GREEN BAY — The invitation by Bishop David Ricken for Catholics in the Diocese of Green Bay to become missionary disciples calls for conversion, said Sister of St. Joseph Madge Karecki.
“For a long time, even now, people think of conversion as somebody becoming Catholic,” she said in an interview with The Compass at Leadership Convocation 2016, Oct. 27 at the KI Convention Center. “We don’t think about our own conversion. (Missionary discipleship) really takes a conversion about how we think about who we are. That’s why I like to emphasize that it’s a way of living. It’s not just a work. Anyone can do a work. How do we live that shows that we are concerned about others, that we are reaching out, that we are sensitive to people’s needs?”
Sr. Madge presented “Missionary Discipleship: A Way of Life” at the convocation. She did double duty, delivering both keynotes at the event. Bishop Christopher Coyne of Burlington, Vt., had been scheduled to present the afternoon keynote address, “Digital Discipleship,” but was unable to make the trip due to a death in his family.
Sr. Madge stepped in and continued to build on her morning talk, which explored connections between mission and liturgy, mission and spirituality, and mission and contemplation. She opened by explaining the role that baptism plays in the invitation to mission.
“Baptism is central because that’s how we learn how to participate, how to become missionary disciples,” she said. “How many of you know the date of your baptism? That day should be celebrated with gusto and vigor. It was on that day that we really became participants in the new life that only Christ gives.”
Sr. Madge is a consultor for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Evangelization and Catechesis. She earned a doctorate in Missiology (the theory of mission) from the University of South Africa. Bishop Ricken, whose invitation for missionary discipleship stems from his pastoral plan, “Disciples on the Way,” sought to have Sr. Madge speak in the diocese following a presentation she made for the U.S. Catholic bishops.
Sr. Madge, who spent 22 years in South Africa, referenced Ad Gentes, the “Decree on Missionary Activity of the Church,” released during the Second Vatican Council. The decree “sent out a deeper understanding of what mission is” in the life of a Catholic, she said. The laity cannot be supporting the mission through money and prayer only.
“We are bound to go out to people to bring about the fullness of God’s plan,” said Sr. Madge. “We have to be a prayerful people. We have to be in touch with the Lord if we are going to be his ambassadors. We are meant to carry out God’s plan.”
Some Catholics may define mission as going to another country. That mindset of mission needs to change, she said.
“People say to me, ‘You were a missionary in South Africa,’” explained Sr. Madge. “’Yes, I was, now I’m a missionary here.’ That’s the thing; they don’t realize that we have to be on mission everywhere. It’s not packing up your duds and going to another country.”
Sr. Madge focused on contemplation and mission during her afternoon talk. She explained the need for regular prayer.
“Basically, prayer is about growing in love,” she said, “and love for us is in a person, the person of Jesus.”
Catholics need to ask themselves an important question, she added.
“What do we desire? We should not desire what God can do for us. It is desiring God alone,” she said.
When asked about missionary discipleship beginning at home, Sr. Madge said that sharing passages from Scripture with children is important.
“They have a great capacity for God. They love Jesus. We have to keep nourishing that,” she said. “It’s important that they learn our prayers. Teach people in the family to sing hymns, to sing psalms, to sing antiphons. St. Augustine said that singing is praying twice.”
Tips for sharing spiritual values at home was the focus of one of 14 breakout sessions offered at the convocation. Susan Vogt, who served in family ministry for 20 years and has written multiple resource books for parents, traveled from Kentucky to present two workshops on faith and family. Two breakout sessions — one on leadership and a second on Care Ministry — were offered in Spanish.
Bishop Ricken, who celebrated Mass to open the convocation, said that Bishop Coyne, chair of the U.S. bishops’ committee on communications, has offered to speak in the diocese about digital discipleship at another time. Leadership Convocation 2017 is scheduled for Oct. 24 at the KI Convention Center. Mary Ann Otto, stewardship and special projects director for the diocese and chair of the convocation planning committee, said that attendance is expected to triple for next year’s event. Catholic schools in the diocese will not have classes that day so faculty and staff may participate.
Leadership Convocation is partially funded through the Bishop’s Appeal, a grant from the Catholic Foundation and support from the event’s exhibitors.
VIEW MORE PHOTOS: To view additional photos from Leadership Convocation 2016, visit our Flickr page.