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Convocation of Catholic Leaders

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.
 
Deacon Phil Lawson, director of evangelization and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington and one of the convocation attendees, said it was “inspiring to be part of such an incredible and joy-filled gathering as the Church in America looks to move forward.”
 
The concept of a joy-filled missionary discipleship “must undergird all of our efforts in the Church—from our institution to our outreach to the margins of our society,” he said. “There are so many who are hurting, wounded and marginalized. The Lord can heal those hurts. And we have the privilege and responsibility to be the Lord’s instruments of mercy and love in the world. What a privilege and responsibility!”
 
Members of a panel of Church leaders who spoke at the convocation, 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."
 
Deacon Lawson said the convocation energized him for his ministry in Vermont: “The Lord continues to send us out into the world, but He never sends us out alone—always two by two right? To be with some 3,600 other Catholic leaders all seeking the same goal was inspiring and enlivening.”
 
Also in attendance was Bill Gavin, director of youth and young adult ministry for the Diocese of Burlington.
 
-- Vermont Catholic Content Editor and Staff Reporter Cori Fugere Urban contributed to this story.
 
 
 
  • Published in Nation

Delegates prepare for Convocation of Catholic Leaders

The 3,000 people attending the upcoming Convocation of Catholic Leaders are being seen as members of diocesan teams who will return home to act on what they see and learn while discussing the church's role in a changing social landscape.

A combination guidebook and journal has been developed to help the delegates prepare for the gathering in Orlando, Florida, set for July 1-4.

The 68-page book offers activities for the diocesan teams as they meet during the weeks leading to the gathering, allowing them to reflect and pray on Scripture and the teachings of Pope Francis, particularly his apostolic exhortation "Evangelii Gaudium" ("The Joy of the Gospel").

"To get something done, we want people to have prepared as teams before they come in to get more out of (the convocation)," said Jonathan Reyes, executive director of the U.S. bishops' Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development and a convocation planner. "What you get out of this is what you put into it."

The booklet is being sent to each registered participant to the invitation-only event. It also is available online to anyone interested in learning more about the convocation at bit.ly/2rR6OTY.

Reyes told Catholic News Service that the guidebook encourages team members to plan which sessions to attend that fits with the goals of their diocese in building a church built on mercy and missionary discipleship.

"In the ideal world, it's forming a team that brings together people from the peripheries who are not normally together. This book is what's going to help them think as a team before they get there. It gives them some things to reflect on together," he explained.

"We're trying to make clear that this isn't the kind of thing you attend passively and that bishops and leaders are meant to be integrated in a conversation of the whole church together and experience the conference not as the bishops over there, the laypeople over here. It's actually meant to be everyone mixing together in conversation," Reyes added.

The guidebook offers numerous Scripture citations and references to passages from the pope's exhortation. Delegates are encouraged to read some of the passages and pray about what they mean for their particular role in the convocation and the church at home.

A separate section includes space for journal entries based on the discussion of each day of the convocation. The idea, Reyes said, is to allow participants the opportunity to reflect in the moment and then return to their writings when they return home.

"It's spiritual preparation as well," Reyes said of the book. "It's deeply scriptural and there's a lot of "Evangelii Gaudium" as well as some other key church documents from the bishops. It's a lot of Scripture and a lot of Pope Francis."

The convocation is meant to guide people to build the church that Pope Francis is calling people to shape, Reyes added.

"We didn't want to create a program. This (convocation) is for people to design or think through together what mission looks like. Pope Francis says again and again, 'Don't do the same old things.' You want to think creatively. So we're not going to put together a program, but people are going to experience, hopefully, in a way that gives them a way forward, a vision for their own," he said.

Meanwhile, more than $500,000 had been pledged to support scholarships for people attending the convocation. Reyes' department and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development have allocated $100,000 each in financial assistance. The Black and Indian Mission Office has pledged another $300,000.

The goal of such scholarships is to allow diverse voices to be on hand in Orlando, Reyes said.

"If there's a Francis inspiration in this, it's let's not just talk, (but) act," he told CNS. "So we are pushing action, action, action through proper preparation."
  • Published in Nation
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