A Reflection on the
Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America
By Beth Mahoney
Beth Mahoney served as the coordinator of the Fall River Diocesan delegation to the Convocation of Catholic Leaders
During the first four days of July, Orlando, Florida was the place to be for Catholics in the United States. More than 3,500 cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and lay leaders from around the country gathered to listen, dialogue and act on the needs of the Church in the 21st century. This extraordinary event, convened by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was the Convocation of Catholic Leaders, with its theme of “The Joy of the Gospel in America.” Delegations came from various dioceses, ministries, interests, perspectives and cultural families to reflect on several topics pertinent to the life of the Catholic Church. The Convocation began with prayers asking for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the assembly and an affirmation of our unity in the Joy of the Gospel.
From there the Spirit lead the delegations through an amazing adventure of honest dialogue, prayerful reflection, incredible witness and evangelical discernment on the needs of the Catholic Church today. From the Diocese of Fall River, we had a diverse and committed group, who took their task to heart. The members attended the plenary sessions, took an active part in the breakout sessions, participated in all the liturgical services, and spent much time in prayer, reflection and dialogue with each other. We were led through it all by Bishop Edgar da Cunha, S.D.V., who shared the Convocation experience with us in dialogue, prayer and the listening sessions. It was truly a historical moment in the life of the Catholic Church in the United States, and certainly in our own diocese.
The Convocation’s breakout sessions, plenary gatherings, and moments of prayer were led by the cardinals and bishops of the United States. Bishop da Cunha led one of the program’s breakout meetings; his session focused on the topic of refugees and immigration.
As you walked through the halls of the hotel or convention hall, you could sense the joy and openness of the delegations as the friendliness flowed through everyone. It was a beautiful feeling to experience that the Catholic Church is alive and well, ready to move forward in the Spirit of God. There were so many good points: words spoken, witnesses given on forgiveness and healing; on creativity and actions to be taken; on newness to develop; and on changes that need to be lived. Cardinal Wuerl spoke of reconnecting in the Pentecost experience- to be bold- to embrace this time of urgency in the Church with mercy and compassion and be filled with joy. I had the opportunity to speak with him after his talk. He simply smiled and said, “Embrace the Spirit of Pentecost and trust in the Spirit.” Returning to the diocese, there is much hope for newness, as Bishop da Cunha expressed so clearly in his first Pastoral Letter – Rebuilding in Faith and Hope.
When you look at the various needs within dioceses and understanding the needs right here in our own, one ponders as to how to respond to them all. Immediately preceding the closing Mass and rite of sending forth to share the Joy of the Gospel in America, each diocesan delegation had an opportunity to meet with their bishop to recap all of what we heard and learned in the course of the Convocation, and to discuss how to best share this with others back home. There is so much to digest, ponder and act on, but there is one thing that I believe is certain for Bishop da Cunha and our entire diocesan delegation: we are set on fire to share the news of the Joy of the Gospel in the Diocese of Fall River. Come Holy Spirit, Come!