The following comes from a May 5 OC Catholic article by Cathi Douglas:

Father Jerome Karcher, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Parish, believes his Huntington Beach parish is blessed to have incorporated the Alpha Course into its faith formation plans as a means of promoting evangelization. The first 10-week session last fall drew more than 500 parishioners.

The spring session has enrolled more than 210 parishioners.

“Alpha of course means ‘beginning,’ and this is about beginning or an introduction to Christian life,” Father Karcher said. “It’s an evangelizing course that draws people to faith in Christ.”

He is pleased with the results, and so are growing numbers of his parishioners. Other parishes, such as Holy Trinity in Ladera Ranch, also are interested in offering Alpha courses. He explained that some Catholics who worship for one hour every Sunday want to deepen their faith and have a desire for great service to the Church.

“Once someone leaves the Church they don’t come back,” Father Karcher said. “We have not focused on evangelization – we’ve not done a lot to promote personal encounters with Jesus Christ as our Lord and the savior of our lives.”

St. Vincent de Paul’s Alpha course has three parts, Father Karcher said: food, conversation and discussion. The parish caters a meal and participants sit down at tables of eight to 10 people with hosts are each table, then enjoy icebreakers and watch a DVD-driven series. Each segment ends with a question; the first week’s question asked: What you would do if you only had 24 hours to live?

The Alpha Course, says St. Vincent de Paul’s Patty Ledezma, director of Parish Life, promotes individuals’ private relationship with Jesus. The Anglican Church produces the course, but a number of Catholic parishes nationwide are offering it with the blessings of bishops, cardinals and even Pope Francis.