Convocation inspires MN delegates, expected to inform local synod

| July 7, 2017 | 4 Comments

Delegates listen to speakers July 2 during the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America” in Orlando, Fla. Leaders from dioceses and various Catholic organizations gathered for the July 1-4 convocation. CNS

The importance of finding unity amid diversity, striving for personal holiness and going “out to the peripheries” to accompany people who feel marginalized were among the central themes delegates from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis took away from the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America,” held in Orlando, Florida, July 1-4.

Along with Archbishop Bernard Hebda and Bishop Andrew Cozzens, 21 people from the archdiocese attended the gathering, which explored challenges and opportunities before the Catholic Church in the United States.

Archbishop Hebda described the convocation as “a great opportunity to bring people together from broad backgrounds, to have the opportunity to explore the present state of the Church in the United States, and to hear about what’s being done in other places to promote missionary discipleship.”

He confirmed that the experience will likely inform an upcoming archdiocesan synod, plans for which he first announced last fall, but for which the dates or structure have yet to be determined. He added that the convocation was a “very powerful example of Church,” especially in moments of prayer and the opportunities delegates took to share their lives with each other.

Selected by Archbishop Hebda, the delegates represented the archdiocese at the convocation, as well as different generations, leadership roles, cultural backgrounds and vocations, from young parents to clergy to professed religious. Together, they listened to speakers, attended break-out sessions and discussed experiences and ideas.

Yen Fasano, a delegate from the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, prays as Catholic musician Matt Maher performs July 3 during the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America” in Orlando, Fla. Leaders from dioceses and various Catholic organizations gathered for the July 1-4 convocation. CNS

Convocation delegate Yen Fasano, 34, said she was struck by how much the Church’s landscape has changed in her lifetime. A parishioner of St. John Neumann in Eagan who works with the Vietnamese-American parish St. Anne-St. Joseph Hien in Minneapolis, Fasano noted that Asian Americans are the fastest growing group within the U.S. Church, and she is hoping to better engage Vietnamese-American Catholics into the life of the local Church.

Among the questions considered, she said, is whether chancery and parish leadership reflects the Church’s diversity.

“Is there a bridge from a small parish to the greater family of the archdiocese?” she asked. “Do they have a voice?”

Claudia Roman Jimenez, the Latino youth coordinator for the archdiocese’s Office of Latino Ministry, also felt inspired by the conversation around Church unity. In working with Latino youths, she said, her job shouldn’t be to foster Latino Catholic leaders, but rather Catholic leaders who are Latino.

A parishioner of St. Dominic in Northfield, Jimenez, 28, expressed concern about the rates of young people leaving the Church and becoming “nones,” people who profess no religion, and said that beauty has a role in bringing them back. She said there’s hope because “they wanted more from the Church,” and the Church can deliver.

She added: “Showing them the beauty of the Church, and then the goodness of the Church, and then the truth of the Church — in that order — is going to be our greatest ‘weapon,’ per se. Before, I think there was a lot of ‘this is the truth of the Church, so this is why you should be Catholic.’ But now, people are so dissatisfied, so you first have to show them beauty, because everyone can relate and connect with beauty more easily than they connect to the truth.”

Delegate Tim Marx, Catholic Charities of St. Paul and Minneapolis’ president and CEO, said he was particularly interested in questions around the Church’s mandate to help people in need and delving deeper in living out its social teaching.

Like other delegates, he said he was honored to attend the convocation, and he felt renewed hope for the Church’s future and its attention to people in need.

Reaching people on the margins is a central theme to Pope Francis’ “Joy of the Gospel,” the convocation’s guiding document, as well as Catholic Charities’ work, Marx noted.

“To be able to bring that perspective of those with whom we work in our community and to keep that at the table … was one thing that I could bring,” he said.

Marx said the real work of the convocation happened in the conversations that occurred in the breaks between sessions and times set aside to process different speakers’ messages or ideas.

“What it did is brought people together of every possible perspective … and there were so many conversations within delegations like ours, between delegations, with me and my Catholic Charities colleagues across the country,” he said. He said he took the opportunity to ask others from other dioceses “deep and hard questions.”

“Like anything … it’s the follow-through that will determine whether the promise of this convocation can be realized, and that will be up to us and the archbishop’s leadership,” he said.

Peter DeMarais, St. Paul Outreach’s Minnesota mission director and a delegate, hopes SPO’s experience with evangelization can be a tool to help the Church at large.

“One of the things that we need to do is rally the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and to build a people and a community within our parish and within in our archdiocese,” said DeMarais, 29, a parishioner of St. Mark in St. Paul. “We need to go out as a people [and be] a Church that goes forth as a people, witnessing by our love for one another and also our love for the world.”

He cautioned, however, against creating “strategies” to connect with a single demographic, such as the “nones.”

“It can actually hurt us when we put them in a category or a box,” he said. “What we want to be is a people that cares for an individual.”

Delegate Sheryl Moran, an artist and longtime volunteer in the archdiocese and at her parish Our Lady of Grace in Edina, hopes that through the convocation’s impact, Catholics nationwide come to a deeper faith. At the convocation, she said, “Everyone there felt like the Holy Spirit is working in a really powerful way, like a powerfully historic way,” and that the Church is poised for “something new to happen.”

Moran, 54, said she feels called to find the peripheries in her own community. People in her parish aren’t necessarily poor, she said, but many are unhappy and don’t know Jesus.

“Every person that gave a keynote talk mentioned and emphasized the point that faith is not following rules, it’s a relationship with Jesus Christ,” she said.

Among Archbishop Hebda’s takeaways is that the archdiocese is a “microcosm” of the U.S. Church at large.

“Many of the things people talked about — building trust, the importance of being able to work our way through conflict, the importance of making sure that all stakeholders are involved in exercising leadership in the Church — those things are true on the national level, and they’re true here as well,” he said.

He added: “We trust that it’s Christ’s desire that his Gospel be spread, and so if we commit ourselves to internal conversion to Christ, if we allow him to use us to spread the Gospel, that we can be confident that he’s going to be able to sew the seeds through us.”

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  • Brad Utpadel

    One of my favorite Catholic Evangelization missions didn’t have a very favorable report from the “going out to the peripheries”; Joy of the Gospel in America Convocation. https://www.churchmilitant.com/video/episode/vortex-the-church-of-nice-and-easy#.WWDhWaaC6dI.gmail

  • Charles C.

    “Showing them the beauty of the Church, and then the goodness of the Church, and then the truth of the Church — in that order — is going to be our greatest ‘weapon,’ per se. Before, I think there was a lot of ‘this is the truth of the Church, so this is why you should be Catholic.’ But now, people are so dissatisfied, so you first have to show them beauty, because everyone can relate and connect with beauty more easily than they connect to the truth.”

    Well, then, it’s time to admit that the Church has disarmed herself. First we have to persuade people that the Church is beautiful? Are we going to do that by showing them any American Catholic Church constructed in the last twenty years or so? Will people be impressed by the near total lack of art and statuary? Will we play for them “On Eagle’s Wings,” or “One Bread, One Body?” It has been noted many times, and even in The Catholic Spirit, that men are running from the liturgy, sometimes described as “limp-wristed.” Whatever beauty the liturgy had we are trying to eliminate.

    What do you do for people with different ideas of beauty? Will they leave if their tastes change? Do we get into a “beauty arms race” with other churches and denominations in order to keep our parishioners? (By the way, who was the most beautiful angel?)

    The only sound reason to belong to any church is because it has the truth about Man and God. The Chinese underground Church doesn’t care about beauty, they risk their lives for the truth. Without care we will divide into two churches; one which is acceptable to the World and it’s fashions, and the Underground Church, acceptable to God.

  • Ann Mongoven

    I’ve been following our MN Delegation’s experiences in Orlando with great interest and appreciate the Catholic Spirit’s reporting through the end of the first conference. Now that the National Black Catholic Congress has begun their conference in the same space with over 30 Minnesota delegates, I’m disappointed to see no coverage. Surely you have relationships with this delegation and can lift up them up by sharing their stories with us.