Paul Godfrey is in his fifth year teaching theology at Detroit Catholic Central, and is a parishioner at Christ the King Church in Ann Arbor. He invited his neighbor to Alpha.
Witness: Part of what Alpha has done for me is helped me realize that I need to be bold. I need to ask the Lord, “Who do you want me to invite today?” It’s a mind-set of witnessing – we’re meant to welcome everyone into Church and into relationship with Christ. It is good but challenging. It’s the open door that is there for anyone and everyone.
Invitation: There is a woman in her 80s in our neighborhood who I kept seeing when I was outside with my two little kids. After more than a year of small talk, she asked me what I did for work. I told her, and she started talking a little about her faith. From that point on, I could see a change in her, an opening up, so I started asking her to come to church, but she turned me down. At some point, I mentioned that I frequently go to the adoration chapel and asked if she would go with me. She said no, but from then on I’d bring my faith into the conversation. Sometimes, I noticed discomfort and once in a while, she’d even keep walking instead of stopping to talk. After a couple years of pursuing and inviting her, our parish started Alpha. It seemed perfect – a meal, very light atmosphere and just talking about faith. She listened to my invitation and said she’d think about it, but a week or two later she said she didn’t think she’d go. There were several more asks and several times she turned me down, but one day we were chatting, and I asked her to Alpha again and she said yes. She was very quiet at the first session, but there was a sister and a priest there whom she loved. When the sister asked her if she was coming back, she said she wasn’t sure. Ultimately, she missed only one session, and I think she really enjoyed it. We continue to chat and I’ve invited her to other things at the parish. I’m not done inviting her! So much of inviting is showing that you care. I told my neighbor that I don’t care if she ever comes to something else or not, but I love her enough to keep asking.
Accompaniment: Often, evangelization requires the building of a relationship. My neighbor and I tease each other – I try to find ways to show her I am patient and not giving up. I told her she reminded me of my mother, whom I love, which was why I was pursuing her. You have to meet people where they’re at. And sometimes invitations aren’t enough, you need to know them a bit and they need to trust you before they’ll take a step.
Prayer: I prayed for my neighbor for two years before we had much interaction, so I’d even ask the Lord to provide moments of encounter. I wanted that consistency, so I’d pray, “Lord, let me keep bumping into her.” I still pray for her, even with my kids at night I say, “Let’s pray for Miss F – that the Lord would be at work in her.” We don’t always see the effects, but prayer is the backbone. When you pray you might not feel like it’s effective but perseverance is so important – we have to keep knocking.
Alpha is a parish tool for evangelization that helps develop three essential missionary cultures for the long term: culture of invitation and hospitality; culture of encounter; culture of missionary discipleship. Contact your parish to learn if it is currently holding Alpha sessions.