Anthony Lim, Alpha Course leader for Sacred Heart Cathedral, emphasised to a crowd of more than 900 people at the celebration dinner organized by the Alpha Team to thank and praise God for the gift of Alpha.
Retracing the beginning of Alpha in Sacred Heart, Lim recalled that a team was sent by the then Archbishop John Lee to study the Alpha program upon receiving an invitation for the 1st Borneo Regional Alpha Conference held at the Christ Church Likas of the Anglican Church in 2004.
Impressed by a sound report, the bishop gave his support for a team to spearhead the Alpha Course in the Cathedral. Embarking on the first round, the team had no idea of the efficacy of the Alpha as an evangelization tool to bring others to the joy of encountering Jesus in the simplest setting of an invitation to a friendly meal.
Today 24 rounds of Alpha Classic have been completed. Two years after the inception of Alpha Classic, Alpha School was launched upon requests from schools to solidify faith formation programs for their Catholic students. Very quickly the usefulness of the program spread and today Alpha School is being run in 7 secondary schools. Alpha Nurses for student nurses and Alpha Senior for senior citizens followed suit, both of which have completed their 5th round.
Peculiar to the Alpha in Sacred Heart, and of particular benefit is the Follow-up series to the Alpha where Catholic programs are introduced and have enriched the life of many Catholics.
A common problem for any parish is to develop leadership and resources, but with Alpha, most who go through Alpha would eventually end up serving, either as sharing group leaders or those who go out to bring others in.
Sizing the potential of the program, Archbishop John Wong invited Alpha to start its first round for aspirants and IY seminarians, which has just been concluded with positive feedback.
Lim concluded with a hopeful note that Alpha, if seen as a providential gift for the churches to share the joy of ecumenism, should serve as an impetus for Christian brothers to work together in unity. This incidentally is a desire that is closest to the heart of Pope Francis himself.
Notable guests of honour for the event were Archbishop John Wong, Archbishop Emeritus John Lee, National Director of Alpha Malaysia Foo Lai Wei and his wife, reverend pastors of the Anglican and Basel churches, and Mother General of FSIC Sr Grace Deosing.
In his address, Archbishop Emeritus John Lee asserted that the huge turnout of those who came to celebrate must have experienced something beautiful in Alpha.
He gave the Alpha Team his assurance of continued spiritual support and advised them to scrutinize the Word of God so as to make more effective progress to bring others through to experience the joy of the Lord.
He fully endorsed the Follow-up programs leading Catholics to a deeper joy in their faith, and the spread of Alpha School, and encouraged those who have gone through Alpha to come back and help, and those who have experienced the joy to go out and invite others ‘to come and see’.
Foo Lai Wei, National Director of Alpha Malaysia, congratulated Alpha Sacred Heart for their ‘unimaginable success’ in their 10th year!
The presence of compatriots from the Anglican and Basel Churches was a boon to Alpha presence in Sabah.
He informed that the Alpha Course has gone through re-branding and has rolled out a new look in recent days. The new Alpha look, with the iconic question mark, puts forth the idea that each individual carries his/her own unique questions about life, faith and God. It is the desire for Alpha to target the young in a very social and diverse world, as in a gym, Starbucks, or even Alpha for taxi-drivers! Alpha Malaysia has also set up Alpha Hub in Kuala Lumpur in Sep 2014 to serve the Asia Pacific region better, and hoped to see an ever increasing partnership in the next ten years to come.
In conclusion, Foo likened Alpha Sacred Heart to Mt 5:14 “You are the light of the world” in bringing so many to encounter Jesus in its 10 years’ presence, and presented a candle to Anthony Lim, representing Alpha Sacred Heart.
Alpha Sacred Heart celebrated a milestone in the launching of Alpha in a Catholic Context Sacred Heart Cathedral Facebook, providing activity updates and sharing of information and networking.
Guests and friends not only rekindled friendship formed during the Alpha Courses they attended, but were also treated to a CD projecting ‘street interviews’ listening to the interesting stories of participants coming from all walks of life. Cheers broke out when they found the interviewees seated at the same table!
The various Alpha groups, from the student to the senior citizenry, have put together some enterprising performances for the entertainment!
An additional surprise came in the form of a personal congratulatory note from Nicky Gumbel, pioneer of the Alpha Course, which was read out. He accorded every Alpha success to the faithful love of God and fittingly reminded all to stop and remember God with gratitude.
Today, Alpha has run 80,000 courses globally in the main churches in 169 countries. 24 million guests have come through Alpha Courses and still increasing.
The Alpha is just one tool that has been used effectively and creatively. Designed for those on the fringes of their faith and those outside the Church, Alpha creates a non-threatening environment of hospitality to explore the faith, to grow in the faith, for nominal believers to renew the faith, for lapsed believers to restore the faith, for mature believers to share the faith.