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Catholic News Herald

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070317 convocation

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."

At the convocation 3,500 church leaders -- men and women religious, bishops and laypeople -- gathered to set a new course for the U.S. Catholic Church.

Following a retreat format, each day started and ended with group prayer. Mass was celebrated each day in the hotel ballroom, and there were plenty of scheduled times for the sacrament of reconciliation and private prayer in a large room turned into an adoration chapel.

Many of the keynote sessions took the form of pep talks encouraging delegates to share their faith boldly with the world at large and within their own families and parishes. The numerous breakout sessions provided the working aspect of the gathering: closely examining what the church is doing and where it can do more.

More than 155 bishops attended the gathering, sitting with their delegations for meals and breakout sessions. Cardinals and bishops who spoke at keynote sessions or in Mass homilies encouraged participants that this was their time, their moment, stressing the urgency to bring God's message of love to a divided world.

At the final Mass, described as a "Mass of Sending," Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said the church is called to achieve great things in the face of the impossible -- 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," said Cardinal DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and he urged the delegates to receive God's grace for the work ahead.

None of the homilists or keynote speakers sugarcoated the challenges for the modern church and more than once speakers pointed out that Catholics are leaving the church in greater numbers, particularly young adults, than those joining the church.

But as Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles pointed out: "The saints always loved a good fight and we should like a good fight too."

The bishop, who addressed the crowd through a video hookup July 4, told them it was an "exciting time to be an evangelist" but that they also should pick up their game to evangelize effectively.

Throughout the convocation Pope Francis was pointed out as a model for modern Catholics to follow in inviting others, especially those on the peripheries, to Christ. Speakers also were quick to quote his 2013 apostolic exhortation, "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel"), which lays out a vision of the church dedicated to evangelization -- or missionary discipleship -- in a positive way, with a focus on society's poorest and most vulnerable, including the aged, unborn and forgotten.

Two homilies during the convocation specifically quoted the pope's admonition in "Evangelii Gaudium" that Catholics shouldn't be "sourpusses" but should reflect joy.

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl acknowledged that Catholics are not always comfortable with the idea of evangelizing, but said they need to be willing to step out of themselves and talk with people about their faith as part of an encounter the pope speaks about.

Part of this simply involves listening to people, caring for them and leading them to Jesus, said speaker Sister Miriam James Heidland, a sister of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.

Delegates were repeatedly encouraged to reach out to the peripheries especially to immigrants and the poor but also to all members of the church's diverse family -- people of all races, women and young people.

Hosffman Ospino, associate professor of theology and religious education at Boston College, said it is time for the church to start building a "language of communion" rather than dividing the church community into different groups and individually responding to those needs.

"It's the church serving the church," he said. "We all are the church."

That message inspired Sister Kathleen Burton, a Sister of St. Joseph who is co-director of the Office of Faith Formation, Family Life and Lay Ministry Formation in the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, who said: "The walls need to come down."

"There's a renewed sense of evangelization and re-evangelization," the delegate told Catholic News Service. "We're being challenged that we don't wait for people to come to us, but we've got to go out to them."

For many delegates, seeing the church's diversity -- Latinos, African-Americans and Africans, Native Americans, and Asians from across the continent at the convocation -- was an inspiring sight, helping them better understand the idea of the church as family.

Vanessa Griffin Campbell, director of the Office of Ministry to African American Catholics in the Diocese of Cleveland, said the key to embracing diversity and going to the peripheries will be teamwork among laypeople, clergy and diocesan staff.

The church should "not just open the doors on Sunday," she said, "but make sure our doors are open Sunday to Sunday."

At the end of the closing Mass, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, who attended all four days of the convocation, congratulated attendees for the invigorating discussion.

He called it a "kairos," or opportune moment, in the life of the U.S. church and said he would tell Pope Francis: "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," he added.

— Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service

070317 convocation

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."

At the convocation 3,500 church leaders -- men and women religious, bishops and laypeople -- gathered to set a new course for the U.S. Catholic Church.

Following a retreat format, each day started and ended with group prayer. Mass was celebrated each day in the hotel ballroom, and there were plenty of scheduled times for the sacrament of reconciliation and private prayer in a large room turned into an adoration chapel.

Many of the keynote sessions took the form of pep talks encouraging delegates to share their faith boldly with the world at large and within their own families and parishes. The numerous breakout sessions provided the working aspect of the gathering: closely examining what the church is doing and where it can do more.

More than 155 bishops attended the gathering, sitting with their delegations for meals and breakout sessions. Cardinals and bishops who spoke at keynote sessions or in Mass homilies encouraged participants that this was their time, their moment, stressing the urgency to bring God's message of love to a divided world.

At the final Mass, described as a "Mass of Sending," Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston said the church is called to achieve great things in the face of the impossible -- 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," said Cardinal DiNardo, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and he urged the delegates to receive God's grace for the work ahead.

None of the homilists or keynote speakers sugarcoated the challenges for the modern church and more than once speakers pointed out that Catholics are leaving the church in greater numbers, particularly young adults, than those joining the church.

But as Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles pointed out: "The saints always loved a good fight and we should like a good fight too."

The bishop, who addressed the crowd through a video hookup July 4, told them it was an "exciting time to be an evangelist" but that they also should pick up their game to evangelize effectively.

Throughout the convocation Pope Francis was pointed out as a model for modern Catholics to follow in inviting others, especially those on the peripheries, to Christ. Speakers also were quick to quote his 2013 apostolic exhortation, "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel"), which lays out a vision of the church dedicated to evangelization -- or missionary discipleship -- in a positive way, with a focus on society's poorest and most vulnerable, including the aged, unborn and forgotten.

Two homilies during the convocation specifically quoted the pope's admonition in "Evangelii Gaudium" that Catholics shouldn't be "sourpusses" but should reflect joy.

Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl acknowledged that Catholics are not always comfortable with the idea of evangelizing, but said they need to be willing to step out of themselves and talk with people about their faith as part of an encounter the pope speaks about.

Part of this simply involves listening to people, caring for them and leading them to Jesus, said speaker Sister Miriam James Heidland, a sister of the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.

Delegates were repeatedly encouraged to reach out to the peripheries especially to immigrants and the poor but also to all members of the church's diverse family -- people of all races, women and young people.

Hosffman Ospino, associate professor of theology and religious education at Boston College, said it is time for the church to start building a "language of communion" rather than dividing the church community into different groups and individually responding to those needs.

"It's the church serving the church," he said. "We all are the church."

That message inspired Sister Kathleen Burton, a Sister of St. Joseph who is co-director of the Office of Faith Formation, Family Life and Lay Ministry Formation in the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, who said: "The walls need to come down."

"There's a renewed sense of evangelization and re-evangelization," the delegate told Catholic News Service. "We're being challenged that we don't wait for people to come to us, but we've got to go out to them."

For many delegates, seeing the church's diversity -- Latinos, African-Americans and Africans, Native Americans, and Asians from across the continent at the convocation -- was an inspiring sight, helping them better understand the idea of the church as family.

Vanessa Griffin Campbell, director of the Office of Ministry to African American Catholics in the Diocese of Cleveland, said the key to embracing diversity and going to the peripheries will be teamwork among laypeople, clergy and diocesan staff.

The church should "not just open the doors on Sunday," she said, "but make sure our doors are open Sunday to Sunday."

At the end of the closing Mass, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, who attended all four days of the convocation, congratulated attendees for the invigorating discussion.

He called it a "kairos," or opportune moment, in the life of the U.S. church and said he would tell Pope Francis: "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," he added.

— Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service

Convocation delegates sent home to imitate Jesus in reaching the margins

Convocation delegates sent home to imitate Jesus in reaching the margins

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."

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."

— Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service

For convocation delegates, it's about unifying in faith in a troubled world

For convocation delegates, it's about unifying in faith in a troubled world

ORLANDO, Fla. — For some it was about keeping young people in the church. Others wanted to hear about diocesan ministries in another locale and perhaps bring an idea home. A few more were glad they could be heard by a bishop or two.

Whatever their reason to travel to hot, humid Florida for four days in the middle of summer, the 3,500 delegates to the "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America" headed home July 4 with renewed energy to set a new course for the U.S. Catholic Church.

The convocation, years in planning, was the first time in a century that the bishops convened church leaders -- clergy, religious, seminarians, parish volunteers and professional staff among them -- to respond to social and spiritual quandaries that have left millions of people drifting on the margins of society.

Clergy -- more than 155 prelates and 300 priests -- recognize that the church must respond to those quandaries. While cardinals, archbishops and bishops played leading roles throughout the convocation, they also were on hand to listen. They joined breakout sessions; some did not speak at all. During the final gatherings of diocesan delegations and affiliated groups July 4, bishops could be seen quietly watching and taking notes as the conversations on practical steps to undertake back home unfolded.

Pope Francis fueled the impetus for the gathering. His 2013 apostolic exhortation, "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel"), gave planners at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' another reason for organizing the gathering.

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, unborn and forgotten.

His call for a more merciful church joyfully working on the peripheries of society to heal the wounded inspired the delegates throughout the convocation.

Seeing the pope's call embraced by the delegates was exciting for Jonathan Reyes, executive director of the USCCB Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development and one of the event's lead planners.

Planners were unsure of what to expect as the convocation drew closer, but in the end, Reyes said the outcome "exceeded expectations."

"The joy of the Gospel is real," he said.

Meanwhile, more than 50 delegates interviewed by Catholic News Service said they felt the church -- in all its perturbations and ministries -- began to emerge from its many silos and turfs. They said they realized that no matter their views, they were members of one family and that they could be of better service if they imitated Jesus.

"The walls need to come down," said Sister Kathleen Burton, a Sister of St. Joseph who is co-director of the Office of Faith Formation, Family Life and Lay Ministry Formation in the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey.

"There's a renewed sense of evangelization and re-evangelization," she told CNS. "We're being challenged that we don't wait for people to come to us, but we've got to go out to them."

Delegates acknowledged that missionary discipleship will not be easy, but yet they offered views that indicated they were willing to move beyond their comfort zones in their ministry and take risks to answer the pope's invitation.

They also acknowledged that it was the words of Hosffman Ospino, associate professor of theology and religious education at Boston College, during the convocation's first plenary session that got them to begin thinking differently about church.

Near the end of his presentation, Ospino called on the church to begin "building a language of communion" rather than focusing on how to best serve specific groups of people.

"It's the church serving the church," he said. "We all are the church."

That understanding is becoming particularly important given that Hispanics make up about 40 percent of parish membership nationwide. Whites are at about 50 percent, with African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Native Americans encompassing about 10 percent.

"In the end, when we see the church is filled with different people and we're all worshipping the same, you see we're all one church. These are the things we've been advocating for so long," observed Juan Jose Rodriguez, director of the Pastoral Juvenil program at the Southeast Pastoral Institute in Miami.

The institute coordinates and assists Hispanic ministries in the 30 dioceses of the southeastern U.S.

For many delegates, seeing the church's diversity -- Latinos, African-Americans and Africans, Native Americans and Asians from across the continent -- was an inspiring sight, helping them better understand the idea of the church as family.

Michelle Boyd, a Turtle Mountain Chippewa and a member of the Congregation of the Great Spirit, a Native American parish in Milwaukee, called the diversity among delegates "really amazing." Such diversity also is what gives Boyd hope for the church's future.

The parish incorporates traditional Native American songs and prayers in liturgy and it is what attracted Boyd to return to the Catholic Church. She said similar practices along with outreach in social services, such as the parish's food pantry, show a church going to the peripheries.

"The love is there," she told CNS. "Why can't we all just exercise the love?"

Derek Rotty, director of evangelization and discipleship at St. Mary's Parish in Jackson, Tennessee, in the Diocese of Memphis, told CNS that embracing diversity should make it easier to go to the peripheries. It's something he said his parish must undertake.

Rotty described the parish of about 1,700 families as essentially two parishes – one serving the area's growing Hispanic population and another made up of longtime residents. He said that attending the convocation has enabled him to understand the importance of melding the two into one faith community.

For African-Americans, the convocation gave black participants a chance to address concerns of lingering racism both within the church and society. Reynolds-Anthony Harris, a delegate representing the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, found the convocation an opportunity to discuss "doing things differently."

"There's a sense that the church is really working to acknowledge itself and to open its doors," he said. "I didn't know that before I got here."

Vanessa Griffin Campbell, director of the Office of Ministry to African American Catholics in the Diocese of Cleveland, said the key in embracing diversity and going to the peripheries will be teamwork, with collaboration among laypeople, clergy and diocese staff being a priority.

The church should "not just open the doors on Sunday," she said, "but make sure our doors are open Sunday to Sunday."

— Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service

It's an exciting time to be an evangelist, convocation delegates told

It's an exciting time to be an evangelist, convocation delegates told

ORLANDO, Fla. — Delegates at the "Convocation of Catholic Leaders. The Joy of the Gospel in America" have their work cut out for them but they are equipped to do it, said speakers at the final plenary session July 4.

"The saints always loved a good fight and we should like a good fight too," said keynote speaker Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron of Los Angeles.

The bishop, known by many of the delegates for hosting the documentary series "Catholicism" and the website "Word on Fire," was unable to get to the Orlando hotel where the convocation was taking place because of problems with his flight, so he greeted the crowd through a video hookup.

At the start of his talk, he cited sobering church statistics about the decreasing number of Catholics today that some delegates heard at some of the breakout sessions. For every Catholic who joins the church, six leave, he said, and also the number of "nones" -- those who claim no religious affiliation even if they were Catholic -- is growing.

The bishop let this sink in and then went straight to encouraging delegates to move forward saying: "It's an exciting time to be an evangelist."

A major obstacle challenging Catholics who want to evangelize the modern world is that they are up against as he put it: "a culture of meh," which is akin to a shrug of the shoulders, or an attitude of "whatever" or anything goes.

He said the way to combat this is to show people the beauty of the Catholic Church in its cathedrals and music, the good works of its people and its great intellectual tradition.

The bishop told the delegates who filled the hall for the final session that those who have heard him over the years know how much he hates "dumbed-down Catholicism."

"We need to pick up our game intellectually if we are going to evangelize effectively today," he said, adding that when religion isn't expressed in a smart way people fall away because "superficial Catholicism is not enough to sustain people."

Another speaker, Patrick Lencioni, an author and management consultant, gave the delegates plenty of practical information to take home with them stemming from business models that also can be applied to parishes and dioceses.

He told the delegates that the great ideas they bring home with them from the convocation will only succeed if they are working together with their church, diocesan or ministry groups.

He also said if they don't have holiness or inner peace, "all your efforts to change the world won't work."

The business consultant, who co-founded the apostolate Amazing Parish, also told delegates that they had to be willing to face conflicts and challenges. He urged them to hold others in ministry accountable to do their best work, just as one would of a business employee.

And Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, similarly urged the group to move forward but not in a rushed way. "Let's take a long view of our work, ourselves, our mission," he said.

He also urged the convocation delegates to remember they are not required to go forth and do the work of spreading the Gospel message alone.

"We're not lone rangers," he said. "We are part of a community. We are there to support each other."

— Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service

Use gift of freedom well, Archbishop Lori tells convocation delegates

Use gift of freedom well, Archbishop Lori tells convocation delegates

ORLANDO, Fla. — In the July 3 closing Mass for the Fortnight for Freedom, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori called on Catholics to thank God for the gift of freedom and to pray that they "use this gift well and wisely."

"It's too easy to let this gift lie dormant or be neglected," he said in his homily at the Mass celebrated during the "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America" in Orlando.

Archbishop Lori, chairman of the U.S. bishops' Committee for Religious Liberty, had celebrated the fortnight's opening Mass June 21 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Baltimore.

This is the sixth year of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Fortnight for Freedom -- a two-week period of prayer, advocacy and education on religious freedom. It starts on the vigil of the shared feast day of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More -– martyrs who fought religious persecution -- and ends on Independence Day.

In his homily, the archbishop urged convocation delegates to advocate for those whose freedoms have been denied and to seek better laws and engage political leaders but he also stressed that nothing is more important that bearing witness to Catholic teaching and "fulfilling our mission to love."

He did not list current challenges to religious freedom but he noted that before "religious liberty is a political or legal issue it is first and foremost a matter of human dignity."

He said for Catholics to fully embrace this understanding of religious freedom they might need to "undergo a process of conversion" not unlike St. Thomas, whose feast was celebrated July 3. The apostle would not believe Christ had risen until he touched his wounds and saw it was true.

The archbishop urged Catholic leaders attending Mass in the hotel ballroom to go back to their dioceses and parish settings with a renewed sense of mission and a deeper understanding of religious freedom which he said is "entangled in the DNA of responsive faith."

When Catholics understand how they are spiritually set free, he said, they are able to "witness to those alienated from their faith or those who are lukewarm or on the cusp of vocation or mission."

Isn't that why we came here and what we are praying for, he asked the convocation delegates.

At the start of his homily he told the congregation delegates of his own "doubting Thomas" experience. When he was about 10 years old, the family TV set in their house broke down and was "pronounced unfixable."

During this time, he was visiting a friend, "allegedly doing homework" but he confessed to the congregation he was watching "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom." While he was there, his parents got a call from the parish that they had won a raffle prize of a portable Zenith TV.

"When I got back my parents told me but I didn't believe it. I thought it was terrible they would make up such a story knowing how I felt," he said.

Only later, when the TV was delivered, did he believe it.

The archbishop then spoke of the experience of disbelief on the grander scale of Thomas, whose lack of faith was described by St. Gregory the Great as doing more than the other apostles to rekindle faith. Tradition holds that he spread the Gospel message to present-day India.

His encounter with the risen Lord "changed him forever" and prompted him to "go far beyond his comfort zone" the archbishop said, echoing a theme of the four-day convocation that all Catholics are called to be missionary disciples.

— Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service

 

Convocation delegates urged to take Gospel to struggling people everywhere

Convocation delegates urged to take Gospel to struggling people everywhere

ORLANDO, Fla. — Being Christian is more than accepting Jesus as savior, but requires the faithful to go to the peripheries of society where people are struggling materially and spiritually, Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles told the "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America."

"Jesus calls us to follow him. That is an action, a decision that implies a way of life," Archbishop Gomez said during a plenary session July 3, the third day of the convocation.

He said Pope Francis has focused the mission of the church on going to people on the sidelines of society, he said, calling it a responsibility not just for bishops, clergy and church professionals, but for the entire church.

The pope, the archbishop explained, sees the peripheries as both a physical place and existential. They are places that reflect a society that has determined that some people can be pushed aside or discarded.

"They are places on a map, places where people live. The peripheries are parts of our cities and the rural areas that we never visit. The other side of the tracks. They are where the poor live. They are the prisons and the tent cities in our public spaces. The peripheries are the bitter fruits of neglect, exploitation and injustice. They are all the places our society is ashamed of and would rather forget about," he said.

"But for Pope Francis, the peripheries are more than a physical location or a social category. They are places where poverty is not only material but also spiritual," he said.

The archbishop called such locations places where people "are wounded and feel their life has no meaning and makes no difference," trapping themselves in sin, addiction, slavery and self-deception.

"The pope is saying these peripheries are growing in the modern world and these peripheries are new mission territory," he explained.

Archbishop Gomez, vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, admitted some of these places are "where the church does not like to go, where we do not like to go." Yet, he reminded the 3,500 delegates, Jesus is at the margins, and that as people of faith, they are invited to go where Jesus exists.

"The church has always been present in the peripheries, through our schools, our parishes and our ministries. Sometimes we are the only ones serving these communities. But we can do better, we are called to do more. That is our challenge," Archbishop Gomez said.

He also blamed "elites" for undertaking an "aggressive 'de-Christianization' of our society" to cause people to "'un-remember' our Christian roots and deconstruct everything that was built on these roots."

"With the loss of God, we are witnessing the loss of the human person," he said.

Archbishop Gomez pointed to American society as a prime example of where the need to minister on the margins is vital, especially because families are breaking down and communities are experiencing instability.

"This is one of the lessons from the last election, wasn't it? America is pulling apart. We are a people divided along lines of money and race, education and family backgrounds. People are afraid of the future. They feel powerless and excluded," he told the convocation.

The archbishop urged that such concerns be addressed by the church and the faithful, through being a presence to those in need to help bridge the widening gaps between people.

The answer to such concerns rests with imitating Jesus and meeting people at the "places of pain and injustice, to the places where people forgotten and along."

"Siempre adelante," he said in Spanish. "Always forward."

Carl Anderson, supreme knight of the Knights of Columbus, in an address opening the plenary session, suggested to the delegates that if they "go deep enough into the peripheries, we will see the boundaries between us disappear."

He said Pope Francis and his predecessors, Pope Benedict XVI and St. John Paul II, have urged action for society's forgotten communities. He suggested marginalized people can be as close as the person next door.

Pope Francis asks the church to reach out "in joy in a permanent state of mission," Anderson said. "This great task is for each of us."

A panel discussion during the same session addressed several examples of the church working in the peripheries of the world including ministry with African-American Catholics; the work of Catholic Relief Services in more than 160 countries; care for immigrants along the border in the Rio Grande Valley in the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas; ministry to people with same-sex attraction; and the use of social media as a tool to reach youth and young adults.

— Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service

Pictured: Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori carries a monstrance under a canopy as he leads a eucharistic pro-cession during the "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America" July 3 in Orlan-do, Fla. Leaders from dioceses and various Catholic organizations are gathering for the July 1-4 convo-cation. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

Pictured: Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori carries a monstrance under a canopy as he leads a eucharistic pro-cession during the "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America" July 3 in Orlan-do, Fla. Leaders from dioceses and various Catholic organizations are gathering for the July 1-4 convo-cation. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)

This is your moment to evangelize, convocation delegates told

This is your moment to evangelize, convocation delegates told

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.

"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."

— Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service

Roundtable says church must 'recruit, empower' diverse lay leaders

Roundtable says church must 'recruit, empower' diverse lay leaders

ORLANDO, Fla. — Over 100 Catholic leaders attending the Leadership Roundtable's annual convening in Orlando said the church needs to go beyond "engaging laity" to "appointing, recruiting, promoting and empowering diverse lay leaders."

"This requires laity and ordained being in right relationship as co-responsible for the mission" of the Catholic Church, said the group in a statement released after the close of its June 29-30 meeting.

The Washington-based National Leadership Roundtable on Church Management held its annual convening just before the U.S. bishops opened the "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America" July 1-4 in Orlando.

Under the theme "Engaging, Equipping and Energizing Catholic Leaders for the Joy of the Gospel," the roundtable gathered Catholic leaders from across the United States to explore best practices in developing Catholic leaders as missionary disciples.

"Building upon a framework of empowered humility and creativity in ministry, participants articulated a vision of leaders as missionary disciples grounded in authenticity, joy, relationship and attention to those at the margins," it said.

In its statement, the group said that "formation of leaders as missionary disciples is more than an intellectual experience. It is one that happens through encounter with God's people in vibrant local communities, through mutually beneficial service and immersion experiences."

The Leadership Roundtable listed several key elements it said are needed in such formation of leaders, including:

-- Commitment to action and contemplation centered on Jesus and the Gospel.

-- Building bridges between laity, clergy and religious through shared formation, mentoring and leadership.

-- Partnering "with the full reality of our multicultural, multilingual church and society."

-- Preferential option for people on the margins, and a commitment to engage women, youth and young adults in meaningful leadership.

-- "Engaging people where they are rather than condemning them" and "accepting risk and inviting the imperfect disciple to serve."

The Leadership Roundtable also said it is necessary for church leaders to practice accompaniment by "partnering with" rather than "doing for" and making space and providing resources for people "to create the church to which they want to belong."

The roundtable also cited the need to go outside of one's comfort zone, "especially through short- and long-term mission experiences."

It said the statement "builds upon a framework of empowered humility and creativity in ministry provided by Bishop Frank J. Caggiano of Bridgeport, Connecticut. In addition to drafting the statement, participants at the convening came up with one tangible action to which they each could commit to advance leadership formation in their own work.

Besides Bishop Caggiano, speakers at the convening included Bishop Mark L. Bartchak of Altoona-Johnstown, Pennsylvania; Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Kentucky; Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee; and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore.

— Catholic News Service

Changing landscape requires mutual accompaniment

Changing landscape requires mutual accompaniment, convocation hears

ORLANDO, Fla. — The U.S. Catholic Church's increasing diversity presents Catholics with the opportunity to accompany each other on the journey of faith Pope Francis envisions, a Boston College professor told delegates to the "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America" in Orlando.

Hosffman Ospino, associate professor of theology and religious education at Boston College, said the changes in the landscape are a sign of strength and present new opportunities to welcome newcomers into the church family.

"It's OK if we wrestle with diversity and pluralism," he told the 3,500 delegates assembled for the convocation's first plenary session July 2. "This where we need to exercise the pastoral practice of mutual accompaniment."

Ospino suggested that Catholics of the first decades of the 21st century might begin to understand that they can set the course of a "new Catholic moment in the U.S." by embracing diversity.

Citing the explosive growth of Catholic communities in the American South and West, Ospino said the church is being called to respond to the needs of new immigrants so that they are welcomed and not made to feel forgotten.

He said half of U.S. church members today are non-European, with about 40 percent Latino, 5 percent Asian and Pacific Islanders, 4 percent African-American and 1 percent Native American. The numbers contrast with the church population of 50 years ago, when 80 to 85 percent of Catholics were of European descent, he said.

"The question is do we see those faces in our faith communities? Do we see them in our diocesan offices? Do we see them in our Catholic schools, universities, seminaries? Do we know their concerns?" he asked.

"The future of U.S. Catholicism is being forged in areas once not central to U.S. Catholic life. ... Are we paying attention?" he asked.

"This is an excellent opportunity for us as a country to be a poor church for the poor. As Pope Francis reminds us, an opportunity for solidarity of Catholics at all places," he said.

Ospino also cautioned that the church faces challenges from increased isolation, rising secularization and increasing numbers of people unaffiliated with any faith community, and the continuing differences entrenched in the "so-called culture wars." He called for respectful dialogue among people with differences of opinion across the spectrum of issues that concern the church, from abortion to care for the poor.

"Our society continues to witness an erosion of communal life. If communal life is not important, advocating for others is not a priority. Caring about the most vulnerable is somebody else's problem," Ospino said, explaining that the church can bridge such gaps.

He said the convocation-goers and those they engage when they return to their home parishes and dioceses can set the tone for future historians to see that they have laid the foundation for a stronger church that embraced diversity and inclusion.

In response, four panelists offered their insights into the changing landscape the church is facing, saying that the church will be better positioned to respond following the convocation.

They addressed issues of women's role in the church, the need to embrace young Latinos as active church members and the vital role of family in the church at a time when society's understanding of family is changing.

Franciscan Father Agustino Torres, who has worked with youth and specializes in bilingual outreach to Hispanic millennials said he had found young Latinos want to engage in ministries that affirmed their identity. "Latinos don't want just a program," he said.

"If the church can say, 'You belong here this is your home,' you're going to get an army of people," he said.

Women can be welcomed into church leadership roles that do not depend upon ordination, said Helen Alvare, professor of law at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University. She said women must be accepted seriously as contributors rather than being chosen for their roles to check off a box on a list.

She suggested, to applause, that Catholics adopt an expanded view of complementarity that applies equally to family and the church.

Kerry Weber, executive editor of America magazine, recalled her conversations with parishioners across the country who are seeking ways to live out the joy of the Gospel, as Pope Francis envisioned in his encyclical, "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel").

"People are trying to see how to turn this sentiment into action," she said.

Pope Francis calls people to show mercy, not as a passive action, but in response to the realities of the world today, Weber said, adding, "We have to figure out how to live mercy in the world today."

Jesuit Father Thomas P. Gaunt, executive director of the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University, said the center's researchers have identified as many as one-third of the country's 75 million self-identified Catholics are not connected with the church.

He said the resulting question focuses on why people who may not be connected with the church still consider themselves Catholic and he suggested that they represent an untapped resource for the church.

"How do we re-invite and re-engage them once more?" he asked.

The key, Ospino concluded, is that it is time for the church to start building a "language of communion" rather than dividing the church community into different groups and individually responding to those needs.

"It's the church serving the church," he said. "We all are the church."

— Dennis Sadowski, Catholic News Service

Joy, a sign of God's presence, is what Church needs

Joy, a sign of God's presence, is what Church needs, Cardinal Dolan says

070217 convocation openingORLANDO, Fla. — Catholic leaders attending the opening Mass of the "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of The Gospel in America" were urged to reflect joy -- a sign of God's presence -- and not exclusively focus on the world's problems.
"A big part of the reason behind this promising convocation, folks, is that we, your pastors, believe with Pope Francis, that a renewal of joy is essential for a deepening of Catholic vitality and confidence today," said New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, homilist at the July 1 Mass.
The hotel ballroom in Orlando was transformed into a spacious church for the congregation of about 3,500 delegates -- invited from dioceses around the country -- who were urged to view their time at the four-day convocation as a journey, not just a conference, by Dallas Bishop Edward J. Burns in remarks before Mass.

Read more: Diocese of Charlotte leaders look forward to attending convocation

The Mass was concelebrated by 150 bishops. Readings were in Spanish and English and Prayers of the Faithful were delivered in several languages. A Gospel choir from St. Peter Claver Parish in Tampa, Fla., led the delegates in song.
Cardinal Dolan emphasized that during the gathering people would come to know each other better and also get to know Jesus more, which would be make them effective and joyful in their mission of spreading the Gospel message.
He said this renewal of joy was especially needed at this moment in the Church.
Catholics, the cardinal said, can be tempted to "concentrate on problems, worries, bad news, scandals (and) darkness" which he said can't be ignored but also shouldn't dominate people's lives.
"We can't become, in the folksy term of Pope Francis, 'a Church of sourpusses,'" he added.
Cardinal Dolan also noted that the convocation was starting on the feast of St. Junipero Serra, who started the Franciscan missions known for education, health care and evangelization, but also for joy, which is why people came to the new churches and stayed.
"People may claim they do not want faith, hope or love," he said, but "rare is the person who does not crave joy."
The crowd was already in good cheer, laughing about references to nearby Disney World and other theme parks before Mass began.
Orlando Bishop John G. Noonan asked Cardinal Dolan where he was going after the event and the cardinal replied: "Disney World!" repeating the answer given by many Super Bowl athletes.
Clearly looking for another answer, the bishop turned to the crowd and asked them the same question and they responded, "Heaven!"
"How are we going to get there?" the bishop asked before answering his own question that they would figure out the answer during their time at the convocation and when they returned to their parishes with renewed hope.
Bishop Noonan said the cardinal called him five years ago and said he'd like to come to Orlando in July. "He just didn't say how many he invited!" the bishop joked.
Another message delivered to the delegates before Mass was from Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, read aloud by Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio. The message said Pope Francis hoped the days of dialogue and prayer for the delegates would enable them to return to their Catholic communities and "read the signs of the times joyfully" and follow God's call to be missionary disciples.
The message also said the Holy Father hopes the convocation would "stir up enthusiasm" at every level for encountering Jesus and proclaiming his message of reconciliation and peace.
The delegates did not seem short of joy, greeting one another before and after the Mass and laughing along with Cardinal Dolan in the opening words in his homily when he said he hadn't seen this many priests and bishops since the last Notre Dame football game.
— Carol Zimmermann, Catholic News Service

Pictured at top: Prelates process during the opening Mass of the "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America" July 1 in Orlando, Fla. Leaders from dioceses and various Catholic organizations are gathering for the July 1-4 convocation. (CNS photo/Bob Roller)