. Participants will come away feeling greater confidence about sharing Christ with whoever might darken the parish doors. They will be empowered with ‘what to say’, even during brief interactions. Those who attend will benefit from a dynamic presentation including times for reflection, prayer, and chances to practice evangelizing conversations in a low-pressure setting, as well as 12 months of follow-up support.
For reference, ask Diahne Goodwin of the Apple Valley Catholic Collaborative (the parishes of Acton and Stow, MA) for their staff’s experience with the Entertaining Angels workshop and follow-up support, as well as the fruits that came from their engagement with CHTI.
email@example.com or 978-263-4305 ext. 13.
An ACTS Retreat is a parish-based event which offers parishioners an opportunity to experience the love of Jesus Christ. This in turn fosters a desire for intentional discipleship. ACTS Retreats are given by parishioners for parishioners, and in this way, serve to build Christian community at a parish. The ACTS Retreat begins Thursday evening and ends with Sunday Mass in the parish. While utilizing prayer, service, and teaching, the ACTS Retreat meets people where they are in their spiritual journey and invites them to experience God in a manner that is both personal and communal. ACTS stands for “Adoration, Community, Theology, and Service.” Those who attend an ACTS retreat share in an experience that has impacted more than one million lives worldwide since the first retreat in 1987. There are numerous testimonies describing retreatants who were evangelized through a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. They witness to becoming better fathers, mothers, husbands, wives and children. ACTS has helped revitalize parishes, and is supported by bishops and priests worldwide as a legitimate participant in the Church's New Evangelization. In the Archdiocese of Boston, St. William's in Tewksbury and St. John the Baptist and St. Thomas the Apostle in Peabody have used the ACTS retreat.