Many parishes and churches are struggling as to how to reach their young people. Sadly in some cases the Sacrament of Confirmation has become the Sacrament of exit. Many young people find going to Mass (or service) to be irrelevant and boring. Many others consider that Christianity is simply untrue. They have questions like Why does God allow suffering? Is there a conflict between science and Christianity? Did Jesus really exist? Is there objective evidence for his death & resurrection etc? Alpha is seeking to answer these questions and so because of this there was a push here in Ireland to use the Alpha - Youth version to reach the younger generation.
An Alpha - Youth training day was held in Maynooth in 2007 at which Bishop Donal McKeown was the guest speaker. In his inspiring address Bishop Donal said,
In 2009 a small committee was formed to explore the potential of running Alpha in Irish schools. At this time the committee were working from the old version of Alpha - Youth and adapted the material to try and fit the school context. We produced some new material and launched it with a training day to make chaplains and R.E teachers aware of Alpha’s potential in Irish schools. The day was a success with up to 20 school chaplains attending.
Although the day was successful it appeared that not one course got off the ground. There was no-one to keep the momentum going. Late in 2010, the decision was made to make a role for a ‘Alpha - Youth Co-ordinator’ in Ireland. It was later decided that this role would be managed by Scripture Union in direct partnership with Alpha Ireland. The money was raised and the Alpha - Youth Co-ordinator (Jonny Somerville) began in July of 2011 alongside the release of the new Alpha - Youth Material.
The first year was a great success. The original plan was for 4-6 courses to be piloted but in reality around 30 Alpha - Youth’s were run in 17 schools. More were also run in Parishes and Youth groups.
After the first year feedback was carried out.
Earlier on in 2013, Alpha - Youth had its first Adventure Retreat at Ovoca Manor. Called ‘Encounter’ and organised by all the leaders from the Midlands Alpha - Youths, the camp brought together 50 young people from Tullamore, Mullingar, Ferbane and Athlone and was a huge success. For three days, the teens and volunteers journeyed together exploring both the meaning of life and the wild outdoors. Plans are underway for another Alpha - Youth Camp in February 2014. This camp brings together youth and youth leaders from Tullamore, Mullingar, Ferbane and Athlone.
Also new in 2013 (official launch was Jan 2014) was the September launch of Alpha - Youth’s first ever Youth Film Series. Up until this point, unlike original Alpha, there was no DVD set of talks for Alpha - Youth and the Alpha - Youth leaders were required to give the talks themselves. Filmed in Canada (and on location around the world), the new series contains 12 episodes especially tailored to and for students.
For the academic year 2013/14 there was approx 60 Alpha - Youth's across the country, both in Schools and churches/parishes alike.
Such has been the growth in Alpha - Youth that Scripture Union and Alpha Ireland recruited an additional Alpha - Youth Worker to operate specifically in the Midlands. In November, Annette Evans was appointed to the new position and she commenced her new role in January 2014. Annette is from Tullamore and has been running Alpha - Youth's in schools and with her parish youth group for the last three years.