“Uplifting, motivating, challenging, community, transformative.” That’s how Theresa Prudhomme, a mid 20s young professional from Katy, describes her experience of #CatholicConvo in 5 words or less. The weekend before last, while we were all firing up the grill and making July 4th plans, Theresa joined thousands of lay leaders, religious, priests and bishops from across the US who gathered for a ground-breaking event in Orlando, Florida: The Convocation of Catholic Leaders.
The USCCB describes the mission of the Convocation this way:
This summer, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops will be convening an unprecedented gathering of key leaders from dioceses and Catholic organizations from all across the country in order to assess the challenges and opportunities of our time, particularly in the context of the Church in the United States. This has been an ongoing initiative of the Bishops’ Working Group on the Life and Dignity of the Human Person. The gathering will assemble Catholic leaders for a strategic conversation, under the leadership of the bishops, on forming missionary disciples to animate the Church and to engage the culture. (cited from: website)
This Convocation comes as a real response by the US Catholic Church to Pope Francis’ invitation in the spirit of The Joy of the Gospel (the Pope’s first Apostolic Exhortation) to enter into “deep reflection” and discern and to implement a “missionary option” for living out and sharing the joy of the Gospel, so that “so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation.” (Evangelii Gaudium 27, cited here).
So what was the Convocation like on the ground? I thought I would interview one of the young leaders from Austin to help us get a glimpse. Theresa is the Office Assistant at Cornerstone Architects, LLP and graduated from A&M with a BLA in Landscape Architecture and a minor in Urban Planning. Theresa is also the current Branch Leader of the Schoenstatt Women Young Professionals, of the Schoenstatt Movement of Austin.
Schoenstatt is an international Catholic lay movement of religious and moral renewal, and especially in the past several years since the dedication of the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Schoenstatt in south west Austin, the Movement has been growing rapidly. The Shrine has become a home to many young adults in the Austin area – a place where they find fellowship, deep faith formation, and a family atmosphere that enables them to go out into the world with transformed hearts, on fire for God’s mission in today’s world.
At the Convocation, Theresa was one among several leaders representing Schoenstatt from around the US, including Schoenstatt University Men from UT, Fr. Jesus Ferras, ISP (Movement Director in Texas), Sr. Danielle Peters, STD, and other lay leaders.
So what was #CatholicConvo like through the eyes of a Texan? Let’s find out…
A: I saw joy in the faces and eyes of those who have such great hope and determination to bring all people closer to Christ
A: I was moved by how attentive the Bishops were in listening to our desires and concerns even when we were not in the same diocese. I was [also] inspired by the camaraderie of the individuals I met because together we each desired to form a communal effort towards tackling the obstacles that keep the Church from being the most loving and faithful it can be.
A: I was proud to be surrounded by Bishops and Church leaders who truly wanted to listen to us! Unlike all the conferences I have been to in the past this was one I enjoyed because even when walking in a crowd of strangers I was surrounded by genuinely joyful people.
The breakout sessions where opportunities for us to go deeper into a specific topic we were interested in. There were many to choose from but we could only go to one per session. I went to the sessions on Discerning Vocations, Charisms, and Gifts for Mission in the Church and in Society, as well as Engaging the “Nones” and Ministry with Inactive and Disconnected Catholics. Oh, and also Living in the Peripheries of Urban Communities.
A: We first met as a Schoenstatt group for discussion, and then were invited to join the Austin Diocese meeting. That discussion was geared towards what we learned during our breakout sessions, what we can contribute to our groups and or parishes, and how as individuals we can grow closer to God. We also discussed the Diocese of Austin Pastoral Plan and how to articulate and implement it better to fit the needs of the diversity of the parishes.
A: We were given good advice and strategies on how to unite as a Church and within our own groups and communities. I think a lot of people, including myself, will go out from the convocation with joy and determination to grow deeper with God and to then spread that inner joy to others we encounter. One of my favorite phrases I took from one of the speakers was that our faith is personal but not private, because we are disciples of a person.
Q: Anything else you’d like to tell our readers about #CatholicConvo?
A: The convocation reminded me that even though we gathered to share in one faith we are still humans with many different interests, backgrounds and dreams but it is that “one faith” which binds us all together in peace love and hope looking towards a better future together.