3 Takeaways from the Convocation of Catholic Leaders
3 members of the Burning Hearts Disciples team joined almost 3,500 participants at the USCCB's 2017 Convocation of Catholic Leaders. The goal of the gathering was to 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.
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.
Over the next few weeks we'll be sharing some of our personal insights from the Convocation, the impact this national strategic conversation will have on our apostolate's mission, and our hope for the long-term fruits that will result in the American Catholic Church.
UPDATE: Watch the videos of the Plenary Sessions at USCCB Video On Demand.
Takeaway #1: Unity As the Body of Christ
Immediately upon arriving at the Convocation, it was clear that the first day's theme of "unity" was going to be more than just a buzzword. 3,500 bishops, clergy, religious and laity, including five of the six residential cardinals in the country - featuring delegations from more than 80 percent of the dioceses in the county and all 50 states - were gathered with one unified purpose: to explore The Joy of the Gospel and how to live it out in the Church in the United States.
It was very profound and moving to be in one space with all those fellow Catholic Disciples listening to our Apostolic leaders, and having them listen to us. As we prayed and celebrated the opening Mass, I felt Jesus' love for us and our love for him and each other throughout the room. I found myself thinking,
This is what it means to BE the Body of Christ; although we don’t live it perfectly, we are all the same body of Christ.
Despite the divisions that plague our country - including the ones that have seeped into our Church - the call was clear: We need to always remember we are the Body of Christ and we must do a better job of acting like it and live in love and ‘unity’.
Takeaway #2: Call to Personal Holiness and Humility
Over the course of the next few days, we participated in numerous breakouts designed to help us drill down into the specifics of how to evangelize and live as missionary disciples in a variety of diverse and unique situations. A reoccurring message throughout these breakout discussions was personal holiness and humility.
For example, In the breakout on some of the challenges in the landscapes one of the panelists, Sr. Marie Kolbe Zamora (Department Chair of the Theology Program at Silver Lake College) challenged us to always be the ‘smallest person in the room’. When asked a question on how to get through to those that are resistant and even angry, she paused reflectively and said ‘love them’!
One of my prayers for all of us attending the convocation is to go back to our parishes, our jobs, our homes and our neighborhoods with humility, to love those put before us while always keeping our journey of personal holiness in the forefront.
Takeaway #3: Living (not just Talking) as Missionary Disciples
Lastly, after reflecting on the entire experience, I realize that our Bishops and Cardinals did not preach to us about radical missionary discipleship, they lived it.
They walked with us, and there was lots and lots of walking (the convention center was huge), They listened to us and asked us our thoughts and opinions. They shared their stories and their encounters with Jesus. They prayed with us and they committed to continue the journey with us. Jesus was so alive and evident in their lives. I found myself thinking “I want more of what they have”!
I left with the challenge that my life of a radical missionary disciple will leave others with the thought “ I want more of what she has”!
Burning Hearts Disciples Convocation participants with Sr. Marie Kolbe Zamora