ALLOUEZ — What does it take to be a disciple?
That’s what the keynote speakers and several workshops for the 10th annual Leadership Convocation for the Green Bay Diocese will explore on Oct. 27. Held at the K.I. Convention Center in downtown Green Bay, the day will host several hundred participants from parishes and schools across the Green Bay Diocese.
Bishop Christopher Coyne, bishop of Burlington, Vt., and Sister of St. Joseph Madge Karecki, a consultor for the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, will give the keynotes.
“The main thrust of the day reflects Bishop (David) Ricken’s plan, Disciples on the Way,” explained Mary Ann Otto, stewardship and special projects director for the diocese and chair of the convocation planning committee. “Both keynotes address current issues in discipleship, one being the importance of social media to grow disciples and to proclaim the good news, and the other making the connection between our baptism and our call to evangelize in word and witness.”
“Disciples on the Way” is Bishop Ricken’s invitation to all Catholics of the Diocese of Green Bay to a missionary journey into the new evangelization. His six-year plan was released in spring 2014, as a follow-up to his pastoral letter entitled “Parishes: Called to Be Holy, Fully Engaged, Fully Alive.”
Bishop Coyne, chairman of U.S. bishops’ Committee on Communications, will speak on “Digital Discipleship.” He was the first priest with a blog to become a bishop and communicates frequently on Facebook, Twitter and through his blog, “Let Us Walk Together, Thoughts of a Catholic Bishop.”
A digital disciple, Bishop Coyne told The Compass, “is first of all a disciple, someone who not only goes to church and participates in the life of the church, but who truly tries to live out their life as a follower of Jesus Christ, each and every moment of their lives. It permeates who they are and what they do. Therefore, a digital disciple is just a disciple present in digital media.”
He added that being a disciple present in the media means “being a positive presence within the internet — bringing goodness to a place that can be dark at times — not only through use of media, but by evangelizing the digital media itself. (It means) changing the context, the values and the outcomes that are a part of the use of digital media, changing much of what is out there from the bad to the good.”
Bishop Coyne noted that, in modern society, digital media is everywhere, connecting people, giving information — both “forming and malforming us” — through digital experiences. In an Oct. 17, 2016, piece in America magazine, he wrote, paraphrasing Karl Barth, that digital disciples should “hold the Bible in one hand, and a mobile device in the other.”
He promised to expand upon that idea in his Oct. 27 keynote, continuing “the conversation about how we are living in a digital culture and the impact that has for us as ministers in the church.” He added that people need to remember that the use of digital media “is not neutral — it forms us, changing the ways we react and interact with each other. We clearly have to discuss that and the implications it has for us as a church.”
Sr. Madge Karecki’s keynote will be on “Missionary Discipleship: A Way of Life.” She told The Compass that the difference between living as a missionary disciple and being a missionary — which she was for 25 years in South Africa — is about being in relationship. That relationship is rooted first with an encounter with Jesus Christ — who is part of the Trinity, which exists in relationship — and then on relationships that develop “if we go out of ourselves.”
She added that one thing “we have to learn when we go on mission — which is not ‘bringing something or doing something for people’ — we may do that, but it is all based on relationships and the witness of our lives.”
She said that being a missionary disciple “calls me to conversion. We have to be ready for that. If we aren’t ready to change, to become more and more like the one we love, it’s not going to work.
“This is not for the faint-hearted,” she added. “If you’re going to be serious about mission, this is not a walk in the park.”
However, Sr. Madge added, “I think we’re making this much too complicated. We as Americans like to turn things into a program. When we do the program, then it’s finished. We’re done. Mission life is forever.”
When she hears people in parishes say that they don’t feel competent to be a missionary because “I don’t know the Bible enough” or “I can’t quote Scriptures,” she tells them to remember the person first. “The first approach is a human one,” she said, pointing out how Pope Francis does it: touching people, hugging people, building showers at the Vatican for the homeless.
“He connects with people,” she said. “That human element is very important. You can have all the talents, but if you miss that human element in relation with people, you aren’t going to get too far in that mission.”
Sr. Madge will also present a workshop on “The Foundation for Fruitful Mission: A Growing Desire to be Like the One We Love.” In it, she will explore how to become closer to God.
“God wants everyone to be intimate with him,” she said. “The intimacy of contemplation is not for a few, it’s for many. But what do we have to do to open ourselves to that intimacy?”
The themes of discipleship and mission will continue with workshops throughout the day from presenters including Susan Vogt, an award-winning author and family and ministry expert; Fr. Dan Felton, vicar general of the Diocese of Green Bay; and Jerry Garcia, regional director of La Casa Hispana de Fox Valley. A two-part workshop on the implementation of the new edition of the Order of Celebrating Matrimony will also be held.
For more information about the 2015 Leadership Convocation, call 877-500-3580, ext. 8295, or visit www.gbdioc.org/convocation.