Catholic Free Press

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  • Jul
  • 31

Local leader attends national convocation

Posted By July 31, 2017 | 6:16 pm | Lead Story #1
photo   allison LeDoux

By Tanya Connor | The Catholic Free Press

An unprecedented national gathering provided inspiration for further thought, prayer and outreach and showed the respect the bishops have for lay people’s expertise, according to the Worcester Diocese’s participant.
“The importance of a personal relationship with God…came across pretty well” at the Convocation of Catholic Leaders in Orlando, said Allison LeDoux, director of the diocesan Respect Life and Marriage and Family offices.
“It’s something that every Christian should take to heart,” she said. “If we don’t nurture that, how are we going to hear God? We have to be able to listen to him so that we know what to do.”
Christians can change the culture by bringing people to Christ, and it’s important to teach more people how to do that, she said.
Evangelization was a key theme of the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America.” The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops convened the July 1-4 gathering to set a new course for the Church in this country.
With 3,500 church leaders in attendance, “It was huge,” and well-organized, Mrs. LeDoux said.
“The fact that it was a national conference organized by the bishops themselves … it was a unique situation,” she said. “This year was the 100th anniversary of the founding of the bishops’ conference. It was timely. It was a one-of-a-kind event…. It was by invitation only.”
Dioceses, apostolates and organizations sent participants, she said.
Tom Grenchik, executive director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, invited her and the directors of respect life offices in other dioceses to join their delegation, she said. This replaced their annual national conference this year.
Mrs. LeDoux said Bishop McManus was very supportive of her attending. She was the only person from the Worcester Diocese who went.
The convocation affirmed for her the truth of the pro-life, marriage and religious freedom issues she works with, she said.
Panels at plenary sessions asked: “Where are we at and where are we going?”
She said she is still pondering what to bring back to her ministries.
“What came through was appreciation for our expertise in our areas,” she said. “It came across as a real respect for what we do.” She said the bishops showed the laity this respect, and she thought the lay people also had that respect for each other.
“You got this sense that you were all in this together,” she said.
Participants were challenged to examine their present and future challenges and opportunities and the fruits of their labors. While there are many challenges, “it’s not all gloom and doom,” she said. People can’t fix the problems, but God can.
She recalled how Damon Owens, an expert in Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, summarized a panel discussion: “Jesus Christ is the answer.”
Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron, known for hosting the documentary series Catholicism, called for proclaiming the true, the good and the beautiful. That involves the intelligence of Catholicism and the example of Christians who “love one another,” she said. And, since many people today don’t accept objective truth, “beauty may be the thing we can still reach people with,” she said. “There’s nothing more beautiful than the dying and rising of Jesus Christ.”
The convocation addressed the call to reach out to the peripheries, which sometimes includes the people in the pews, she said. Sometimes people are on spiritual peripheries. Whatever facet of life you’re dealing with, people have needs, wounds and gifts, she said. But the Church’s truth is constant, “and we can be confident in standing firm in that truth,” she said.
“I think the fact that it was all grounded in prayer and liturgy … made the Holy Spirit present, and I think it helped people to open their hearts to how God was working,” Mrs. LeDoux said of the convocation.
Its spirituality included daily Masses with key bishops as main celebrants and homilists, a perpetual adoration chapel, frequent opportunities for confession and an “incredibly moving” eucharistic procession through the streets, she said.
The Pro-life Secretariat organized the procession, and its Project Rachel Ministry, which helps people suffering from abortions, arranged for the confessions. Members of the Catholic Medical Association, clad in white coats, handed out drinking water on the procession route.
“And how appropriate, having the health care people doing their ministry,” she said.
“It was so exciting that I got to be at the closing Mass for the Fortnight for Freedom,” she said, adding that she’s always wanted to attend the national one, held this year as part of the convocation. It was a sign of how important religious freedom is “and that was good for people throughout the country to see,” she said.
The convocation also included morning prayer and evening gatherings. One was called, “Mary, Mother of Evangelization,” she said, noting that the convocation was dedicated to the Blessed Mother and a statue of Our Lady of Fatima was displayed.
“I’m sure this isn’t the end of the story,” Mrs. LeDoux said. Convocation participants will be thinking and praying. They need to address the question: “How do we bring more souls to Christ?”