#CatholicConvo participants discuss Pope Francis' "peripheries" -- and how they're closer to us than we might think
The last full day of the Convocation of Catholic Leaders in Orlando began outside in the muggy morning air. Led by Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, participants marched with the Blessed Sacrament on a one-mile course around the campus of the Orange County Convention Center. Upon the procession’s arrival at the convocation venue, Archbishop Lori offered benediction as the kneeling faithful sang their praises in adoration of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist.
The morning plenary session got underway soon afterward. Its theme was “Going to the Peripheries.” Archbishop José Gomez of Los Angeles and Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, delivered the session’s keynote addresses.
Anderson reflected on Christ’s abiding presence with those on the periphery. Jesus is already at the margins, Anderson underscored for convocation participants. He is there with the poor, outcast, and forgotten. Missionary disciples are obliged, therefore, to make their home on the periphery, in order to make Christ’s presence with those on the margins more perfect.
Anderson also reminded his listeners that the periphery is often a lot closer to us than we imagine. The periphery exists not only in other countries. For many of our contemporaries, marriage or family life presents challenges that place them on the periphery of the Church’s life. They, too, constitute the object of Christian mission.
After Anderson’s address, a panel discussion examined the challenges disciples ought to expect when going to the periphery. Panelists included Dr. Ansel Augustine of St. John’s University in New York City; Fr. Paul Check of St. John Fisher Seminary (Stamford, CT), formerly of Courage International; Kim Daniels, a specialist in Catholic communications; Sr. Norma Pimentel, M.J., of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley; and Dr. Karen Woo, former president and CEO of Catholic Relief Services.
In his keynote address, which followed the panel discussion, Archbishop Gomez recalled the witness of St. Junipero Sera, on whose feast the convocation began. St. Junipero was an 18th-century Spanish Franciscan whose California missions established the faith on the Pacific coast of North America. Archbishop Gomez described St. Junipero as a veritable model of missionary discipleship, a brave witness to the gospel drive to meet Christ on the margins of society. Gomez identified the same drive in Pope Francis, for whom men and women on the periphery remain a constant concern.
The morning breakout sessions following Archbishop Gomez’s keynote had as their theme “Going Deeper into the Peripheries.” The topics of individual sessions included: “The Marginalization of Motherhood,” “Reaching Wounded Families,” “Pastoral Care for Those with Same-Sex Attraction,” and “Youth on the Margins.”
Participants in the afternoon breakout sessions brainstormed together over practical strategies for bringing the gospel to the peripheries. The sessions covered a variety of topics, including: “Strategies for Promoting and Living Catholic Social Teaching,” “Faith, Reason, Science,” “Engaging the ‘Nones,’” “Addressing Violence and Racism,” “Forming Young People in the Joy of the Gospel,” “Evangelization through the Beauty of the Word of God,” and “Missionary Discipleship and Business Leadership.”
Mass in the late afternoon observed the close of the nationwide Fortnight for Freedom promoted by the U.S. bishops. In his homily, Archbishop Lori exhorted convocation participants to continue the struggle to protect religious liberty in the United States and around the world. He explained that missionary discipleship requires the legal freedom and protection ensured by government to practice the faith at home, in the public square, and on the periphery.
To close out the day, an evening of praise and worship was led by popular musicians Audrey Assad and Matt Maher. Joseph Cardinal Tobin, archbishop of Newark, and Bishop Frank Dewane of Venice (Florida) shared duties as the evening’s preachers.
On Tuesday, the last day of the convocation, the morning plenary session will address the theme “Spirit-Filled Evangelizers Equipped for Excellence.” Bishop Richard Malone of Buffalo will offer an opening reflection, and Patrick Lencioni of The Amazing Parish apostolate will deliver the session’s keynote. After attending goal-setting discussions with their diocesan or institutional delegations, participants will close the convocation with the celebration of Mass. Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, is scheduled to be the main celebrant and homilist.
For more information on the convocation, visit the convocation website. To follow the weekend’s events on social media, use the hashtag #CatholicConvo.