Sr. Ann Shields and Gemma MacDonald

An Alpha course changed the lives of everyone in high school senior Gemma MacDonald’s family. Gemma shared her story at the 2017 Lift Jesus Higher Rally.

After hearing about the program, the family of nominally practicing Catholics first encourage Gemma’s recently widowed, alcoholic grandfather to attend.

“On his weekend away (for a part of Alpha called the Holy Spirit weekend), my grandfather had a battle between lightness and darkness, and in the end, light won,” said Gemma. “He hasn’t had a desire to drink since then.”

Gemma’s grandfather agreed the weekend transformed his life: “After praying for the Holy Spirit to come, the next day, I didn’t have the urge to go in the liquor store,” he said.

He now spends most of his time helping with Alpha. He explained, “I think of the ten lepers who were cured; now I try to help others find Jesus like I found Him.”

His conversion encouraged the rest of his family to attended Alpha together. They also went reluctantly, but experienced a tremendous conversion.

“It renewed all of our relationships and brought us deeper into our faith,” said Gemma. “Our family dynamic shifted from us working individually, to us working as a team.”

Since then, the family has started both youth and adult Alpha programs at other parishes. At sixteen, Gemma even became the volunteer coordinator for adult ministry at a parish.

“The gifts of the Holy Spirit are working through us,” concluded Gemma’s father, David. “I think they can work through everybody. You just have to be present.”

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