September 15, 2017

Evangelization and Catechesis Supplement

Convocation focuses on the ‘great mission’ of evangelization

Four members of Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis are shown at the Convocation of Catholic Leaders in Orlando in July. They are Ikenna Stovall, left, and his mother Sally Stovall, and Gretchen and Reggie Horne. (Submitted photo)

Four members of Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis are shown at the Convocation of Catholic Leaders in Orlando in July. They are Ikenna Stovall, left, and his mother Sally Stovall, and Gretchen and Reggie Horne. (Submitted photo)

By Natalie Hoefer

Perhaps no last words are more well‑known than those of Christ to his Apostles before he ascended into heaven: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations … .” (Mt 28:19)

Ken Ogorek calls this command to evangelize the “marching orders” of the Church.

“There are times when we really need to just rally around that great mission of Jesus, and remember what our marching orders are,” says the archdiocesan director of catechesis.

For that reason, Ogorek and about a dozen others from the archdiocese attended an “unprecedented” gathering coordinated by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in Orlando, Fla., on July 1-4.

Called the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders,” it brought together leaders from dioceses and Catholic organizations from across the nation to discuss modern challenges and opportunities for evangelizing.

The theme was “The Joy of the Gospel in America.” Attendees were asked to read Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (“The Joy of the Gospel”) prior to the convocation.

Daily themes included unity, landscape and renewal, work and witness, and a spirit of mission. The event included three Masses, an evening of Marian devotion, an evening of adoration and a eucharistic procession.

Of the 25 presenters, 12 were bishops and cardinals.

Here are the stories of two individuals and one couple from the archdiocese who attended the convocation, their experience and what they are bringing back to share with the Church in central and southern Indiana.

‘Put a finger on the pulse’ of youth ministry

Tammy Becht is director for a service that she calls the “best kept secret of the archdiocese.”

She is director of youth and young adult formation at Saint Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, and director of the One Bread, One Cup youth and young adult liturgical leadership program, a series of conferences and internships held several times at the school each summer.

Becht was one of six staff members from the school of theology who went “in hopes that we would find out what’s happening on the cutting edge, and to self-assess to see where we stack up in the U.S. in terms of ministry to young people,” she says.

Becht found the convocation to be an “upbeat, exciting” environment.

“The people who attended were there out of a true desire to embark on a new endeavor of ministry,” she says.

For Becht, the convocation was well worth the trip to Orlando in July.

“I feel like I took away something good from each session I went to,” she says.

“Even though it might seem we’re in dire circumstances with young people leaving the Church, what I brought away is that everything we need to minister well to young people, we already have. We just need to find a new way to offer the ministry we have.”

The challenge with youths, says Becht, is “to help them see both our liturgy and our Church and our faith as something that’s relevant to their lives.”

In one of the sessions she attended, discussion included the effects of social media on today’s society.

“[People] long for but lack community,” she summarizes from the session. “All are connected by social media but missing face-to-face [interaction]. Jesus with skin on in is what people need, but social media keeps us isolated. …

“[But] we have to go to where they are. … We’ve got to find a way to reach them through that phone and motivate them to move out of that sphere to human interaction, which is what will really meet their needs.”

‘To stand in faith’ for black marriage ministry

Gretchen and Reggie Horne of Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis were contagiously enthusiastic about the convocation. To describe it, they use words like, “overwhelming,” “inspiring,” “educational,” “challenging” and simply “Wow!”

The African-American couple is probing ways to become involved in marriage ministry in the archdiocese, particularly to black Catholics. Gretchen says the couple wants “to stand in faith” in an area “that we don’t think is really a focus.”

At the conference, Gretchen says they “met so many people from across the country. It was really edifying and uplifting to know that there are so many people who are working for the good of the Church and God’s people. …

“Many of the folks we met are directors of an office of family life for their diocese. … It was uplifting … just the sheer number of programs and national movements and places to get involved and get information, and different approaches based on the specific need in their area.”

The Hornes, who have four children ranging in age from 8-23, found the convocation “spiritually lifting” as well as educational.

For Reggie, who entered into the full communion of the Church in 2007, that combination came especially in the form of the liturgies celebrated.

“Being in Mass with the hundreds of bishops and cardinals and hundreds of priests was pretty overwhelming for me, and awe inspiring.”

For Gretchen, it was the eucharistic procession. She says of the roughly 3,000 people who attended the convocation, a “large number” participated in the outdoor procession.

“It was an incredible witness,” she notes.

Overall, says Reggie, the convocation “was a large, best-practices-sharing event. … Getting to talk to leaders from around the nation was really helpful to us. …

“It just gave you more motivation to go do the work that needs to be done in our community at home.”

‘Account for each soul in parish territory’

As the archdiocesan director of catechesis, Ken Ogorek found the convocation to be a combination of a national ministry-specific type of gathering, with a local gathering of leaders of various ministries: “two good experiences to make one great one,” he says.

“There were a lot of people there involved in specific ministries from around the nation. There were also a lot of ministries represented. That sort of gathering just doesn’t happen very often,” he notes.

Ogorek says the convocation was held “to really focus on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus with a mission, and really to help make disciples of Jesus with a clear sense of mission.”

He was impressed by the “strong sense of unity” present at the event.

“Even though there were lots of different ministries, ages, races and vocations present, a lot of what we did together—the worship, the prayer, the devotion—are the sorts of experiences that I have found tend to really inspire a sense of unity in Catholics.”

He specifically noted the hour and a half of prayer held on the first evening.

“[It was a] beautiful Marian devotion, acknowledging that our Blessed Mother is the star of the new evangelization—she was the first disciple.”

Ogorek walked away from the convocation with several takeaways.

“One is that being a missionary disciple starts with being a disciple,” he says. “We have to put good effort into our disciple relationship with our Lord, and we have to help make disciples by God’s grace. When we do that well, I think a true disciple of Jesus can’t help but feel a sense of mission.”

Ogorek’s second takeaway had to do with reaching out to those on the fringes of society.

“If we want to reach the peripheries, we shouldn’t overlook people who are marginalized within our own parish territory,” he says. “If every parish really could account for each soul within the parish territory, we would definitely be reaching the peripheries, the peripheries we have the most ability to reach—those people in our backyard who are marginalized.” †

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