In early July 2017, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) convened a Convocation of Catholic Leaders.
The convocation was entitled “The Joy of the Gospel in America.” Every bishop was asked to bring a delegation of clergy, religious and lay leaders who could assist him with the diocesan implementation of the new evangelization and the formation of missionary disciples.
We had a team of very talented and dedicated delegates from the Archdiocese of Kansas City who gave up their usual Fourth of July activities to participate in this national leadership gathering.
It was an inspiring, motivational and educational experience for all of us. As a result of this experience and with the encouragement of our delegation, I decided to convene a similar convocation of Catholic leaders in the archdiocese.
Two years ago, I informed our priests about our archdiocesan convocation, asking them to place the dates of Oct. 3-5, 2019, on their calendar and not to schedule any weddings or other parish events on those days.
Subsequently, each pastor was asked to form a delegation from his parish or parishes. It was important to form delegations early in order for participants to save the dates on their personal calendars.
Since the convocation will be in session from Thursday evening, Oct. 3, through Saturday noon, Oct. 5, many delegates had to schedule time off work.
The title of the convocation is: “Enflame Our Hearts; Be Disciples, Make Disciples.” The convocation is not just about three days in October. Pastors have been meeting with their delegations for several months in preparation.
The goal of the convocation is to have a team of leaders to assist pastors with the formation of the entire parish in the spirituality of what Pope Francis terms missionary discipleship.
I am praying that the follow-up to the convocation will be the catalyst to enflame the heart of every Catholic in the archdiocese to experience in a fresh way the depth of God’s unique and personal love revealed in Jesus Christ.
I pray also that it will help each of us become more aware and grateful for the church and the gift of our Catholic faith. Moreover, my hope is that the three-year follow-up to the convocation will enflame our homes, strengthening family life, and enflame our communities, motivating us to bring the love of Jesus Christ to our neighbors.
I am grateful to our pastors for taking my invitation seriously. Every parish in the archdiocese has a delegation for the convocation. More than 1,500 members of the archdiocese are registered to participate.
The response has been amazing and gratifying. Our convocation planning team led by Father Gary Pennings, Deacon Dana Nearmyer, Emily Lopez and Tim Chik — with a small army assisting them — has done an extraordinary job in preparing for this archdiocesan gathering.
This is the single most important event for the archdiocese in my almost 15 years as archbishop. It is my hope and prayer that every single Catholic in the archdiocese will be impacted by the convocation as your pastor and parish delegation develop and implement an evangelization plan uniquely designed for your community.
I am grateful to all of the delegates, who have made the time commitment to participate in the convocation, but, even more, for all of the precious time they have given in preparing for this event. I am also thankful for their willingness to give even more of their time and talent with the implementation of the follow-up in their parishes.
I am asking everyone in the archdiocese to pray, fast and make sacrifices this week for the Holy Spirit to anoint this gathering of Catholic leaders in our archdiocese. I believe the convocation has the potential to be the occasion for a new Pentecost in northeast Kansas.
Recently, I read an article entitled “Death by Loneliness” by Dr. Francie Hart Broghammer, a young psychiatrist. She describes the epidemic of loneliness in American society.
The symptoms of this epidemic are all around us in the number of individuals suffering depression, the number of divorces and children being raised without one of their parents in the home, the number of violent crimes and mass shootings, the number of suicides especially among young people and the list could go on and on.
In her article, Broghammer noted what some social scientists consider essential building blocks for happiness and human flourishing: 1) a family you love and who love you; 2) friends you can trust and confide in; 3) work and activities that matter and benefit others; and 4) a world-view that can make sense of suffering and death. In my experience, the church provides the opportunity for all of these.
The church strives to support and foster strong marriages and vibrant family life. It is in the community of the church that we have the opportunity to develop authentic and life-giving friendships.
As Catholics, we are all called to be engaged in the most meaningful activity possible — bringing the love of God to others. Our Catholic faith provides the keys to find meaning and purpose in suffering as well as the sure and certain hope for eternal life.
Many young adults, who consider themselves spiritual but not religious, are cutting themselves off from the community of faith we all need. We have an obligation to share the gift of God’s love revealed in Jesus and the abundant life that comes from being part of the family of the church.
Please pray for the Enflame Our Hearts convocation that it may be the catalyst of a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit. May it be the instrument to awaken a new apostolic and missionary zeal within the church!
Mary, Mother of the Church, pray for us! Come Holy Spirit, come and enkindle in our hearts the fire of your love!