Alpha transforms

This fall more than 2,000 Catholics across the diocese will have undergone a spiritual awakening experience that is harnessing the power of the Holy Spirit to transform lives.

Alpha is an 11-week series being offered in a growing number of parishes. Each session includes a meal, video presentation and small group discussion that helps people examine their faith, ask questions and share viewpoints—no matter where they are on their spiritual journey.

“We’ve found that people are hungry for an experience of God, not an explanation,” said Alpha coordinator Sue Ferguson, who helps train facilitators at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Glenshaw and Allison Park. “We begin by building a relationship with Christ.”

Ferguson made the comments during an interview with Father Tom Burke on Catholic Education Plus, airing Sunday, July 18 at 6:30 a.m. on KDKA Radio, and which will be available later online:

Young adults really have connected with Alpha, said Rosemary Cather Kelly, Ferguson’s collaborator who also was interviewed. “The first group wanted to keep going when the sessions ended,” Kelly said. “They continued to meet for prayer, study and fellowship, and many groups are still meeting, years later.

“We’re seeing people come alive in their faith, returning to church. It’s the Holy Spirit working,” she said.

Rosemary Cather Kelly and Sue Ferguson

“By providing a meal and conversation, investing in their lives, people become more open to the message in the videos,” Ferguson said. “They feel like they’re being listened to. It builds trust, and opens the door to their heart.”

When the pandemic hit, Alpha moved online, and it turned out to be a blessing for any number of reasons. Organizers were able to reach people who might not attend in person, either due to schedules or travel.

“We will continue to offer Alpha Online at least once a year,” Ferguson said. “It can be effective if you do it right.”

Our Lady of Perpetual Help is an Alpha “hub parish,” training facilitators from other parishes on how to plan and deliver the program. To learn more, visit

Young adults from Alpha come together after Mass and Eucharistic adoration. (Pittsburgh Catholic file photo)