Joshua gathered together all the tribes of Israel at Shechem, summoning the elders, leaders, judges, and officers of Israel. When they stood in ranks before God, Joshua addressed all the people . . . “Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve him completely and sincerely . . . If it is displeasing to you to serve the LORD, choose today whom you will serve, the gods your ancestors served beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose country you are dwelling. As for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:1-2, 14-15)
Ask me! Ask me or any of the 3000 plus people who attended the USCCB convocation of Catholic Leaders in Orlando what it was all about! They cannot wait to share the "Good News!" The "Joy of the Gospel in America" was not only the theme of the four-day event but also the journey we experienced.
We were called to God's banquet table where we feasted on the sacraments, the words spoken at the main gatherings, the breakout sessions, and around the meals. We reconnected with old friends around the country and made some new friends too. The booths were abundant, and an important networking tool. EWTN, with cohosts Johnnette Benkovic of Women of Grace and Dr. Jonathon Reyes of the USCCB, broadcasted the convocation right before our eyes. If you caught the broadcast at home, you felt like you too were in Orlando with us. Our cup runs over with the goodness of God and the “Joy of the Gospel in America.”
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My personal highlight was the talk by Bishop Caggiano. He spoke in a simple way, but delivered a profound message. His mom would often invite company over. What did she do before the guests arrived? Being a woman gifted with hospitality, she would clean the house and prepare the food. Bishop Caggiano invited all who wanted to be missionary disciples to go and do the same. The Bishop shared these words, “If you want to go out, you must first go in.” It was a call to holiness, and an important reminder. In the secret of my heart I prayed to meet the Bishop and God arranged it. Only God!
The three breakout sessions I attended were quite beneficial. One session, “Amoris Laetitia: Families as Principal Agents of the New Evangelization” was a double blessing for me. The first blessing was that the entire session centered around practical ways to live out our faith in the home as a Catholic family. The attendees had a chance to speak out, network and encourage one another. As a mother of eight, I was encouraged in my vocation. Evangelization begins in the home. When we pour our time, talent and treasure into building strong families we are building the church. Isn't that why we call it the the "Little Church?"
I met Lisa Hendey, the founder of CatholicMom.com, who was one of the panel members. Sharing the table with her were Damon and Melanie Owens. Damon spoke in Macon, Georgia last year at St. Joseph Catholic Church at a day conference for the Kolbe Foundation. I was delighted to reconnect and meet his sweet wife. Joining Lisa and the Owens was a woman whose name you want to become familiar with: Lucia Baez Luzondo. She is one of those rare human beings who gave up all to follow the call of God in her life. She, a lawyer, and her husband a physician both left their occupations to become disciples. After being a missionary family and speaking all around the world, they have settled in Texas where their only son attends college. Her words spoke volumes about living out one's vocation and calling, while still putting family first. She said, "I told God that I wanted to die with my ‘boots on’ so it is good that He sent us to work for the Diocese of San Antonio.”
The final talk was given by a favorite to all, Bishop Barron. He gave us 3 words to go forth from the convocation and bring the “Joy of the Gospel” to our society:
- “We are a smart religion. When we don’t express Catholicism in a smart way, people fall away.”
- “When the Christian life is embraced fully and radically (Like Mother Teresa), it’s goodness stands out to the world.”
- “Just show peoples the beauty of Catholicism.”
I will take away these key themes: encounter people, especially those on the periphery, then accompany them, and go in haste, just as Mary did to visit Elizabeth.
If you think about it, the “Joy of the Gospel” is Jesus living in you and living in me. Christ in us is our hope of glory!
Who was the host of the "Joy of the Gospel in America”? Jesus, of course! He welcomed us all to the banquet table with the joy of His Love. He planned the menu and sent the invitations. He even paid the bill, the full price! It makes perfect sense because He wrote the Book. Daily he is inviting us to feast upon Him. Do you hear Him calling you?
There was so much more that took place. “Ask Me!”
Check out the videos available on the USCCB web site: http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/get-involved/meetings-and-events/convocation-2017/convocation-2017-live-stream.cfm
Copyright 2017 Ellen Mongan
About the Author
Ellen Mongan, a Catholic writer and speaker, has been married more than 40 years to Deacon Pat Mongan. They have 7 children and 12 grandchildren. Ellen is a host of WOW Radio Podcasts, a religious columnist for the Augusta Chronicle, and has spoken on both radio and television. She is the founder of Sisters in Christ, Little Pink Dress Ministry, and Women-Fests.