Convocation Asks ‘Where Are We?’
Bishop, Others from Rockford Diocese Attend Florida Church Gathering
July 13, 2017

ROCKFORD—Bishop David Malloy and Msgr. Glenn Nelson, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, were among travelers to Florida for the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America.”

The July 1-4 meeting (see story on page 1) was called by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“The gathering was convened to allow the Church, bishops, clergy and faithful, who are in leadership in the Church to come together for a collective review,” said Bishop Malloy.

“It was a moment to ask, ‘Where are we as a Church?’ and ‘Where are we going in order to be faithful to Christ and our Catholic teaching?’

“From prayer together to networking and the opportunity to meet others who share our concerns and faith, the gathering addressed topics and strategies to help strengthen faith and the Church in the United States for the future,” he said.

Among the goals of the convocation was “to form missionary disciples to return home to help bring the ‘Joy of The Gospel’ to those whom we encounter in our everyday lives,” said Msgr. Nelson.

“I was immediately impressed on the opening day by a married couple who talked about their ministry to young couples preparing for marriage and the challenges that many young couples face today resulting from the teachings of our culture regarding human sexuality and how these conflict with the will of God and dignity of the human person,” he continued.

“I was impressed with the vulnerable honesty of the presenting couple,” he added. They talked of their failures as a young couple, and how they “fell short of ... a holiness of life.”

Later, he said, they were challenged by Church teachings and learned they “were not an impossible burden to endure but a freeing structure that helped them grow in holiness, not only as individuals but as a couple.”

After a “kind and loving priest” taught them about “the truth of the Gospel,” Msgr. Nelson said, “they found that what they were ‘not willing to do for the law, (they) were willing to do for love!’ ”  

Delegate sees role for Cursillo

Several lay Catholics from the Rockford Diocese also attended the convocation as representatives of groups.

Marisela Rodriguez-Garcia, a parishoner at St. Joseph in Aurora, is the lay director for the Spanish Language Cursillo Secretariat in the Rockford Diocese.

She was among delegates for for the Spanish language of the National Cursillo Center in Jerrell, Texas. She was selected by the national coordinator to attend the gathering with 16 other national Cursillo delegates.

The gathering “reaffirmed to me that Eduardo Bonnin Aguilo, the founder of the Cursillo Movement was a man that truly viewed a Church of people ahead of his times,” she said. “It reaffirmed for me that the Cursillo movement has so much to do in the world, to bring the  joy of the gospel ‘one on one’ ” to others.

“There is an overwhelming need for those of us who already serve the Lord and the Church to be evangelized,” she continued.

The need includes evangelizing “children who attend first communion class ... not just (to) learn the prayers and the check mark list to be ready for first Communion; for parents who attend baptismal preparation ...; (for) our Youth; especially during the confirmation programs.”

Garcia said with each session her “personal conviction grew for what the Lord does through the Cursillo movement in people’s lives — one person at a time.”

But, though she recalled many “joy-filled moments” from the conference, she was also painfully impressed by some of what she heard.

“I was also very impacted by the level of hurt and wounds in our African-American Catholic brothers and sisters, who are a very passionate and faith-filled part of our Church but feel forgotten or even ignored.”

Evangelizers find inspiration

Co-directors and founders of Evangelize All Ministries, Mike and Lori Pacer of Batavia, were invited by the USCCB last summer to attend the convocation.

“Through prayer and discernment, my husband Mike and I thought that it would be very fruitful as an evangelization apostolate to attend this gathering ... in response to Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” Lori Pacer said.

“The convocation had several take-aways for us,” she said.

Gathering with other Catholic leaders “committed ... to sharing the Joy of the Gospel” in a setting with “beautiful” liturgies that created a “unifying foundation on which to build the presentations and discussion groups” will remain with the Pacers, she said.

“The most impactful part of the convocation was the small break out group discussions,” she added. There, “we had the opportunity to share the missionary evangelization work which our Lord has called us to and to listen to the wonderful works that He has called others to in a spirit of collaboration not competition.  We felt these small groups gave everyone a voice in the church and it’s mission of evangelization.”

Parish trainers look to reach out

Matt Schwartz of Rockford is a trainer, coach and theological consultant for Parish Success Group.

“Our group was invited to exhibit and be panelists for a breakout session,” he said

“My take away is that the more people at the table discussing concerns and strategies for evangelization the better for our church locally and nationally,” Schwartz added.

“In practice,” he continued, “current minsters from cardinals to parish volunteers need to be equipped to reach all people. Parish Success Group, my group, equips and trains parishes and organizations to do just that ... reach people on the periphery.”

Lessons abound

Each of these delegates found inspiration or challenge in the gathering.

“We were very touched by the interaction of the magisterium, clergy and religious with  the lay disciples in these small groups and thorough out the convocation,” Lori Pacer said.

Garcia said she plans to share “all that I have learned with my parish, specifically with my pastor and of course in the diocesan Cursillo Movement.

“I felt very encouraged with a short but meaningful conversation with our Bishop Malloy on the first day of the convocation when he offered to support the Cursillo movement in anything that he can, including celebrating Mass for us,” she added.

“This convocation inspires us at Parish Success Group ... to bring the Gospel to every aspect of parish life,” Schwartz said.

Msgr. Nelson emphasizes a call for all Catholics to share the faith after the convocation.

“Imagine that not only the 3,000-plus participants at the convocation, but each one (of us is) called to share the ‘Joy of the Gospel’ with others ... in our families, at work, with those we encounter in our daily life.

“Our faith is not meant to be limited to one hour a week on Sunday. Our faith is meant to encompass all that we are, and everything we do,” Msgr. Nelson said.

“One of the final talks at the convocation,” said Bishop Malloy, “reminded everyone present that the Second Vatican Council summed up our baptismal vocation as the call to holiness. That put many things in the proper perspective.

“The convocation was not intended to give detailed strategies to our modern challenges,” he added. “Those challenges are too numerous to be resolved in one meeting and the Church in a country as large as ours has differences in different areas.

“But what unites us for the present and the future is the call to holiness, the call to be conformed to Jesus in 2017 and beyond. That is our challenge for the future.”

— Penny Wiegert, Editor; Sharon Boehlefeld, Features Editor