ORLANDO | “At some moment, we will have to share our message. We need to be prepared. What will we say? What have we experienced that we want to share?” Those questions posed by presenter, Dr. Ricardo Marquez set the tone for the diocesan ministry formation conference, “Abide with Me”, at Bishop Moore Catholic High School Feb 1. Refueling ministry leaders, the conference prompted introspection about one’s own faith journey through progressive workshops on basic evangelization.
“The goal is to help parish leaders, catechists, lay ministers and all involved in ministry to understand that their call begins by encountering and listening to God, who desires loving relationship with them,” said Daniel Boyd, secretariat for laity, family and life. “When we learn to abide with the Lord, we finally realize how much He longs to abide with us.”
Through a wide range of seasoned evangelists fulfilling their mission to make “disciples to all nations,” the conference’s new format sprung to life. Rather than move from session to session, tracks were divided following steps that enable leading others to Christ: encounter and discernment, practicing God’s presence, missionary discipleship, and accompaniment.
In his opening remarks, Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament Father George Dunne, emphasized that all must begin with a life of prayer. He asked those gathered to think of accompaniment like the Eucharist. “We cannot be in community if we are not open to union,” he said.
Dr. Marquez furthered the point, inviting all to ponder what union looks like in daily life. Soft music was the backdrop to his session, beginning with a reflective pause, encouraging his audience to sit and reflect on Father Dunne’s words, rather than simply jump into the next presentation. The moment of respite set the tone for being present to God’s work.
Javier Sosa, St. Ann Parish in Haines City, works with Charismatic Renewal. “We are touching very important topics that affect our service to the community,” he said. “Dr. Marquez spoke of kerygma, to speak of Jesus. For me, since I began as a servant of Christ, I have focused on how to bring the message of the Good News to the community. This past week we worked with the homeless. We lived a loving encounter with God and they asked us to return.” He believes Dr. Marquez talks affirmed he is on the right track.
Dr. Marquez, director of the Diocese of San Diego Office of Family Life and Spirituality, pointed to self-reflection as the first step to evangelization. We must “desire to live a life in congruence with the Lord, a reflective life, a life in which I desire to confront the message of the Gospel,” he said. “In that reality, I confront myself as a sinner, someone who misses the mark – a time when I lost focus. To be able to experience that in my own life… that is where I can see God’s grace.” He explained that one’s authority to speak about God comes from our Baptism, but also from this acknowledgement of our own mistakes.
“We are works in progress. We don’t know everything there is to know about our faith and that’s part of what keeps us coming back. You get to learn more here,” explained Ana Leon. She and her husband, Pedro, have worked in the Rite of Catholic Initiation of Adults (RCIA) for more than a decade, recently joining the team at St. Margaret Mary Parish in Winter Park. Veterans of the conference, both noted their appreciation for the new format.
“’Abide in me’ really resonates for the RCIA because, what you often see in the process of someone’s journey, in the months of formation, is that they see Christ as sometimes outside of themselves. They interact and they view it and sometimes witness to it, but they haven’t yet considered something personal, intimate, spiritual. Through the process of engagement, scripture, fellowship, just being open to the grace of the Holy Spirit, they begin to understand that they can live, and walk, and have their being in the Lord,” said Pedro.
Ana noted that it is that awareness of Christ within them that grows. She says watching them, “reinforces that, when you’re in RCIA, you’re touching the mind and the heart. You’re hoping that people will live out and apply what’s being learned. That’s really our mission. It’s really a challenging task.” Pedro added, “When that happens, let me tell you, it’s pretty exciting. There’s nothing like it.”
By Glenda Meekins of the Florida Catholic February 03, 2020