By nearly all accounts, the July 1-4 “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America,” sponsored by the U.S. bishops in Orlando, proved to be a great gift to the Church. It was in many ways an unprecedented gathering of almost 3,500 bishops, clergy, religious, and laity, including five of the six residential cardinals in the country, and featuring delegations from more than 80 percent of the dioceses in the country and all 50 states. Following a retreat format, each day started and ended with group prayer. Mass was celebrated each day in the hotel ballroom, and there were plenty of scheduled times for the sacrament of reconciliation and private prayer in a large room turned into an adoration chapel.
None of the homilists or keynote speakers sugarcoated the challenges for the modern church and more than once speakers pointed out that Catholics are leaving the Church in greater numbers, than those joining the Church, particularly young adults. But as Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron of Los Angeles pointed out: “The saints always loved a good fight and we should like a good fight too.”
Washington Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl acknowledged that Catholics are not always comfortable with the idea of evangelizing, but said they need to be willing to step out of themselves and talk with people about their faith as part of an encounter the pope speaks about. Delegates were repeatedly encouraged to reach out to the peripheries especially to immigrants and the poor but also to all members of the church’s diverse family — people of all races, women, and young people.
At the closing Mass, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, congratulated attendees for the invigorating discussion. He called it a “kairos,” or opportune moment, in the life of the U.S. church and said he would tell Pope Francis: “the Spirit is alive in the church in the United States and I will tell him of the commitment of many missionary disciples and their love for the Church.”