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Gloria Purvis on what the Church is doing right and where parishes can improve

Gloria Purvis

Fr. Aquinas Guilbeau, OP - published on 07/01/17

At #CatholicConvo host of Morning Glory also talks about reaching the African-American Catholic community.

EWTN Radio personality Gloria Purvis will play an active role in this weekend’s Convocation of Catholic Leaders. In addition to providing coverage for EWTN, she will moderate the convocation’s plenary sessions.

Besides co-hosting EWTN Radio’s drive-to-work show, Morning Glory, Gloria is active in the National Black Catholic Congress and in Black Catholics United for Life. She lives near Washington, DC, with her husband and daughter. As she prepared for her role at the convocation, Gloria took a few minutes to speak with Aleteia.

Fr. Aquinas: Having just arrived in Orlando, what are you looking forward to this weekend?

Gloria: I’m looking forward to meeting people from around the country. The whole nation seems to be here! I’m looking forward to hearing from the experts in evangelization who will speak during the breakout sessions. I want to hear what they have to say about living today as a radical missionary disciple.

I’m also looking forward to thinking with people about what kind of changes we need to make in life in order to become more Catholic. Some of the discussions in the small groups will be uncomfortable, but that’s good. Topics will be aired that undoubtedly will give us homework for when we return to our parishes and dioceses.

Fr. Aquinas: How do you understand the term “missionary disciple”? What does it mean to you?

Gloria: When I first heard it, the concept sounded redundant to me. Doesn’t each term contain the other—disciple and missionary? But considering that for some, discipleship has more to do with what one gets than with what one gives, maybe there’s a need to emphasize the missionary quality of discipleship. And the giving here isn’t just, “Hey, I’ll go help out Father.” It means leaving what’s familiar in order to bring the Gospel to those who need it. Being a missionary disciple means looking around at your family, at your coworkers, and asking: “Who here needs Jesus?”

Fr. Aquinas: When you look out over the landscape of American Catholicism, what do you see that is going well in terms of evangelization?

Gloria: A lot happening right now in American Catholicism encourages me. I see a lot of hope in the young, in those who, for example, have taken seriously the Church’s constant call to renewal. Through something like Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body, many young people have surrendered a secular view of men and women—they have put on the mind of Christ—and they have equipped themselves to answer challenging questions posed by the culture.

I also see hope in people who really want to know the faith. They take time to study it. More of us should do that. Some complain that the Church’s teaching can be too intellectual, and some of it may be. But people have questions to which they want answers. It’s a good thing that they ask questions, and it’s a good thing that the Church responds to them. This doesn’t mean, of course, that the Church’s pastors and teachers should ignore the heart. They shouldn’t. But people want explanations for things. They don’t want to believe in the Gospel simply because they have to, or because someone tells them to. They want to understand the Gospel. The Church has answers to the culture’s questions, and she should flaunt them.

Fr. Aquinas: What do you think needs improvement?

Gloria: In terms of the institutional Church and the demands of justice, I would like to see parishes and dioceses not settle simply for what is legal—in terms of wages, in terms of leave, etc. Instead of considering what’s legal, let’s consider what’s Catholic. If we treasure the importance of marriage, and family, and children, how might our employment practices reflect our teaching? Of course, justice has a real cost, but if we start with what is Catholic instead of with what is legal, then how might we start from scratch and establish new practices that enshrine our beliefs?

Also, I think that ordinary parish life can be infused with a greater missionary spirit. For example, when was the last time that most parishes had a mission—not in the church, but in the neighborhoods around the church? When is the last time that we’ve gone door to door, inviting people to church, or simply expressing concern for their needs and promising prayers? That kind of encounter is missing in our parishes. We do soup kitchens and the like very, very well, but the one-to-one encounter with the well to do is very different. It demands something different from us, something that we need to give—explicit witness to our faith in Jesus Christ.

Fr. Aquinas: As a figure in the Black Catholic community, how do you see the renewal of evangelization happening there?

Gloria: Moving forward, we need to look more deeply at what inculturation is. When he discussed the concept, Pope Paul VI rightly emphasized the need for Christians to communicate through the languages and symbols of different cultures, and to answer the questions posed to them by different peoples. But the Christian cannot stop there. The whole point of adopting the languages and symbols of different cultures is to communicate the Gospel through them.

Speaking specifically of African-American inculturation, there has been success in adopting the outward symbols of the African-American experience into the Church’s life. Still, I wonder how much more we can do to ensure that inculturation here involves more than just outward symbols. We need to take a hard look at that. The fullness of the Church’s tradition needs to be translated into African-American culture.

Fr. Aquinas: What do you hope that participants in the convocation will take home with them?

Gloria: I hope that people take home the understanding that we all have to grow in holiness to become effective disciples. The disciple has to live the Christian life, not just preach it.

Fr. Aquinas: What about those who are following the convocation through the media? How can they participate in the events taking place here this weekend?

Gloria: First, they should pray for everyone here, not as bystanders but as real participants. The folks at home are part of this, too. The call to radical missionary discipleship is given to them, as well. Second, they too can take these questions to heart: How do I encounter Christ regularly? How do I encounter him now? How can I grow deeper in my friendship with him? Whatever my state in life, how can I serve him? How can I become more of a missionary disciple? Everyone should ask these questions, and then they should act on their answers.

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