Earlier this summer our Diocese was able to send a delegation to the Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America. This historic event gathered more than 3,000 delegates from 159 dioceses. As we focused on the Encyclical of Pope Francis, “The Joy of the Gospel,” and how we can apply it to our reality in the United States, one thing became clear: We cannot just do what we have been doing.
Our discussions were framed by learning about the present landscape/reality, focusing on the need to go out to the periphery and then to plan action. As our delegation gathered, both in Orlando as well as back in Orange, we realized that each of us are challenged to be missionary disciples. This is especially true of all who serve at the pastoral center, our parishes and our schools.
What does being a missionary disciple mean? Archbishop Kurtz said, “…at Aparecida [Brazil], the bishops of Central and South America affirmed that, first of all, believers need to be disciples who day to day follow the Lord. As disciples, believers need to deepen their experience of the Lord Jesus. They need to deepen their understanding of the faith. They need to deepen their community with each other. And then, as disciples, they need to witness, which is the missionary part of the believer’s life. To be a missionary disciple, therefore, is to be a believer who puts these two things together—to experience Christ and to witness to Christ.”
So the first step for each of us is to daily deepen our relationship with Christ through prayer and the sacraments. By spending time each day with the Lord who loves us, that relationship becomes stronger. And as we fall more deeply in love, we naturally will want to share our beloved with all we meet.
We also need to continue to learn about our faith. As we learn more about the faith we are more comfortable talking with others about our relationship with Christ and why we choose to live a life rooted in Christian teaching.
Then, we gather in community. The Lord sent the disciples out with at least one other. To have the support and prayer of the community sustains us when trials come. Getting involved in our parish helps us to form healthy Christian relationships.
With this, we witness. We speak of the great things God is doing for us. We invite people to pray with us. We invite people to join us at Mass, bible study, our prayer group or other activities. We show joy and hope. We show profound hospitality.
As we continue to discuss all we learned, we will be providing some additional practical ideas for strengthening one’s relationship with Christ, growing in the faith, forming community and witnessing to Christ.