What an incredible experience! The nation’s bishops were privileged to interact with some wonderful Catholic people. In my case, not only did I get to know better some of those doing wonderful ministries in parishes throughout our diocese, but I also got to listen to some incredible speakers on the national level.
The background to the Convocation was Pope Francis’ wonderful Encyclical, Evangelium Gaudium. It is there that Pope Francis points out that there are three focuses to evangelization and ministry. The first is that which we typically associate with parish life: Mass and Sacramental ministries, along with parish community events. This focus of ministry grounds the life of practicing Catholics and leads us more deeply into communion with our triune God.
A second focus of evangelization is to those who no longer practice the Catholic faith regularly. They remain a part of our church, perhaps in an imperfect communion, but they are a part of us. Reaching out to them is critical to the wellbeing of the body of Christ — the Church.
A third focus of ministry is on those who have no relationship with Christ. This is what most Catholics associate with the term evangelization. For us to preach the Gospel to them, especially by living joyful lives that witness to God’s love and mercy, is crucial. In one way or another the Convocation spoke to each of these levels of ministry and fruitful ideas for evangelization flowed.
There was a host of different breakout sessions each participant could go to. Like most diocesan representations, our group chose to split up so that the eight of us could cover as many of the topics as possible. I focused on contemporary culture and media, vocations to priesthood and religious life and the concerns of rural life in America.
If there were one significant take-away for me, it would be that I don’t want to face God one day never having invited at least one person into the joys and life that I know as a Roman Catholic. What an incredible blessing it would be for our diocese if every member, in the remaining weeks of summer, invited one person who has no church to consider becoming Catholic. After all, there isn’t one community in our diocese that doesn’t have unchurched people. Our RCIA groups would flourish, our parishes would grow, and the body of Christ would be more complete. Success, however, isn’t the key.
The key is to be an instrument of God’s grace by issuing the invitation. So — if you’re willing — look around, and trust me, you’ll find that person Jesus wants you to invite to the Church. Let go of the fear of rejection or failure. Be the evangelizing Catholic that Christ calls you to be today.