Debriefing the Convocation of Catholic Leaders

Over July 4th weekend, the US Bishops hosted the "Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America."  As 3,500 participants traveled to Orlando, FL for this historic event, a central question was asked, "how ought the Church respond to Pope Francis' invitation to missionary discipleship?"

I asked myself this same question, applying what I knew of the Holy Father's document, Evangelii Gaudium, to the space of campus ministry.  By the time I had left the convocation, at least a part of the question had been answered.

The Convocation gave 155 bishops the opportunity to talk but also to listen. I sat in on several workshops and was impressed with the presence of many bishops who simple wanted to hear the perspective of the laity.  Bishops were everywhere during the Convocation and seemed to enjoy being participants as well as leaders. 

Several observations are particularly important to me:

  1. The event was inspiring; whether the Matt Maher concert, the mile-long Eucharistic procession or the sheer volume of participants, one could not leave with a sense that the American Catholic church is dead.
  2. The event was honest; Dr. Hosffman Ospino told it like it is in the first plenary session as the first second half of the 20th century brought traumatic change for the Church in America. For the Church to succeed, it must adapt and respond with humility and bravery.  Difficult topics were addressed such as immigration, racism and same-sex attraction.  
  3. The event depends on the local commitments of participants 'in the field'; too many topics were covered for the Bishops to create a response.  Rather, the most effective follow up of the Convocation will  depend on the commitments of dioceses and organizations.  The event gave participants a chance to dialogue at the end of the Convocation as to how they would follow up.
  4. The Convocation featured several prominent campus ministers and CCMA champions; whether Katie Diller, Kerry Robinson, Rosie Shawver or Patrick Lencioni, CCMA members had much to smile about throughout the event.  You can watch Patrick's keynote here:

The Catholic Standard from the Archdiocese of Washington has this summary of the event.

Some other photos of the event are below: