Convocation examines today’s concerns, challenges and opportunities

It is hard to believe that only nine weeks ago we celebrated the Sacred Triduum and Easter Sunday. I recall the great joy of those who answered the call to enter into the Catholic faith on that Holy Saturday night. Each in their own way answered the call to come and follow Jesus in a new way.

Since Easter, I have been on the confirmation circuit, traversing the diocese, helping those who were confirmed to come to a deeper understanding of what Jesus is asking of them as he pours out the gift of the Holy Spirit upon them, sharing with them the seven gifts which will help them to become mature disciples. These gifts and the power of the Holy Spirit have been given to all who have been confirmed so that all of us can live as true witnesses of Christ in our everyday lives. This is our call in Christ. As to whether we take it seriously, only each of us can answer for ourselves.

This is at the heart of the mission of the Diocese of Rapid City. I wonder, even after the Diocesan Priority Plan was promulgated and Through Him, With Him, and In Him – A Spiritual Guide to the Diocesan Priority Plan was shared across the diocese, if most parishioners would know the mission statement of the diocese — it is the mission statement of each one of us.

Here it is again: We, the Diocese of Rapid City, through the power of the Holy Spirit, are called to attract and form intentional disciples who joyfully, boldly and lovingly proclaim and live the mission of Jesus Christ, leading to eternal life.

This propels us into the New Evangelization, stemming from our baptism and strengthened through the sacrament of confirmation. In his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium (Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis has been very clear about this in writing: “The word of God constantly shows us how God challenges those who believe in him “to go forth.” In our day Jesus’ command to “go and make disciples” echoes in the changing scenarios and ever new challenges to the Church’s mission of evangelization, and all of us are called to take part in this new missionary “going forth.” Each Christian and every community must discern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the “peripheries” in need of the light of the Gospel” (#20).

In response to this call the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has taken seriously Pope Francis’ exhortation to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by this joy of the Gospel growing in our own call to missionary discipleship of Jesus Christ as well as helping to form others in this call.

The USCCB is convening “The Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America” on July 1-4 in Orlando, Florida. Under the guidance of the bishops, this gathering of diverse Catholic leaders from around the country will provide an opportunity for the church of the United States, to

examine today’s concerns, challenges and opportunities in the light of the church’s mission of evangelization. They will be equipped to go forth, ready to engage the world with the joy of the Gospel. The Diocese of Rapid City will be represented by a diverse team of fourteen leaders from across the diocese.

Two key outcomes for the convocation include: first, leaders will be equipped and re-energized to share the Gospel as missionary disciples, and second, they will come away with new insights from participation in strategic conversation about current challenges and opportunities informed by new research, communication strategies and successful models. From these conversations, the hope is that participants will bring back — to the diocese, their parishes and our ministries — tools, resources and renewed inspiration to apply and move forward the “Joy of the Gospel” and Pope Francis’ desire to create a church of missionary disciples who lead others to a “missionary conversion” so that, together as the body of Christ, we can have a profound impact on the culture and society in a dynamic way.

This convocation will be of great value as we move forward the mission of the Diocese of Rapid City. To that goal, I would ask that this Convocation of Catholic Leaders, its participants and the ministry which flow forth from it be lifted up in your daily prayers, asking the Holy Spirit to direct and guide these efforts. Pastors, please include an intercession for this intention in the Prayers of the Faithful at the weekend Masses of July 1-2.

Only together can we live our mission and build the kingdom of God in western South Dakota. May God abundantly bless you and your families.