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Black Catholics at congress urged to ‘listen, learn, think, act and pray’

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ORLANDO, Fla. — United by the words of the prophet of social justice, Catholic Church leaders urged black Catholics to become active, just disciples of Christ. Read more »

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Black Catholics at congress urged to ‘listen, learn, think, act and pray’

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Catholic News Service

ORLANDO, Fla. — United by the words of the prophet of social justice, Catholic Church leaders urged black Catholics to become active, just disciples of Christ.

More than 2,000 converged on Orlando July 6-9 for the 12th National Black Catholic Congress where speakers — clergy, lay and religious — addressed a variety of topics and concerns facing black communities and families, while urging those present to take an active, enthusiastic role in living out the Gospel as just disciples of Christ.

Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, center, celebrates the July 9 closing Mass of the 12th National Black Catholic Congress in Orlando, Fla.(CNS/courtesy Nancy Jo Davis, National Black Catholic Congress)

Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, center, celebrates the July 9 closing Mass of the 12th National Black Catholic Congress in Orlando, Fla.(CNS/courtesy Nancy Jo Davis, National Black Catholic Congress)

During his homily at the opening Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Mary, Queen of the Universe, Father Patrick Smith, pastor of St. Augustine Parish in Washington, spoke about the “ridiculous power of the Christ on the cross” and how our own suffering can be offered up to God as a source of healing for others.

It is important the community does talk about its struggles, the priest said, but it also must talk about the redemptive power of God on the cross. He added while “racism ultimately leads to death … a spiritual suicide in our souls,” the truths of the Gospel sets lives free.

“That is our anger, but also our source of hope,” he said. “You and I cannot appreciate the good news unless we first face and acknowledge the bad news.”

The roots of the Black Catholic Congress stem from 1889 with layman and journalist Daniel Rudd, who brought together 100 black Catholic men to exchange and discuss questions affecting their race for not just Catholic blacks, but blacks across the country, and unite for a course of action while standing behind the Catholic Church and its values.

The group met with President Grover Cleveland during its first congress. In meeting and uniting, Father Smith said the Catholic Church demonstrated and voiced how “black Catholic lives mattered,” just as other groups have done as they convened when a group has suffered, such as with the pro-life groups who proclaim unborn lives matter.

“Black Catholics are born from the same womb of the baptismal font,” Father Smith said, adding that those gathered for the congress did not convene to achieve higher status, but rather to insist on “inclusion” because black Catholics are equal members of the body of Christ.

“And also, more importantly, (we gather) to extort and challenge ourselves to do our part and accept the responsibility in our role in the Church that God has given us. … We gather to see how to effectively evangelize because eternal life is way too important.”

Ghanaian Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, offered the opening keynote address that focused directly on the theme of the congress taken from the prophet Micah – “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me: Act justly, love goodness and walk humbly with your God.”

His first point reaffirmed the united community of disciples of Christ and the need of inclusion of all “children of God.”

“When Pope Francis speaks, he doesn’t speak to nations, races and tribes; he speaks to humanity invited to be disciples of Jesus. And we respond first and foremost to this,” Cardinal Turkson said. “For there is no Gospel for Africans. There is no Gospel for Americans. There is no Gospel for Italians or Europeans. There is one Gospel for all of us created in the image and likeness of God we seek to respond to. … God’s children all belong together. None are set aside, none should live on the periphery and none are excluded.”

To demonstrate the power of being a disciple of Christ, Cardinal Turkson spoke about the story from Exodus of the Israelites following Moses in the desert. He asked those gathered to envision facing the Red Sea with the waters of parted and a path sandwiched between two walls of water.

The cardinal joked “water is never concrete” and some might have questioned what would happen if there was a really big wind. But the example of the Israelites who choose to follow Moses and trust God to hold up the walls of water demonstrates the courage and attitude that modern-day Christians must hold to be baptized in Christ and become just disciples of Christ.

“That is what baptism is. It is not a nominal celebration. It is a decision to live dependent on making Jesus your everything,” Cardinal Turkson said, borrowing the words of St. Paul who said after his conversion, “The life I live now is no longer mine.” “Anyone baptized lives that life. … It is not until you surrender your life to Jesus that you will live as a just disciple of Christ.”

Justice, reconciliation and peace are tantamount to unite the church family of God. While Cardinal Turkson said challenges such as tribalism in Africa and racism and discrimination in America present struggles, the Catholic Church family is invited to live beyond divisions and live in communion as children of God.

“In this family of God we need to live justly,” he said. “When we respect the demands of our relationships, we are just.”

By Jean Gonzales, who is on the staff of the Florida Catholic, newspaper of the Archdiocese of Miami and the dioceses of Orlando, Palm Beach and Venice.

 

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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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Catholics in Florida remember victims of Pulse nightclub shooting

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ORLANDO, Fla. — On the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, the Diocese of Orlando broadcast via Facebook Live a prayer service attended by clergy of various faiths to remember June 12 the 49 who died during the largest mass shooting by a single gunman in the country’s history.

A man prays in front of the memorial outside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., June 12, the one year anniversary of the mass shooting. The Diocese of Orlando broadcast via Facebook Live a prayer service attended by clergy of various faiths to remember the 49 who died June 12, 2016, during the largest mass shooting by a single gunman in the country's history. (CNS/Scott Audette, Reuters)

A man prays in front of the memorial outside the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., June 12, the one year anniversary of the mass shooting. The Diocese of Orlando broadcast via Facebook Live a prayer service attended by clergy of various faiths to remember the 49 who died June 12, 2016, during the largest mass shooting by a single gunman in the country’s history. (CNS/Scott Audette, Reuters)

Orlando Bishop John G. Noonan was joined by local religious leaders of various faiths at the St. James Cathedral for prayers and hymns and the lighting of candles remembering each one of the Orlando victims, as well for cities and towns touched by terrorist attacks and violence around the world.

For Orlando, the city’s brush with terrible violence arrived June 12, 2016, as gunman Omar Mateen went on a shooting rampage at the club in the early hours, firing at club-goers after having pledged his allegiance to known terrorist groups and individuals, authorities said. He was killed during a shootout with police. Many of those fatally shot at the club were gay. 

While the violence was taking place and even after it stopped, various faith groups, including Catholics, arrived to help the victims and assist their families, as well as authorities responding to the massacre.

“We need to walk with and accompany everybody; there is no exception,” said Bishop Noonan during the Call to Prayer anniversary ceremony. “We treat everybody with dignity because they are made in the image and likeness of God and that’s what it’s all about.”

The nearby Diocese of St. Petersburg tweeted “A prayer for Orlando” June 12, saying “we cherish each person as a child of God.” Many Catholic churches around the United States participated in tolling church bells 49 times on the anniversary of the massacre to remember those who died.

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Maryland priest hopes summer convocation sparks missionary renewal

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Catholic News Service

 

WESTMINSTER, Md. — For Father Mark Bialek, being a priest means enabling his parishioners to evangelize in new ways.

“We can’t just sit comfortably anymore in our parishes and our chanceries and in our homes, but we have to actually go to where the sheep are,” Father Bialek said, comparing the church to a flock.

Father Bialek will attend the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America,” a national gathering in Orlando, Florida, from July 1-4, to learn about evangelization and share ideas with other Catholic leaders. Read more »

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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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Trump visits Catholic school in Florida to show support for school choice

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ORLANDO, Fla. — President Donald Trump visited St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando March 3 to show his support for school choice.

The president was joined by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, and Florida Gov. Rick Scott in a tour of the school that started with a visit to a fourth-grade class.

U.S. President Donald Trump chats with students from St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando, Fla., March 3. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also joined the president. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

U.S. President Donald Trump chats with students from St. Andrew Catholic School in Orlando, Fla., March 3. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos also joined the president. (CNS photo/Jonathan Ernst, Reuters)

The visit was called a listening session.

One of the tour guests was Denisha Merriweather, who attended a private high school through Florida’s voucher program, which she credits with turning her life around.

“We want millions more to have the same chance to achieve the great success that you’re achieving,” Trump said. The president also told school administrators that “the love you have for what you do is really fantastic,” The Associated Press reported.

In his address to Congress Feb. 28, Trump said that education was the “civil rights issue of our time” and urged Congress to pass legislation to fund school choice for disadvantaged young people, but he did not offer any details.

St. Andrew Catholic School, which opened in 1962, teaches 350 children from pre-K to eighth grade. On its website it says: “Our goals are simple: college and heaven.”

The school partners with the University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education, or ACE,  which serves under-resourced Catholic schools.

A March 3 statement from ACE said the president’s visit gave the St. Andrew’s students “a historic opportunity to share their story with the nation.”

“We are acutely aware that the current political climate is among the most polarized in American history,” the statement said. “These divisions have real implications for relationships here in the St. Andrew community.”

It also stressed that “every family has the right to choose the best school for their child” and that “because of the parental choice program in Florida, this school will continue to empower families, form faithful citizens, strengthen the Pine Hills community, and provide children with educational opportunities.”

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Diversity theme dominates U.S. bishops’ meeting in Baltimore

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BALTIMORE — A groundbreaking new study commissioned by the bishops that finds diversity abounds in the U.S. Catholic Church is a clarion call to Catholic institutions and ministries to adapt and prepare for growing diversity, said Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller of San Antonio. Read more »

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