I am still not entirely sure how it all happened, but, over the Fourth of July weekend in Orlando, Fla., I found myself on a large and beautiful stage welcoming over 3,500 people to “The Convocation of Catholic Leaders,” all of which was livestreamed and televised on EWTN. It was the most terrifying, overwhelming and at the same time profoundly moving experience of my life.
Delighted and humbled to represent the Diocese of Green Bay as a co-emcee for the event, along with Bishop Edward Burns of Dallas and Gloria Purvis of EWTN, how I came to be in this role at the convocation is a mystery known only to the Holy Spirit!
The fruit of five years of planning, the convocation was the response of the Catholic Church in the United States to Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel.” And joyful it certainly was. But far from being an event for a small group of people, the convocation aimed at invigorating the Catholic Church in the United States. It is an experience meant for each one of us.
A national moment of unity, the convocation was a clarion call for us to become missionary disciples who — nourished by their conviction of the Gospel message and the love of God the Father — rush to share this good news with the world. We don’t “have” a mission, we were reminded at the convocation, we “are” a mission. Each one of us has been created in the image and likeness of God and has a unique mission and witnesses to the Gospel.
So how do we share the Gospel? The convocation emphasized many of the following themes:
- The power of our own story. Each one of us has a story of faith that can help others to see how the Holy Spirit is working in their life.
- Have confidence in and be bold in sharing the Gospel. Faith is personal, but it is not meant to be kept private.
- Go out! The word go is mentioned in the Bible more than 1,200 times for a reason. We are called to go out and bring the good news to people and places most in need.
- Look to Mary, our Blessed Mother, as the first and best disciple. She will guide us to her son and protect us if we remain close to her.
- Stay connected to our heavenly Father in prayer. Prayer and partaking in the sacraments are the means by which we are nourished so that we can share with others.
My favorite moment from the convocation was a deeply personal one and is an experience from my family that I wish to share with you. One Sunday at Mass, as we were going up to receive the Eucharist, my son, Ian, who was 3 at the time, shouted out at the top of his voice, “Come on everybody, get movin’ for Jesus!” As you can imagine, this story garnered quite a chuckle from the crowd!
At the end of the convocation’s closing Mass, the papal nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, gave a report on the convocation that he was preparing for Pope Francis. At the end of his talk, he stated that he would not be ending with a quote from a pope, an archbishop or a document, but instead fittingly with the words of a child. You can imagine my surprise when he ended the convocation with the words of my son Ian: “Come on everyone, it’s time to get moving for Jesus!”
Now those are words we can all live by as we strive to become missionary disciples.
Stanz is director of the diocesan Department of New Evangelization and co-author of “The Catechist’s Backpack.”