For only the second time in the history of the Catholic Church in America, the U.S. bishops are calling for a convocation of Catholic leaders from all walks of life and every corner of America to “convene, challenge, and motivate Catholic leaders” to embrace the full vision of what it means to be Catholic and to proclaim the Church’s vision of the human person.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) is calling together Catholic leaders from all over the United States for a four day convocation in Orlando, Florida from July 1-4. The purpose is to come up with ways to bring Evangelii Gaudium – The Joy of the Gospel – into the fabric of our nation.
This document lays out a vision of a Church which is dedicated to evangelization in a positive way, with a focus on the country’s most poor and vulnerable, including the aged and unborn. Those attending the convocation will seek to come up with a way to best bring its vision of mercy and joy into the changing social landscape of the nation.
“This has been an ongoing initiative of the Bishops’ Working Group on the Life and Dignity of the Human Person. The gathering will assemble Catholic leaders for a strategic conversation, under the leadership of the bishops, on forming missionary disciples to animate the Church and to engage the culture,” the USCCB states on a website dedicated to the Convocation.
“Unique to this convocation will be the large number of bishop leaders and the hand-picked nature of the diocesan delegation chosen by each bishop. Others will be attending as key organizational leaders of Catholic organizations, apostolates, missions, congregations, institutions, and agencies as identified by the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.”
Attendance is by invitation only and will include leaders within the Church such as those people occupying positions in diocese and parish offices, as well we those who exercise leadership in apostolic efforts outside the diocesan structure such as laity involved in higher education, business, and cultural leaders, as well as Catholic young adults and emerging leaders.
Already five years in the making, this is only the second time such a convocation was called in the United States. The last time was exactly 100 years ago, in 1917, in response to the country’s entry into World War I. The bishops met with a select group of leaders around the country at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC to determine how best to respond to the social needs that were emerging from the war.
“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,” said Jonathan Reyes, executive director of the U.S. bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development and a convocation planner, to the Catholic News Service (CNS).
The purpose of the 2017 convocation will be to bring together people from all walks of life to mix, mingle, and learn from each other.
“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.
Attendees will have much to grapple with – such as how the Church can best respond to sociological changes such as people leaving organized religion, the shrinking of the middle class, the changing definition of marriage, as well as how technology has impacted the way people communicate with each other.
The beauty of this convocation is that it will bring together groups of people who probably would never have encountered one another, or be involved in the same strategic conversations, if the bishops hadn’t called them together.
“So we’re going to have a conversation that could only be had by the bishops,” Reyes said. “That’s needed in this moment. I think everybody agrees we need this conversation. It’s not about the things that divide us. And the beauty is we have this document from Pope Francis, ‘Evangelii Gaudium.’ There was unity around that document when it came out, a document that opens with ‘I invited all of you to a personal encounter with Christ,’ which is right where we want to start,” he told CNS.
“The Gospel is a pretty good thing to rally around,” he added. “You can build a lot unity out of it.”
Let us keep this important endeavor in our prayers!
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