When a diverse group of more than 3,000 Catholic leaders convene in Orlando, Florida, they will be coming up with ways to best reflect the church’s missionary call in today’s world.
The invitation-only convocation will gather bishops, heads of
national Catholic organizations and lay movements, leaders of religious
orders and diocesan ministries and outreach programs.
It also will
feature a number of nationally known Catholic speakers.
But the participants will be the experts, is how Jonathan Reyes, one of the organizers, sees it.
In a mid-January presentation to U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’
employees about the convocation, Reyes, executive director of the U.S.
bishops Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, said the
event was about: “How do we carry on our mission in this trying time?”
He also said the event - “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of
the Gospel in America” July 1-4 in Orlando - will be a sign of unity
for the church because it will bring diverse groups together to discuss
and share not only their challenges but more importantly, their ideas,
resources and tools for moving forward.
This gathering did not come together spontaneously but has been in
the works since 2009 through the work of numerous bishops’ committees:
pro-life activities; evangelization and catechesis; religious liberty
(ad hoc); domestic justice and human development; international justice
and peace; and laity, marriage, family life and youth.
The plan, from the outset, has been to bring Catholic leaders from
across the country to closely examine and figure out how to best live
out Pope Francis’s call for all Catholics to be missionary disciples in
today’s world as expressed in his 2013 apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii
Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”).
Dioceses will be sending delegations chosen by their bishops, and
other attendees will be key leaders of Catholic organizations,
apostolates, missions, congregations, institutions and agencies
identified by the USCCB.
In a video explaining the event on the U.S. bishops’ website -
www.usccb.org/convocation - Reyes said the four-day event will be
divided into three sections. There will be a number of short talks
looking at the challenges facing Catholics in society.
The bishops will lead sessions in explaining the role of missionary
disciples and asking participants to rededicate themselves to this work.
The other key aspect of the meeting will be the breakout sessions where
diocesan teams and other group leaders can meet and figure out ways
At the bishops’ meeting last fall, Bishop Richard J. Malone of
Buffalo, New York, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on Laity,
Marriage, Family Life and Youth, said the convocation will be an
opportunity for church leaders to cross “church silos” as a sign of
He cited in particular the differences within the church between
pro-life and social justice advocates and said he sees the event as a
way to bridge the divide.
In the video and his remarks to USCCB staff, Reyes echoed that there
are clear divisions among Catholics today that in some ways mirror
society at large - particularly with regard to areas such as social
justice, evangelical and pro-life.
He said the convocation aims to be a “powerful moment of Catholic
unity,” bringing Catholics together “who would otherwise never have the
occasion to be in the same room together” under the leadership of the
bishops to focus on the way forward in the faith.
He and the other organizers also don’t see the event as a
self-contained gathering but as a launch for the church at large, once
participants return to their organizations and dioceses with newfound
fervor and tools.