by Elizabeth Wilson of the Florida Catholic staff – July 20, 2017
ORLANDO | Over the Fourth of July weekend, Orlando, FL, home of the “most magical place on Earth”, could have been dubbed the “most joyful place on Earth” as over 3,000 Catholic leaders from across the country convened to prayerfully reflect on Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, “The Joy of the Gospel” at the Convocation of Catholic Leaders hosted by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Among the crowd of thousands were 58 from the Diocese of Orlando, forming one of the largest delegations present and covering a wide range of expertise and ministries.
“It was very much in the spirit of all of us coming together and trying to kick-start the conversation and enrich it on how we are doing and how we can be better at being missionary disciples and spreading the joy of the Gospel to places where it really isn’t found today,” explained Steven Bucklin, adult faith formation and RCIA coordinator at St. James Cathedral.
At a goal-setting session on the last day of the convocation the conference room where the Orlando delegation met buzzed with eager conversation and renewed enthusiasm as everyone had a chance to share the blessings they received and the ideas inspired by the experience. A common theme that arose from the discussion was encounter and relationship. Participants spoke of the need to share “authentic love” with each other, of the importance of having conversations with different cultures and of the power of simply smiling more and communicating joy in our everyday interactions.
“We need to focus on how are we just being good disciples of Christ in our encounters with people every day and remind ourselves every day that we have to go out into the world and be that light,” said Bucklin. “People are going to see who you are and how you behave and that has a direct impact on your ability to bring people into the Church.”
Bishop Noonan challenged those present to take advantage of the momentum begun at the convocation saying, “I think every talk, every person summarized what we really want to be: we want to be Christ to others. We use that word ‘evangelization’ and we heard in many different talks what it means to be evangelizers. This is a perfect moment for all of us… this is the time we are all called to do something. It’s not just to get out and do busy work. It means that we have to become connected.”
Deacon David Camous, director of operations at Most Precious Blood Parish in Oviedo said the convocation opened his eyes to the need to connect to underserved populations, particularly incarcerated men and women and their families. But perhaps most impactful was the renewed sense of purpose and mission he brings to his vocation.
“Attending the convocation reinvigorated in me my personal call to go forth as a missionary disciple,” reflected Deacon Camous. “It is too easy to get comfortable in the personal practice of our faith and within our parish walls. Yet, we are not called to be comfortable in our faith but active in our faith.”
Deacon Camous described an experience that powerfully encapsulated the message of the convocation. During an early morning Eucharistic procession in the oppressive summer heat, his attention was drawn momentarily to one of the convocation volunteers, kneeling in a gutter on the side of the road as Christ in the Eucharist passed by.
“The profound humility she demonstrated, not just kneeling on the sidewalk or street, but in the gutter, overwhelmed me,” remembered Deacon Camous. “That beautiful image challenged me, as if God was asking me if I was willing to take the joy of the Gospel into whatever gutter he called me. I will never know this young woman’s name, but her simple action brought home the message of bringing the Good News to the peripheries more than any of the brilliant talks or worship services I attended.”