Catholic Alpha in Austria Print
Written by Sherry   
Tuesday, 09 October 2007 10:52
There was an interesting conversation over at Amy Welborn's yesterday about evangelization - and what we can learn and not learn from evangelicals in this area and of course, I took part. One thing I suggested was that Catholics stop spending their time gawking at the bizarre and marginal evangelistic efforts that so often make the news and focus on learning from the really effective efforts like the Alpha Course.

Wolf Paul, who was raised Catholic in Austria, wrote in to share his experience of Alpha in Austria:

I don’t know what the situation is in the US, but in Austria the Alpha Course is a predominantly Roman Catholic project. Of course, Evangelicals and Charismatics also use it, but the driving force behind it is people from the Catholic “movimenti”, the renewal movements.

Again, can’t comment on the US situation (because while in the US I moved exclusively in Evangelical circles), but having grown up Catholic here in Austria, in a VERY Catholic family, I can confirm Sherry Weddell’s comment about many (most?) Catholics not hearing anything in church about a relationship with God and Jesus.

When I grew up the only people I ever heard talking about religion in terms of relationship were those who focused their piety on the BVM or some other saint– they talked about having a relationship with that saint. Jesus and God were considered far too remote and lofty to have a relationship with.

Now the renewal movements talk about having a relationship with Jesus, but the vast majority of parishes are wary of these movements because they rock the boat and can polarize the parish.

The Alpha course is a Catholic phenomena in those parts of Europe which were historically Catholic. To get a rather stunning sense of how widespread Alpha has become, go here and click on the nation flag of your choice to see Alpha activity in that country.

One reason for Alpha's growth in historically Catholic areas? As Wolf put it above "Catholics not hearing anything in church about a relationship with God and Jesus."