Archdiocesan faithful who were part of a delegation to a convocation of Catholic leaders in Orlando, Fla., last month met three weeks later at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie to discuss what they learned in Florida, to discern how best to apply it here and to begin a conversation about what could come next.
Approximately 35 of the 45-member archdiocesan delegates who attended the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America” July 1-4 reconvened July 26. The afternoon gathering was sponsored by the archdiocesan Office of Adult Faith Formation under its director, Dr. Daniel Frascella, who coordinated the New York delegation to Orlando.
After a warm welcome to the seminary by the rector, Msgr. Peter Vaccari, who led the group in opening prayer and extended the support of the seminary to the endeavor, the attendees worked in informal small group settings for reflection and discussion before sharing an overview of their findings en masse.
They used as a blueprint Pope Francis’ 2013 apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”). The Orlando gathering, which marked a first in U.S. Church history, was a national response to the document, convocation organizers said at the time.
The exhortation lays out a vision of the Church dedicated to evangelization, or missionary discipleship.
“It was a good way to bring back to New York what we heard and thought about and discussed and experienced in Orlando,” Frascella said.
“People were engaged,” he said of the small group conversations in which participants shared their experiences at the convocation in Orlando, and also “how it relates to their experience in their respective ministries,” which was the main purpose of the gathering.
The first step for what comes next, Frascella said, “is that each of us, in our own ministries, now have more tools and ideas and approaches to try to live out ‘The Joy of the Gospel,’ and also to lead in that way.
“An immediate step is the impact of it on us personally, and then how that transfers to our leadership of various ministries.”
Stacey Hodge, wife of Deacon Michel Hodge (he was ordained a permanent deacon in June) of
St. Charles Borromeo and All Saints parish in Harlem, said that at the convocation in Orlando, “the bishops inspired us to ‘go on mission.’ The liturgies were inspiring and gave us new strength. And that’s why I want to be here today—because we’re going to continue the work, the planning, so that we can implement the vision that has been set forth for us by Pope Francis.”
One hour into the meeting at the seminary, which she attended with her husband, who also went to the convocation in Orlando, Mrs. Hodge assessed the gathering as “excellent.”
“Personally, my own faith was reinvigorated today,” she said, noting she observed that “I am on the same page as the persons who were there with me” and “I’m not alone in seeing what we think are the barriers that we should be addressing.
“So that’s a good thing, that we’re seeing the same thing,” she said. “That means we can probably do something about it.”
At the parish, Mrs. Hodge is a lector as well as a member and past president of the Rosary Society. This fall, she will assist her husband with the ministry of RCIA (the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults).
“I’m just happy that the archdiocese supported this delegation to go and appreciative of Cardinal Dolan’s support,” Mrs. Hodge said.
The next thing that will happen, Frascella said, “is that we’ll continue the conversation both among ourselves and, frankly, with others in our ministries, in our communities” to a missionary discipleship and engagement with other people, as called for by ‘The Joy of the Gospel.’
“And that’s something that’s going to, by definition, keep spreading,” he added. “Hopefully over time, the various ministries will continue to reflect Pope Francis’ call to missionary discipleship.”