by Ed Harpring
A team from the Archdiocese of Louisville had the rare privilege of attending the Convocation of Catholic Leaders – “The Joy of the Gospel In America” – for four days in Orlando over this most recent Fourth of July weekend. I am delighted to have been a part of our local team attending this ground-breaking gathering along with over 3,000 attendees from dioceses, apostolates and Catholic organizations from all over the country.
I have attended many conferences in the past, but this one definitely did NOT follow the typical conference format of listening to speakers, taking notes and then sharing what you have learned when you return. This convocation was totally different.
According to one of the key organizers, Jonathan Reyes, Executive Director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Department of Justice, Peace and Human Development, the convocation “aims to create a national conversation that will energize Catholic leaders to help the local Church go forth boldly and respond confidently to the concerns, challenges and opportunities of modernity with the perennial joy of the Gospel.
We have just been stunned by the number of apostolates, missions, ministries and services there are in this country that are all over the place — at the diocesan level, at the parish level, at the national level — and they are all doing good things. They are all asking the right questions in their own different way, but they’ve never been together in the same room. And we thought the bishops can call them all together for a moment of national unity — we need unity in a deep way, in both the Church and the wider culture — for a moment of confidence in the Gospel, to set out in the deep, and to just be called to be missionary disciples.
The Convocation will respond to four key questions:
- What is the nature of this current historical moment in the Church and in our nation?
- How do we respond to this moment as missionary disciples?
- Where are we called to go and to whom are we being sent?
- How will we engage this mission?
These are challenging questions, no doubt, but the Church is facing a more and more secular culture evidenced by the following alarming trends:
- The total number of Catholics in the United States dropped by 3 million since 2007.
- More than a third of all millennials – those born between 1981 and 1996 – claim no affiliation, and just 16 percent identify as Catholic.
- For every one Catholic convert, more than six Catholics leave the church.
- The number of unaffiliated, or the so-called “nones,” is shooting up to about 23 percent of the total population from just 16 percent seven years ago.
The bishops have identified two essential outcomes of the Convocation
- The participants, with new insights, will be better prepared and energized to share the Gospel as missionary disciples.
- They will equipped with new communications strategies and models of evangelization to meet the challenges of an ever increasing secular culture.
By all measures, the Convocation was an outstanding success, with many conversations still continuing via the many catholic news channels and social media sites.
Use the hashtag #CatholicConvo to join in the discussion and check out the Convocation’s webpage on the USCCB’s website at http://bit.ly/2tzXcjx with videos from the event as well as many other documents and bits of information.