Testimonies from the #CatholicConvocation

Four-day convocation in Orlando called ‘a journey’ for U.S. and local church

ORLANDO, Fla. (CNS) — Theirs was a monumental responsibility: shepherding lay leaders, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, religious, deacons, musicians, event staff and a legion of volunteers at the historic “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America” July 1-4 in Orlando. “This convocation is a journey, and there will be three of us here to guide you through the next four days,” said Bishop Edward J. Burns of Dallas, one of the event’s emcees. The consistent presence — on stage and off — of Bishop Burns, along with emcee Julianne Stanz, director of new evangelization for the Diocese of Green Bay, Wisconsin, and moderator Gloria Purvis, co-host of “Morning Glory” on EWTN Radio, kept the entire program flowing smoothly despite any behind-the-scenes hiccups.

Sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the convocation brought together more than 3,100 lay and religious leaders from 160 dioceses and 185 national organizations (See local delegates on page 4). They gathered to explore the current challenges and strengths of the church and its evangelization efforts. “All the good, dedicated, committed lay faithful present truly touched me,” Bishop Burns told Catholic News Service, “especially knowing that they are the Catholic leaders in their dioceses and Catholic organizations.”

The West River Catholic did online interviews with three of the local delegates. “It was a privilege to represent the Diocese of Rapid City at the Convocation of Catholic Leaders. Centered on Pope Frances’ Evangelii Gaudium, it was an opportunity to celebrate the beauty of our Catholic faith with the U.S. bishops and a rich diversity of lay and religious leaders from across the country,” Dionne Eastmo, Rapid City, said.

“Together we explored the cultural landscape of the Catholic Church and identified those who might be lost in the peripheries (such as the sick, poor and imprisoned). We were reminded that as missionary disciples we must be authentic witnesses to best impact those in need of the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. In the upcoming months, our delegation will meet to discuss further how we can share the pope’s vision of new and creative ways to engage our culture.”

Whitney Driscoll, Spearfish, said, “The convocation had so much to offer and there is so much for the diocesan team yet to discern, but if I had to pick one thing that I would personally do it would be to encourage all Catholics to read Pope Francis’ book “The Joy of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium).” The convocation discussions were based around this book and I think it encourages Catholics to reflect and have discussions about the state of our church and the personal role we serve. I think most Catholics will find it inspiring and refreshing and might be surprised at what we are called to do.”

Jenny Black Bear, of St. Francis, agreed it was a blessing and an honor to be invited by Bishop Robert Gruss to attend the Convocation of Catholic Leaders. She said, “It was a great learning experience to take part in. We saw how diverse the Catholic Church really is. There were many young people, clergy, religious, lay leaders from all over the United States. There was so much joy in this weekend.

“I feel very inspired and look forward to sharing what we learned about discipleship, unity, joy, mission, and hope. We all gathered together to gain so much knowledge and to return home with tools to bring joy to the gospel to all our people in our communities, parishes, and diocese.”

Drawn from CNS and WRC staff reports

Back row: Dionne Eastmo, Carol Brown Otter, Ben Brown Otter, Amy Julian, Vince King, Father Michel Mulloy, Ben Black Bear, and Whitney Driscoll

Front row: Father Mark McCormick, Susan Safford, Sr. Jacque Schroeder, Val King, Bill White, Jenny Black Bear, and Laurie Driscoll