On Independence Day weekend, Bishop Richard Malone, along with 18 other representatives from the Diocese of Buffalo, participated in the Convocation of Catholic Leaders in Orlando, Florida. The four-day event brought together a diverse group of over 3,000 Catholics who joined more than 150 bishops from across the United States to respond to Pope Francis's call, inEvangelii Guadium, "to embark upon a new chapter of evangelization marked by the Joy of the Gospel, to become ever more, and to form others as missionary disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Each day began and ended with a group prayer session and, in between, included panel discussions and dozens of specific breakout sessions ranging in topics from "Engaging with disconnected Catholics" to "Understanding Migrants and Refugees".
The local group will take what they learned at the Convocation, meet on a monthly basis and, in the next several months, come up with some recommended ways parishes can reach out to the peripheries of their communities to share the faith.
As this is only the beginning of a process that will include many thoughts and ideas, here are some early reflections from some of the 19 local delegates who will work together over the next several months to expand upon their participation in the Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America:
-Mary Beth Coates, Director, Lifelong Faith Formation
"It was such blessing to be in the presence of so many brilliant individuals who intensely love Our Lord. Young people have an incredible amount of drive and passion, yet many lack meaning, direction and often times authentic joy in their lives; my particular hope, now that I have returned, is to draw out and harbor those beautiful capacities in our youth towards building up Mother Church, and helping them to find their greatest purpose in life: to fall in love with Jesus Christ. "
Suchyna, Dynamis Young Adults
"The Convocation stressed how important it is to go to the peripheries and be equipped by excellence for a better evangelization. I hope to share what I learned with my colleagues of the African Commission at the Diocese of Buffalo and make (together) a plan of how we can evangelize in our community and in our respective parishes."
-Benoit Kabayiza, Diocese of Buffalo African Commission
"This is an exciting time for the Catholic Church, not just in Buffalo but in the United States. It is time for us to focus on developing the laity in our church with a strong formation program in all areas. Disciples are made but not born so we need to equip everyone in our parishes on the "how" to become missionary disciples."
- Jim Mulé, Principal, St. Amelia School
"The Convocation helped me more clearly see some of the peripheries in our church and society, particularly for youth and young adults. I hope that our delegation, in collaboration with many others in our diocese, will help all the faithful in Western New York to live and share their faith more fully and have a greater sense of being sent on mission to those in need."
-Kathy Goller, Director, Youth & Young Adult Ministry for Diocese of Buffalo
"I would suggest the delegates from the Diocese of Buffalo need to come together for an evangelical discernment and engage all the Catholic ministries in our diocese to "name the current realities" and identify the "preferred future." There may be an opportunity to develop a vision statement and strategic plan and move away from random acts of kindness to one of strategic value and significance, and thrive, flourish and not just drift."
-Bart Rodrigues, Senior VP & Chief Mission Officer, Catholic Health Administrative & Regional Training Center
"I took away from the Convocation great hope for the future of the Church in the US. There was honest assessment at the Convocation and a recognition of the urgent need to evangelize in new loving ways."
-Althea T. Porter, Ph. D., Office of Cultural Diversity, Blessed Trinity Parish
"I learned that no program will change anything. We need to change our attitude. We need to learn from Christ to love everyone, especially on the fringes. "
-Fr. Ryszard Biernat, Secretary to the Bishop
"The convocation was an action-packed energizing renewal of our Catholic faith, enriched by sharing and gathering Catholic leaders from both clergy and laity from across the county. Each one of us belonging to the church ARE the action steps to a revitalization of the faith! My continued prayers that all the information and ideas will successfully be brought back to our Diocese through all the wonderful existing Parishes/Schools/Ministries/Seminary, with open hearts and minds to take action where they are being called to do so."
-Cheryl Calire, Director, Pro-Life Activities
"I hope to spur a spirit of witness and innovation for the joy of the Gospel in Western New York. Real parish vitality will come less from doing more things, and more from doing the right things. Perhaps this is the real challenge, because sometimes the enemy of the best is a good."
-Dennis Mahaney, Office for Evangelization and Parish Life, Diocese of Buffalo
"The convocation helped to remind and inform me of issues of the larger American Church that we can sometimes insulate ourselves from in our own particular region or diocese or even parish. The challenge to answer the baptismal call of the Gospel with joy, energy and enthusiasm can at times challenge all of us — there is much that can and needs to be done. The ideas we shared highlighted the need for all of us as a Church to work as one. I can see that happening already in many ways in Buffalo, but I pray the convocation will bring a new vigor to our ministry and outreach, especially to those who feel , for whatever reason ,that they cannot call the Church home. It's up to all of us to invite and dialogue and witness to our identity in Christ and to recognize the needs of all of our brothers and sisters."
-Rev. Seán Paul Fleming, Saint Amelia Parish
"We have a beautifully diverse Church and it was easy to see that the Holy Spirit is at work, prompting us all to fall more deeply in love with Christ and to share that love with those around us. My hope is that we, as the Diocese of Buffalo, will respond to the urgent challenges before us by renewing our commitment to share the joy of the Gospel as missionary disciples in our families, parishes, and communities. "
-Jeff Papia, Director of Mission Integration and Campus Ministry, Hilbert College.
"We need to 'go out', sometimes beyond our comfort zone, to journey in faith with all people, bringing the Gospel message of God's love as demonstrated by our actions, words, and deeds. Thus, we become missionary disciples, following the example set by the first disciples of Jesus."
-Karen Smaczniak, Director of Faith Formation, St. Mary, Swormville , NY
"We can't get others to feel what we feel as Catholics unless we live it every day, and take every opportunity to invite people who may just be waiting for an invitation."
-George Richert, Communications Director, Diocese of Buffalo
"The Convocation served me as a means of inspiration and "incubation." We heard about the landscape we face and were able to gather and begin to "incubate" some early thoughts. My urgent hope is that we take the time to think about how we can get outside the doors of our parishes into Pope Francis' "field hospital" to do something exciting to serve lives in urgent need of care and mercy."
"The primary goal of the Convocation of Catholic Leaders was that leaders from all throughout our country would be equipped and energized to share the Gospel as missionary disciples and to bring that renewed zeal back to their dioceses and parishes. I believe that our local leaders, who attended the Convocation with me in Orlando, will be doing just that as they address key priorities and issues that were defined and analyzed during this historic gathering. Let me take this opportunity to thank the members of our local Convocation delegation for their active participation in Orlando and their ongoing commitment to missionary discipleship here in our diocese. "
-Bishop Richard J. Malone, Diocese of Buffalo