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Called to be joyful ‘missionary disciples’

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Special to The Dialog

‘Convocation of Catholic Leaders’ meeting engages U.S. faithful to embrace and proclaim joy of Gospel

Earlier this month, I was fortunate to represent the Diocese of Wilmington at the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America,” in Orlando, Fla. Five other delegates from our diocese joined me there: Colleen Lindsey, Deacon Bob and Marie Cousar, Arline Dosman, and Lynne Betts. Although unable to attend, Bishop Malooly kept a watchful eye on us through EWTN broadcasts and frequent telephone conversations.

As part of this unprecedented gathering of clergy, religious, lay parish leaders and volunteers convened by the U.S. bishops, we participated in a variety of presentations and discussions designed to stimulate creative and forward thinking ideas and plans of action for the American church’s response to Pope Francis’ 2013 Apostolic Exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”). As Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas said, it was “a strategic conversation on forming missionary disciples.” Read more »

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Catholic convocation: Combination pep rally, retreat inspires leaders

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Catholic News Service

ORLANDO, Fla. — From July 1-4 the main floor of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Orlando was transformed into a huge parish hall with places for worship, prayer, discussion, and even coffee and doughnuts during the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America.” Read more »

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Convocation delegates called to imitate Jesus in reaching the margins

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Catholic News Service

ORLANDO, Fla. — Jesus took a few loaves and fishes and turned them into a feast for thousands, offering the church an example of faith in action, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said in sending 3,500 delegates home from the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America.”

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, who is vice president of USCCB, distribute Communion during the closing Mass July 4 at the "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America" in Orlando, Fla. Leaders from dioceses and various Catholic organizations gathered for the July 1-4 convocation. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, who is vice president of USCCB, distribute Communion during the closing Mass July 4 at the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America” in Orlando, Fla. Leaders from dioceses and various Catholic organizations gathered for the July 1-4 convocation. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

In the face of adversity and naysayers in today’s world, not unlike the apostles who wondered how they would feed the masses, the church is called to take what they have, as Jesus did and reap the rewards of achieving great things in the face of the impossible, Cardinal DiNardo said in his homily during the convocation.s closing Mass July 4.

“When we see the complexity, when we see the impossible … Jesus will say, ‘Just give me what you have.’ Imagine what we will have left over after we do it at the Lord’s word,” he said.

“Jesus gives the apostles and everybody who listens to them … he gives them that power. Do we believe? St. Paul says if we believe can go out and do what is asked,” said Cardinal DiNardo, who is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Citing the Gospel reading from John (17:11, 17-23), the cardinal also urged the delegates to reflect on how Jesus during the Last Supper reminded the Twelve Apostles that he will pray for all who believe he is the savior that they may be united in one family under God.

Such is the call of the church, he explained, as the delegates returned home, to unite people together by going to the peripheries of society and sharing the good news of Jesus through action rooted in faith.

“Sisters and brothers, we are in a very, very significant time in our church in this country,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “John 17 today reminds me of how contemplative we’re going to have to be if we are going to be active. Never are you more active than when the word of God is so recalled by you. You are seated there in God’s loving grace, and when you are seated there, you realize how much God blesses you.”

The cardinal urged the delegates to engage in their ministry humbly and to realize that they are nourished in their work through the body and blood of Jesus at Mass.

“We leave here (at the altar) nourished and refreshed and we go and do what we have to do,” he said.

As the Mass ended, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the U.S., congratulated convocation participants for a lively and invigorating four days. He recapped the keynote presentations, reminding the delegates what they can do in their communities, much like the apostles, to “give comfort and peace to the wounded.”

“We are journeying together in the common bonds of the journey of faith,” said the archbishop who attended the entire four-day conference that opened July 1.

“This is a ‘kairos’ moment” in the life of the U.S. church, he added, calling people to share “by the witness of your lives” by being missionary disciples, as Pope Francis calls the faithful to be.

Archbishop Pierre also said in his upcoming report to the pope that he would explain that “the Spirit is alive in the church in the United States.”

“I will tell him of the commitment of many missionary disciples and their love for the church.”

 

Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.

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This is your moment to evangelize, convocation delegates told

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Catholic News Service

ORLANDO, Fla. —Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl urged participants at the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of The Gospel in America” to take a look at each other in the hotel ballroom and realize that they, as lay leaders in the church, are responsible for spreading the Gospel message and they shouldn’t waste the moment.

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl  smiles while speaking during the "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America" July 2 in Orlando, Fla. Leaders from dioceses and various Catholic organizations are gathering for the July 1-4 convocation. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl smiles while speaking during the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America” July 2 in Orlando, Fla. Leaders from dioceses and various Catholic organizations are gathering for the July 1-4 convocation. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

“This is not something new that we haven’t heard before,” he told the delegates in Orlando in a July 2 keynote address.

The cardinal stressed the sense of urgency of evangelizing and inviting others to Christ, stressing that Catholics have a perfect role model for this in Pope Francis, who has continually presented the church as inviting and open.

Cardinal Wuerl also acknowledged that Catholics are not always comfortable with the idea of evangelizing but they need to be willing to step out of themselves and talk with people about their faith as part of an encounter often spoken of by Pope Francis.

An encounter is not meant to tell people “they can be as wonderful as we are,” the cardinal said. It is about telling them about Christ. He also noted that as people take this Gospel message out to the peripheries that doesn’t just mean economic peripheries either but spiritual ones as well.

People need to be asked about their faith and encouraged in it, he added.

He spoke about an experience he had on a plane where a woman sitting beside him asked him if he was “born again.” When he said he was at his baptism, his seatmate said: “You Catholics are big into this church thing, aren’t you?”

She then asked him to tell her more and joking, he told the crowd: “You asked for it!”

His point was that many people have questions or even misconceptions about faith and need to be part of a conversation about it.

Stressing that church members today, as always, are called to be evangelizing disciples, the cardinal said this role requires courage, a sense of urgency, compassion and joy.

A panel of church leaders who spoke just before the cardinal, similarly stressed the need to evangelize in simple ways of sitting and eating together, sharing conversion stories, and also reaching out to parishioners and urging them to be more involved.

The cardinal and many of the panelists also emphasized that reaching out to others requires a reconnection of one’s personal faith.

Or as Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut, said: “If you want to go out in world, start by going in.”

One of the panelists, Piarist Father Rafael Capo, who directs the Southeast Pastoral Institute based in Miami, which coordinates and assists diocesan Hispanic ministry programs, told the crowd that what they need to do as Catholic evangelizers echoes what his mother always said about having company.

Her motto was make sure the house was clean, there was enough food, and when people came, they were considered family, the priest said. With that in mind, in a spiritual sense, he added: “We have some work to do.”

Part of making people feel welcome is simply listening to them, caring for them and leading them to Jesus, noted Sister Miriam James Heidland, a sister of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.

Sister Miriam, whose Twitter handle is @onegroovynun, said she was brought back to her faith by a parish priest. “I’m sitting here today because somebody loved me in my brokenness,” she said.

“We ache for more,” she told the crowd, stressing the need to offer a “continual invitation” to those around them who might be searching for God.

Taking this idea of invitation a step further, Sherry Weddell, author of “Forming Intentional Disciples,” urged the convocation delegates to look around in their parishes and get others involved in ministry.

“The future of the church depends on the number of people we empower to be true missionary disciples,” she added, noting that those who do this say “it changes everything.”

Father Capo had a similar message for church leaders specifically about Hispanic Catholics. “You need to be opening spaces for young Hispanics, not just opening doors for them but empowering them,” he said urging them to train and form future church leaders from the Hispanic community.

Curtis Martin, founder and CEO of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, or FOCUS, likewise challenged leaders to get young people more involved saying: we are not asking enough of them.

This refrain of deepening one’s faith and inviting others to know God more was summarized by Cardinal Wuerl in quoting Pope Francis’ invitation for “all Christians to renew their personal encounter with Jesus.”

If convocation delegates do that, the cardinal said, all the years of preparation for this convocation “will be worth it.”

 

Follow Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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Catholic leaders meeting in Orlando seeks to bring ‘Joy of the Gospel’ vision to U.S. church

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Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON — This summer’s Convocation of Catholic Leaders comes at a time when the U.S. Catholic Church is seeking how best to respond to a changing social landscape while bringing Pope Francis’ vision for a church that offers mercy and joy to the world.

Volunteers serve guests lunch in the main dining hall of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in 2016 in Phoenix. Leaders from dioceses and various Catholic organizations will gather July 1-4 in Orlando, Fla., for the "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America" sponsored by the U.S. bishops.(CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Volunteers serve guests lunch in the main dining hall of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in 2016 in Phoenix. Leaders from dioceses and various Catholic organizations will gather July 1-4 in Orlando, Fla., for the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America” sponsored by the U.S. bishops.(CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Called by the bishops, the historic convocation will find more than 3,000 Catholic leaders — bishops, clergy, religious and laypeople — meeting July 1-4 in Orlando, Florida, to focus on how the pope’s 2013 apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”), applies in the United States.

The pope’s document lays out a vision of the church dedicated to evangelization, missionary discipleship, in a positive way, with a focus on society’s poorest and most vulnerable, including the aged and unborn.

Jonathan Reyes, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development and a convocation planner, sees the gathering as a way for Catholics across the diverse spectrum of the church to unify in Christ.

“The beauty of it for us as Catholics is it’s not just another trade meeting,” Reyes said. “This is centered, as Pope Francis said again and again, in the encounter with Jesus Christ. That’s what holds us together. Even Catholics need a moment of unity these days. Not just our country, but we as Catholics need a moment of unity around Christ.”

The idea of missionary discipleship expressed by the pope has taken root in the work of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. It’s the pre-eminent theme in the 2017-2020 strategic plan the bishops adopted during their annual fall general assembly in November.

Planning for the gathering, titled “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America,” has been underway for a few years. It is being called to examine today’s concerns, challenges and opportunities for action in light of the church’s evangelization mission, Reyes said.

“So we’re going to encounter Christ together, converse together, pray together, encounter one another and talk very practically about what are the challenges, what’s it mean to be missionary disciples at this moment and how do we go out and do it,” Reyes said.

Planners want people to mix and mingle and learn from each other during the invitation-only event.

“This group of people would never be in the same strategic conversations together if it weren’t for the bishops calling them together. They are in all kinds of ministries throughout the church. They are professionals in all the different fields, education, business, teachers. We have people from all socioeconomic groups,” Reyes said.

Such a gathering of bishops and key church leaders has occurred just once before within the U.S. church.

In 1917, in response to the country’s entry into World War I, the bishops met with a select group of leaders to determine how to respond to social needs emerging from the war. That meeting at The Catholic University of America in Washington led to the formation of the National Catholic War Council “to study, coordinate, unify and put in operation all Catholic activities incidental to the war.” After the war, the bishops met to make the council permanent and established the National Catholic Welfare Council, the forerunner to today’s USCCB.

“They were responding to a very different crisis, World War I. But there was a sense of the importance of the moment that the church of the United States had to come together under the bishops to find a way of going forward, a vision of hope for the country and to serve,” Reyes said.

Today, like the wider society, the U.S. church is grappling with how best to respond to rapid sociological changes: demographics including a rising Latino population and people leaving organized religion, an economy that has led to a smaller middle class, a broadening of the legal definition of marriage, polarization along ideological lines and technological advances that have changed how people relate with each other.

How to respond under the guidance of Pope Francis will begin to be discussed during the convocation. Each day has its own theme for participants to consider in light of changing church and social structures:

  • July 1: National Unity
  • July 2: Landscape and Renewal
  • July 3: Work and Witness
  • July 4: A Spirit of Mission

On days 2 and 3, plenary sessions will feature panel discussions pertaining to an aspect of the themes with nearly two dozen breakout sessions exploring topics influencing the church’s work.

Mass will be part of each day as well. The July 3 Mass will incorporate religious liberty as part of the bishops’ annual Fortnight for Freedom observance.

Reyes and planners, including the bishops envision the convocation as a starting point with Pope Francis providing the inspiration through his call to bring the Gospel to others.

“The Gospel is a pretty good thing to rally around,” Reyes told CNS. “You can build a lot unity out of it.”

Follow Sadowski on Twitter: @DennisSadowski.

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