Fr. Robert Christo is Episcopal Vicar for Evangelization for the Archdiocese of Port of Spain. He is the Spiritual Director on the Board of Directors of the National Catholic Alpha Office in Trinidad and Tobago.
He took some time to share his thoughts with us on how he sees Alpha as a Tool for Evangelization
Q. Why do you believe in Alpha?
A. Alpha is a very effective Evangelization tool because it is a natural way of exploring life and your faith in Jesus Christ without bias to denomination. As it says, it offers no frills, no charge and no pressure. The Question and Answer opportunities that exist in small group sharing builds a relationship with Christ that leads to active Ministry. The talks are spiritually sound and it welcomes anyone to explore the basics of the Christian Faith.
Q. What have you learnt about spirituality through your own personal journey with Alpha?
A. Alpha makes a good dent at feeding modern day spiritual hunger in its attempt to fill the hole that is in many of our lives. To know Him personally and to make Him known to others personally. By this personal relationship, Jesus becomes a friend, someone who you can truly walk and talk with.
Q. How do you see prayer in relationship with Alpha?
A. Prayer is like breathing and to stay alive you need to maintain a communication with Christ. Alpha allows you to know and communicate with Jesus Christ. Alpha leads naturally to Prayer with Jesus Christ, Ministry and action. In fact one of the talks on Alpha is on "how to pray". Prayer therefore becomes an integral part of life and one develops the ability to find comfort with Christ. In Alpha it is said to pray, pray, pray.
Q. How have you seen Alpha transform lives, churches and communities?
A. I've heard and seen the testimonies in prison and from prison officers, hearing their own conversion and follow through with other Alpha. Alpha is truly the point of entry to Evangelization especially Alpha in the Catholic Context with love for and Ministry in the Eucharist. The many testimonies of individuals who either came to faith, or grew in faith, transforming their lives because of the Alpha experience will always stay with me.
Q. How do you define your role and the role of priests in general in shaping Alpha in parishes?
A. We are happy to have the laity be very much involved. This is one area where we can truly say we are co-partners working together for the evangelization of all. Alpha is the entry point not the end. It is a facilitator, a presence in the whole Ministry of Alpha. We support the deepened Evangelization thrust.
Q. What advice would you give to a group launching a new Alpha?
A. Prayer and preparation is important. So is planning to make sure Alpha Coordinators are hospitable. Talks are very soul searching and relevant and people need to see the whole process as humble not arrogant imposition. You must create excitement and an environment of openness. Be committed to stay the course. Even if one person's life is transformed the sacrifice is worth it. Also encourage participants to join the Alpha Team and other ministries within the Church.