WINNECONNE — Bishop David Ricken will celebrate a Jubilee Mass for Catechists and RCIA Leaders on Sunday, Sept. 16, 4 p.m., at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. The Diocese of Green Bay’s monthly Jubilee Mass on Sept. 16 will honor catechists and Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) leaders.
Parish catechists are responsible for helping to implement Bishop Ricken’s pastoral plan, “Disciples on the Way,” which he announced in 2014. One way parish religious education leaders are doing this is by introducing “Alpha,” a video series exploring the Christian faith. Each video is followed by discussions focusing on a different question around faith. The Alpha series is designed to create conversation about Christianity.
One parish that has taken these initiatives to heart is St. Mary in Winneconne. Andy Krueger, coordinator of Faith Formation and Youth Ministry at St. Mary, said her parish is about to launch the Alpha experience for its faith formation families, as well as the entire parish community.
“We are offering it as part of Bishop Ricken’s plan of Disciples on the Way,” she said. “We feel this is a good way to follow that suggestion and focus on missionary disciples.”
According to Krueger, St. Mary Parish in Winneconne and St. Mary Parish in Omro share Sr. Pam Biehl as their pastoral leader, and Rose Unser as pastoral associate and adult faith formation coordinator. Their faith formation programs operate separately.
“We worked together on creating this Alpha experience for both parishes,” she said. “Alpha is one way that people can discover Jesus so they can enter more fully into the journey of following, worshipping and sharing Jesus.”
She explained that Alpha is a series of sessions “exploring the Christian faith.”
“Each talk looks at a different question around faith and is designed to create conversation,” said Krueger. “We listen to cardinals, bishops, priests and Catholic participants as they tell their Alpha stories. Lives continue to be changed, and parishes are daily being renewed as people come to understand their own relationship with Jesus.”
Starting Sept. 12 and running for 10 weeks, the Winneconne program will run on Sunday and Wednesday evenings with a meal, then class for first- through eighth-graders and a video and discussion for high schoolers and adults.
Similar sessions for parish members at large will be held on Mondays and Thursdays.
Heidi Seaman is the faith formation coordinator in Omro, and sessions there will held Sundays and Wednesdays, with at-large sessions held on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
The opening evening will feature a talk for all the families and parishioners with Julianne Stanz, diocesan director of Discipleship and Leadership Development. The talk will be in the Winneconne Community Arts Center auditorium, 100 Wolf Run. The series will end on Dec. 12 with a performance of “Behold the Lamb of God,” which tells the story of Advent through music, song and story.
“I’m looking forward to the community that this shared Alpha experience is going to bring,” Krueger said. “It is about building that relationship with Jesus, and I think it also will create relationships within the community. It will be beneficial for the whole parish just to be together.”
She said the hope is to help participants build a relationship with Jesus and their parish community. “There is no prior knowledge needed. You don’t have to respond. There are no right or wrong answers,” she said. “You will eat, watch the video and share in discussion.”
She said parents have a huge impact on their children because “they can learn so much from us by just watching us,” she said. “When they see their parents participate in the Alpha sessions each week, that could have a huge impact on how the children and youths look at faith in their lives.”
The Alpha series is just part of the ministry that she and volunteer catechists offer at St. Mary, Krueger said. “Having to share the faith with others through our faith formation program, I couldn’t possibly do that alone. We have close to 30 volunteers, and many have been involved for many years. We couldn’t do our ministry without them.”
Catechists tell her that they get as much out of the experience as those they are teaching.