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Alpha programme to be rolled out in a bid to rekindle faith

By Sarah Mac Donald - 22 June, 2019

The Alpha programme is to be rolled out across the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore in a bid to rekindle the faith, Bishop Phonsie Cullinan said.

“Going out to make disciples cannot happen unless there is renewal within,” Bishop Cullinan explained in an article in the Irish Times on Friday.

Bishop Cullinan added, “There is no point travelling the old roads. People are in a different place now. They don’t come to us much; we have to go to them. This is the big change.”

He also cited a Brazilian fisherman, who when asked why Jesus choose mostly fishermen as apostles said, “People who travel on the land build roads, and they continue to use these roads over and over again. But a fisherman goes searching for the fish wherever they are. And so he chooses a different path each day. For it happens that yesterday’s route doesn’t lead to the fish of today.”

In his article on Waterford & Lismore’s diocesan pastoral plan, “Go Make Disciples”, Bishop Cullinan said that in order to better manage an evangelical approach, there needs to be a greater emphasis on team ministry in new pastoral units across the diocese, where small groups of parishes, their clergy and trained laity, will work in teams to go out and bear fruit along with the faithful.

He added, “The Alpha programme is being rolled out to rekindle faith in Jesus as our Lord and Saviour. Further adult faith formation programmes will build on this.”

These and other changes are needed to bring about a missionary church community, he said.

Speaking to Faithcast, Dr Cullinan explained that “Go Make Disciples” is a five-year plan.

“A review is planned after the first two years to see how are we getting on with our objectives, are they being put into action, are the people responsible working on them. So, insofar as it is possible, it is measurable.”

He described himself as “very excited” about the diocesan plan. “It gives us something definite to work on.”

Of the plan’s goals, the Bishop of Waterford & Lismore described them as “beautiful” but stressed that they would require a lot of buy-in from people across the diocese.

In order to fund the appointment of a director of adult faith formation and a director of youth ministry, Dr Cullinan said he intended to make a Bishop’s Appeal.

“Can we do without them [the new roles]? The answer is no. We have got to trust in the Holy Spirit that the funds are going to come. I think that when people see that there are things happening, they will step up to the plate.”

Of the Alpha programme, he explained that it is already available in several parishes across the diocese while other parishes are preparing to introduce it after the summer.

“It is a good thermometer of the thirst out there for something more. People are being ignited by it.

“Lectio Divina, RCIA and the myriad of programmes for adult faith formation which can be rolled out. And for that we have to train more people – we are in the process of that. The Alpha programme is like the first course – it is a taster. But after that if people get to know the person of Jesus Christ they will want to know more about him. We have a plan for that,” he told Faithcast.

“This would be the key thing that the adult faith formation officer would try to co-ordinate across the diocese – rolling out programmes for adults who want to know more about their faith.”

The plan is a five-year one with four themes identified to realise this vision. These are:

  1. Becoming an evangelising church.
  2. Creating communities of faith characterised by hospitality, belonging and acceptance.
  3. Enhancing the quality of our liturgical celebrations and providing opportunities for spiritual growth.
  4. Remodelling leadership and governance structures to serve the mission of evangelising and transforming the world.

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