Flavia Saldanha first experienced Alpha at St Benedict’s Church in Halifax Canada in 2010. She had been raised Catholic, and was born into a typical Catholic culture in India; she would always go to Mass but had ‘no relationship with God’. She was invited by Fr James Mallon, St Benedict’s Church Parish Priest, to help on their first Alpha. At the Holy Spirit weekend she had a powerful experience of God and was filled with His peace.
Flavia and her husband went on to lead many other Alpha courses in their parish and in their home. They then sensed that God was calling them to go into the prison. We asked Flavia about her experience in running Alpha in prison.
'At first I felt scared but I was encouraged by Fr James that Jesus called disciples who had weaknesses. We contacted the superintendent (Rocky Partridge) of the prison in Halifax. Rocky came to our home to discuss running Alpha in prison. He was supportive and spent 2 hours answering all our questions about going into prison. After 15 months of preparation, in which we gathered a team from St Benedict’s and went through the security and protocol training, we were then able to start the course.
We launched 2 Alpha courses, the course for women had 17 guests and the course for men had 20 guests. It was such a powerful experience. The course was open to everyone – many were non-believers and agnostics. The invitation for the first course was made from the chaplain to the prisoners. But on subsequent courses, it is the alpha guests who have made the invitation to other prisoners. Now everyone wants to do Alpha and the inmates have signed a petition asking for Alpha to be run more regularly.
Rocky said he had heard such good things about Alpha from the inmates and the prison staff that he would like to see Alpha running in all of the prisons in Nova Scotia.
The testimonies have been wonderful: "I was a very angry person but now I have experienced peac". "I have experienced the love of Jesus and how I don’t need to fight back when people irritate me".
The prisoners continue to meet in small groups to pray after Alpha and they are able to run Alpha when they move to another prison.
We just finished a course 2 weeks ago – my husband said that one guest sat with a blank look for the first 2 sessions; there was no communication. During the 3rd and 4th sessions the inmate began to ask questions. On the 6th session he asked if he could read something out to the group. He had written a rap and he read it out. The rap told of how he had come to Alpha with a very closed mind, that he had been wandering aimlessly but now he knows there is a God.'
If you would like to find out more about running Alpha in prison please get in touch with Peter Jones.