Story by Reagan Scott
(SNR) - From July 1-4, around 4,000 bishops, priests, religious and laity from dioceses and organizations across the country attended “The Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America” in Orlando, Fla.
The convocation was the first one called by U.S. bishops since 1917 and aimed at exploring ways to apply Pope Francis’s apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium (“The Joy of the Gospel”) in the U.S.
According to Claire Pohlen, the delegation coordinator for the diocese, 21 delegates from the Lincoln Diocese, including Bishop Conley, were able to attend the event, all in an effort to learn how to use the new evangelization and take it to the peripheries of their communities and the diocese.
Jeff Schinstock, the director of youth ministry for the Diocese of Lincoln, said, “At the convocation, there was a heavy emphasis on going to the peripheries and bringing the light of Christ to every dark corner. We discussed ways of showing the faith to every possible group we could think of.”
According to Schinstock, each day began with a plenary session where a bishop would discuss a topic, followed by a panel discussion and breakout sessions.
Meal times allowed people from different dioceses to get together and talk while the panel discussions and breakout sessions allowed attendees to listen to talks on topics that were of interest to them.
While Schinstock was able to attend a breakout session on youth ministry, Dr. John Crotty and his wife Debi from St. Joseph Parish in Auburn were able to be a on a panel to discuss the rural periphery.
Included in the panel was Bishop Curtis Guillory from the Diocese of Beaumont in Texas, Bishop Robert Gruss from the Diocese of Rapid City in South Dakota, and a member of a Catholic group dealing with rural affairs.
According to Dr. Crotty, the panel began with the bishops’ perspective on the rural periphery. Then each panelist was able to give a brief presentation before allowing people to ask questions.
While Dr. Crotty didn’t have as much time to give his presentation, he said that the crowd of 120 people at the discussion responded well to his wife Debi’s.
“Debi spoke from the heart and expressed how she wished everyone could experience Catholicism in a rural periphery,” Dr. Crotty said. He explained that rural communities are closer to nature, in tune with the crops, the sun and moon, and animals.
Dr. Crotty explained that it was powerful to have the bishops there to hear people’s questions and concerns both at the panel that day, and during the entire convocation.
“Everything at the convocation reflected back to evangelization,” Dr. Crotty said. “We need to be reaching out to our own people and teaching our young the faith. Every single concern came back to that.”
The Lincoln Diocese was also represented at the convocation by Father Andrew Menke, a priest of the diocese now serving as executive director of the Secretariat of Divine Worship for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, who was in charge of the liturgies at the convocation.
Pohlen said, “The liturgies were beautiful, and it was nice to have Father Menke coordinating them throughout the week.”
At the conclusion of the convocation, Pohlen said that the Lincoln delegation gathered together for a group sharing opportunity.
She said, “Everyone shared what they were taking from the week and what they envisioned for the convocation’s impact. It was a really rich discussion.”
According to Pohlen, the group will gather together for a day this fall to revisit that discussion and to see its fruits in individual ministries, parishes, workplaces and beyond.
“We will engage in a thorough group discussion on how we are going to take the central focus of the convocation which is bringing Christ to the peripheries of our diocese,” Pohlen said.
Dr. Crotty is looking forward to the upcoming meeting and requests the help of the diocese in the delegation’s efforts.
He said, “We need people to pray for the fruits of this convocation to be spread in our diocese. Our world is in pretty bad shape, but if we can get people to look into each other’s hearts, that changes everything.”