Pastor, Visitiation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Tropper, PA
Monsignor Thomas Murray
Q: How would you describe your parish?
A: Big - 3000 families and 4 priests; school focused - Visitation K- 8th grade is busy parish school; and sometimes we are viewed as cold. We do not have a parish center or place to connect after Mass. This has been one of our biggest parish weaknesses. Having an active Alpha course has helped to address this.
Q. How long have you been running the course?
A: 11 years ago we were a part of a pilot Alpha course in a home and got a very good taste of the impact that Alpha can have. Then the course began to meet at a neighboring church and we continued to help until 2004 when we decided to host our own evening course at Visitation. We have been going strong since then and host a fall and spring course every year.
Q: What kind of spiritual fruit have you noticed as a result of having the course at your parish?
A: The principle fruit has been Alpha grads have begun new ministries in the parish. One Alpha grad started a ‘Visi Moms’ group at the parish. These women were renewed in their faith and filled with such joy that they went on to bring their husbands on a subsequent course and many husbands also saw their faith come alive. Other ministries that have begun over the past six years include: an adult Bible study, a parenting course, a praise and worship team, a marriage renewal team, more Eucharistic ministers and faith formation teachers. All of these ministries have added to the spiritual vitality of the parish but have not been an extra work load of the priests. If anything, it has made their job easier because the laity is stepping up and serving one another.
Q. What has been your pastor’s response to the course?
A: Monsignor Thomas Murray is our pastor and he comments, “I have been very happy with Alpha at our parish. It is a great evangelization tool and has given folks who haven’t been active an outlet for ministry. It has been a beautiful experience for so many people.” He allows us to have announcements from the altar and he also invites people to come. Each fall, he allows our team to give a short testimony and invitation during all the Masses.
Father Edward Kelly, one of our assistant pastors, attends our Alpha and eats with us and often attends the Weekend Away. He mentions that he appreciates all of the Alpha grads and can see the fruit in their lives. He sees first hand that people are now serving the parish in renewed ways.
Q: What age group in your parish has the course been most receptive to the course and why?
A: When we started six years ago, we were mostly middle aged, but now our course demographic is getting younger. Teens wanted to get involved and came with parents when they saw their parent’s lives changing. Now one teen girl is leading the youth Alpha groups. They are in their sixth session and are steadily growing.
Q: What would you say to a parish (or priest) that was considering running a course but just needed a nudge?
A: Alpha fills the need for fellowship. As stated at earlier, Visitation is large and can appear to be cold, but people are still looking for relationships. People can come to Mass for years and not know anyone. They are just a name in the crowd. Once they go through Alpha, the Mass becomes alive and they really begin to connect with other people in the parish.
"If you are considering it, you won’t be sorry. You will see the results. Gather a committed team and follow the Alpha “recipe”. I have never seen a more fruitful ministry for Catholics. It gives people confidence to talk about their faith and a place to explore."
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