By Kari Quist
An interview with two participants in Holy Family’s very first Alpha.
Matthew Gauci is a 24-year-old electrician currently living in Croydon. He is an avid footy fan and is a proud supporter of the Tigers.
Kristy Lau is a 24-year-old who recently completed her Master of Dietetics. She is originally from Hong Kong and first moved to Wollongong to study before coming to Melbourne.
1. What was your religious background when you started Alpha?
Matt: "I grew up going to a Catholic primary and secondary school, but I found that, for me, the faith was more a chore than a journey. My family and I would rarely go to Mass; if we did, it was at Christmas and maybe Easter. I remember praying a lot when I was worried as a younger child, but that soon disappeared as I got older and the faith became an ‘odd’ thing to be involved in. About a year ago, I met a girl who changed my whole perspective on life and challenged me in everything that I did. I fell in love with her and it has been a roller coaster ride with my faith ever since."
Kristy: Kristy went to a Catholic school as a child in Hong Kong but her family did not have any religious beliefs.
Religion was never a major part of her life but certain events in her life led her to seek something more and she became particularly interested in the Catholic faith.
2. Why did you decide to participate in Alpha?
Matt: "I decided to do Alpha because, to be honest, my girlfriend recommended that I do it. We were at a Sunday Mass at Holy Family when it was announced that Alpha was running and it sounded like a great opportunity.
I also came to the conclusion that if I was to ever have a personal relationship with God, I needed to take the initiative in learning about it myself, and Alpha seemed like the perfect starting block."
Kristy: Kristy decided to attend Alpha because “Fr Pearce said to” and because she “believed it would be a great opportunity to learn more about the faith and to meet people who are at different stages of their faith.”
3. What was your first impression of Alpha?
Matt: "I had no idea what I was walking into when I went to my first Alpha session. I rocked up in footy shorts and a beanie, thinking it was just going to be someone talking at me. But to my surprise, I entered a very welcoming social event. Alpha put on a great spread of food to kick things off
and we sat down in our groups and started to get to know each other. Then we watched the first video, led by Nicky Gumbel, and I was taken aback by how easy it was to relate to. Questions started popping into my head that I had never even considered and then we got to sit in our groups and discuss the video. I was stoked at how the night went and I was extremely excited to come back the following week."
Kristy: Kristy described her first encounter with Alpha as “really welcoming.” She thought that the discussion was open and honest and people were able to be authentic with their questions and thoughts about Christianity. She also mentioned that she did not feel any pressure to keep attending Alpha but came back because she was interested.
4. What have been the highlights of Alpha?
Matt: “The weekend session was the highlight of the course so far. Everyone had gotten to know each other by that stage and there was a great calmness about the day.It was a great escape from the everyday grind. It was also the closest I have felt to God in my life. Emotions ran through me and it really began my own spiritual journey; I left the weekend hungry for more."
Kristy: Kristy had quite a few highlights including “good food” and “excellent videos that [she] really loved.” Kristy believed that the facilitators were non-judgemental and good listeners. She appreciated the community that is formed through Alpha and was grateful for the chance to “share and connect with others.” Kristy thinks that Alpha has helped her learn more about God and has felt that the information shared was entertaining and easy to understand.
5. What have been the challenges of Alpha?
Matt: “I think the biggest challenge of Alpha, and my faith journey in general, has been the moments when the voice in the back of my head asks me “what if all this isn’t real?” I am nowhere near the perfect Catholic man yet, there have been many challenges so far and I expect there will be many more. However, I think Alpha has been the most positive experience that I have had in a very long time. The whole point of Alpha is to challenge yourself to be the best person you can be."
Kristy: For Kirsty, the main challenge was that Alpha can “stir up unresolved issues because it touch[es] the heart deeply.” This can be something that is difficult and troubling to face however, Kristy described that she was able to use Alpha as a safe place to recognise and start dealing with some of the issues that had been troubling her.
6. Have you experienced any personal changes through Alpha?
Matt: “Yes, definitely. Every decision I make now, whether it be in the moment or after the fact, I think, what would God want me to do? That has been the biggest and best thing for me so far. I have attained a hunger to learn more and I’ve now started to read the Bible, which has been great. It’s really put everything into perspective about what is important. Again, I still have a very long way to go, but Alpha has been an important stepping stone in my faith journey."
Kristy: Kristy stated that Alpha helped her in “being more curious about faith and wanting to learn more about it” and that “the questions in the videos really resonated with [her] own questions.” She believed that Alpha helped her “refocus and reconnect with important life goals.” Kristy also emphasised that she was able to learn a lot from the other Alpha participants.
7. What would you say to someone who is considering Alpha?
Matt: “I would say, what have you got to lose? If you have ever had questions about life, never understood what Christians are all about, or felt like something is missing from your life, then Alpha is for you. It has been a very rewarding experience and I think that everyone should give it a go, no matter where you are in your faith journey. In my opinion, only positive things will come out of your time at Alpha, including making a bunch of great new mates."
Kristy: Kristy thinks that people should “give it a try, just for one week and see how it goes, everyone’s life is different but you only need to devote two hours to try.” Kristy explained that newcomers would get to enjoy free food and that there was no pressure to keep coming. She also mentioned that it was helpful to know that there was no pressure to talk in small groups: “you can share as much or as little as you want.” Kristy’s main advice is to “come and see.”
Our next round of Alpha is beginning on August 7th at 7pm. If you are curious, ‘come and see' - there is no pressure to continue attending if Alpha isn’t for you. If you would like to support Alpha, we have a variety of roles in prayer and hospitality, for which we could use support, and rosters can be found in the parish foyer. To find out more, please visit https://australia.alpha.org/ or email email@example.com. To register please fill out the form at https://holyfamily.melbourne/connect/alpha.
Registration closes on August 5th.