As a “cradle” Catholic who taught catechism and grew up with the Baltimore Catechism and even later as a nurse and researcher, I can honestly say that I rarely questioned my faith.
During my long nursing career, there were many patient recoveries that could not be explained by medicine alone and there were times when the Christian nurses just knew that God was in need of more angels in Heaven. In my mind, there was no way to survive a career in pediatric nursing without believing that there was more to life than our earthly existence and that God had a master plan for all of his Earthly children. Skip ahead to March of 2020 and it seemed like my beliefs came crashing down around me. Mind you, I also worked during the AIDS epidemic before we knew how AIDS was transmitted and also was unfortunate enough to work through some other problematic viral contagions such as Ebola (mainly an isolated laboratory exposure) and other communicable pediatric respiratory viruses that filled our wards.
Why was March of 2020 so different? What was going on? I searched the internet, my Catholic resources, the bible, and other Dynamic Catholic books that adorn my coffee table. I learned that the Pope would deliver the most solemn blessing, the “Urbi et orbi,” one week early on Friday evening, March 27, 2020. I was relieved as I firmly believed that God would listen to his prayer and quickly and swiftly remove the corona virus from the world. It was raining that evening in St. Peter’s Square, actually pouring, and I thought, “This is perfect.” The rain will wash away the virus, sort of like baptismal water. I prayed along with the Pope and watched the video multiple times as I thought it would help to “seal the deal so to speak” and end this pandemic for everyone in the entire world. But as we all know, that did not happen.
A little while later, I don’t remember the date of the Columbiette meeting exactly, but our President, the wonderful Carol Aloi, talked to us about this program called, “Alpha.” I can’t say I remember everything she said, but one thing stood out. She said something like wouldn’t it be great if there was a movement in the Church that could be like what happened in the movie, “Sister Act,” where people came into the street and were singing the Lord’s praises, dancing, and rejoicing in the Lord. Dancing and rejoicing in the Lord, huh? Did I ever need that balm for my faith? When she announced the sign up for the program, I registered. I had no clue what I was signing up for, but I am glad I took that leap when I thought I was headed for the abyss. I even talked my husband into registering with me. (Well, he heard about it from the Knights too! I can’t take all the credit!)
Alpha has helped me to renew my faith in Jesus and to understand further the plethora of scholarly evidence for the existence of Jesus that I blindly accepted as a child. Further, I learned that faith is a journey. I learned new ways to pray and that I may still have troubles but in keeping prayer simple, honest, and giving thanks to the Father helps me to gain perspective and even a little peace some days. It is not always perfect, but Alpha helps us to learn that we can’t stop trusting or praying. God’s timing is perfect, but it is my timing that is inpatient. My father used to say, it can’t get any darker than midnight and the dawn will come at some point. Alpha is that dawn for me. Through the small groups with our wonderful facilitator JoEllen and our prayer person, Lois, we were allowed to be ourselves, to express our views on the talks, and share our revelations as well as our pain. When the totally on-line Zoom sessions were over (including the wonderful prayer weekend where we were given the option of being prayed for by our facilitators—a wonderfully moving and powerful experience), I knew my spiritual hunger was not fully satiated. I signed up to help with the next Alpha on January 14, 2021. Let’s help each other to see the dawn in the dark days of winter and explore further the meaning of life and faith.
Gina A. D’Agostino