Catholic leaders from throughout the diocese
to take part in July 1-4 Joy of the Gospel forum
By Jay Nies
The Jefferson City diocese will be well represented at the upcoming Convocation of Catholic Leaders, to be held July 1-4 in Orlando, Florida.
Participants at this event, the largest ever convened by the U.S. Catholic bishops, will focus on equipping and reenergizing Catholic leaders to form missionary disciples, invigorate the Church and help it meaningfully engage the culture.
Catholic leaders from diverse backgrounds all over the United States have been invited to participate.
The event’s theme — “The Joy of the Gospel in America” — comes from the title of Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation on the New Evangelization in the Church.
“Inspired by ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ (‘The Joy of the Gospel’), the Convocation will hopefully form leaders who will be equipped and re-energized to share the Gospel as missionary disciples, while offering fresh insights informed by new research, communications strategies, and successful models,” stated Deacon Dan Joyce, diocesan communication director.
The event is also an opportunity for the Church in the United States to examine today’s concerns, challenges and opportunities in the light of the Church’s mission of evangelization.
Participants will be sent forth, ready to engage the world with the joy of the Gospel.
Participants from this diocese will include:
- Marianne Cline, a Catholic school teacher, youth minister and director of religious education at St. Francis Xavier parish in Taos;
- Chris Korte, director of the Catholic Newman Center at Truman State University in Kirksville, and former youth minister for Mary Immaculate parish in Kirksville;
- Deacon Lou Leonatti, who serves at St. Brendan parish in Mexico, has been involved in parish revitalization efforts, and serves on the diocesan deacon formation board;
- Jose Lopez, an active young member of Sacred Heart parish in Columbia, and events coordinator for the Jefferson City diocese;
- Nestor Montenegro, an active member of St. Patrick parish in Sedalia, and is in formation to become a permanent deacon;
- Celina Pinedo, a religion teacher at Father Tolton Regional Catholic High School in Columbia;
- Father Dylan Schrader, a priest of the Jefferson City diocese who is pursuing a doctorate in systematic theology from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.;
- Deacon Rick Vise, who serves at St. Robert Bellarmine parish in St. Robert, and has been active in youth ministry, adult faith formation, and evangelization; and
- Sister Mary Ruth Wand of the School Sisters of Notre Dame, pastoral minister of Annunciation parish in California, who has many years of experience as a Catholic school teacher and administrator.
Money contributed to last year’s Catholic Stewardship (CSA) will help cover some of their expenses.
“Lighting a fire”
Ms. Cline, who works with young people, is excited about getting together with bishops and many other people to help prepare each other to spread the Gospel in new ways.
She talked about the Holy Spirit “lighting a fire” and “giving even more fuel to the fire” regarding the Church’s efforts to reach all people throughout the United States.
She’s looking forward to hearing ways people in other dioceses have responded to situations and current realities.
She’s eager to discuss the rampant “busy-ness” of everyday life that often leaves parents and young people wishing they had more time to cultivate their faith.
“It’s our job to help them enter into a relationship with other people and with God and help them see that as the central priority of their life,” she said.
Mr. Korte, who works with college students, is looking forward to gathering with other Catholic leaders and listening together to the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
He said proclaiming the Joy of the Gospel is a topic that has always been close to his heart.
He hopes participants in the Convocation don’t get dragged down into gloomy discussions and dark statistics.
“I hope we come at it from the standpoint of encountering God in one another and finding ways to lead even more people into that encounter,” he said.
He said it’s important when ministering and evangelizing to accept the fact that things are almost never ideal.
“You have to meet people and respond to them where they are,” he noted.
He’s not looking for a better marketing plan but rather “finding more effective ways to reach out and offer the gifts and treasures of our faith and our Church,” he said.
“We need to do better”
Deacon Vise, who’s active in parish life and ministering to young people, said the foundation of the Convocation will be “the call to missionary discipleship.”
He believes Catholic Christians in this country struggle with evangelization.
“We do not do a very good job of sharing our faith with others, Catholic or otherwise,” he said. “We need to do better, especially with those who have left the Church for one reason or another.”
He’s encouraged by the fact these issues are going to be discussed at length in such a large forum.
“It clearly demonstrates to me how important these things are to the leaders of the Church in this country,” he said.
He believes the Convocation “has been designed to give us some new tools to take back to our diocese and parishes to help educate and perhaps ‘fire up’ the flock.”
He’s not of the mindset that the Church needs to “change with the times.”
“Rather, it is time for us Catholics to return to the faith, to better encounter Christ in a day-to-day basis in a society that makes it very difficult to do so,” he said.
“In the trenches”
Fr. Schrader, a priest and teacher, hopes the outcome of the Convocation will be “greater glory to God through the salvation of people.”
He noted that many in this generation of young people, much like the generation before them, have turned or are turning away from the faith.
“Yet, in the midst of all that, with all the disadvantages and discouragement, there are young people responding to Jesus and trying to live a holy life,” he noted.
He sees groups of Catholic young adults, like the one in Jefferson City, actively helping one another and taking responsibility for their own faith formation.
Ms. Pinedo, who teaches high school theology, said she’s excited about meeting with other Catholics who are working “in the trenches” — “encouraging them to strengthen and unite their efforts, igniting a fire for the New Evangelization in our hearts, in our dioceses and the whole United States.”
She believes hearing about how other people respond to some of the same issues the Church here faces can provide “insight and inspiration for our own effort.”
Deacon Leonatti, who’s been very active in efforts to revitalize and reenergize his parish, hopes the Convocation will lead to a concrete action plan to reenergize the Catholic Church in the United States and “to reach out to the periphery of society, to the unchurched and to Catholics who are no longer practicing their faith.”
He said he’s encouraged by the intense interest he’s observed among active Catholics in seeking to it that their faith is passed on to the next generation.
“Openness to the Spirit”
“The Holy Spirit is alive and well among us!” said Sr. Mary Ruth, who ministers to people of all ages at Annunciation parish.
She believes the role for her and the convocation’s numerous other participants will be “to further the mission of Christ through dialogue with representatives from across the nation — pray, learn, listen and help the Holy Spirit to touch the hearts of the Church.”
Sr. Mary Ruth is eager to represent the people of this diocese well, absorb whatever she can throughout the proceedings, and “be a good transmitter” of what takes place there, when she gets back home.
“I have been around a long time and certainly love God’s people here!” she said.
She hopes the convocation and the plans that come from it will help bring about “new enthusiasm and support as well as ideas for spreading the Word of God around the nation.”
She believes all of this will be built on the existing foundation of “the goodness of our people and leaders and our desire to continue to grow in faith.”
She asks for prayers for all the participants to “be open to the Holy Spirit, listen and dialogue honestly, and be good instruments in ministry to God’s people.”
Mr. Lopez, who as diocesan events coordinator works primarily with young people and with the growing population of Hispanic Catholics in this diocese, requested prayers for God to provide all of the Convocation’s participants “true openness to the work of the Holy Spirit.”
“That being said, we can’t just focus on the participants, but also the parishes and families who the participants will be ministering to upon their return,” he said.
The Convocation’s purpose, he noted, is to help participants become better instruments and resources to the people in the pews and those who remain outside the church walls.
“Just as we participants are asked to be open to the Spirit, the parishes and the diocese as a whole need prayers for an open heart and mind,” he said.
For more information about the Convocation of Catholic Leaders, go here.
Prayer for the Convocation of Catholic Leaders
O Holy Spirit, You Who first enkindled in our hearts the joy of the Gospel, renew that same joy in those who are preparing for the Convocation of Catholic Leaders.
Enflame the hearts of our bishops and their diocesan delegations; leaders of national organizations and movements; clergy, religious and laity; all who make this event possible; and Catholic leaders across the United States.
Move us to welcome the Word of Life in the depths of our hearts and respond to the call of missionary discipleship.
O Holy Spirit, transform our hearts and enable us to enter into the perfect communion that You share with the Father and the Son.
Mary, Star of the New Evangelization, pray for us! Amen.