St. Cloud Bishop Donald Kettler has selected a team of 10 delegates from the diocese to join him at the Convocation of Catholic Leaders July 1-4 in Orlando, Florida. The gathering, organized by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is being billed as “an unprecedented moment of national unity.”
The convocation, which is slated to feature the “best of the best” Catholic leaders in America, will unpack Pope Francis’ message in his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium,” or “The Joy of the Gospel.”
“Pope Francis’ message in ‘The Joy of the Gospel’ is a reinforcement of the fact that we are being called to be disciples,” said Jane Marrin, chancellor of the diocese and one of the delegates.
“We are called by our baptism to be disciples, and this convocation is a venue to help us strengthen our own call and to look at ways to empower others to answer their own baptismal call,” she said. “It’s an exciting time for us as a diocese to know that we are not in this on our own. This is a national initiative to join together to read and act on the Gospel.”
To help guide the discussions, the convocation is bringing together a diversity of Catholic leaders who will present workshops over the four-day conference to discuss the challenges and opportunities the church is currently facing.
Speakers range from Catholic bishops, including Los Angeles Bishop Robert Barron and Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, to individuals like Helen Alvaré, professor of law at the Antonin Scalia Law School of George Mason University, to other Catholic personalities like recording artist Matt Maher and the Chastity Project’s Jason and Crystalina Evert.
“The diversity of Catholic leaders present in these conversations can only serve to deepen the dialogue,” Marrin said. “It’s not that we will necessarily come up with a new way of doing things, but our hope is that we can figure out how to take what we are already doing and who we are and engage in active evangelization.”
Delegates for the convocation include: Bishop Kettler and Marrin as well as Father Robert Rolfes, vicar general; Linda Kaiser, director of Catholic Education Ministries; Mayuli Bales, diocesan director of multicultural ministries; Chris Codden, director of the diocesan Office of Marriage and Family; Timothy Johnston, director of the Office of Worship; Joe Towalski, director of the Office of Communications and editor of The Visitor newspaper; Father Tony Oelrich, pastor of Christ Church Newman Center in St. Cloud; Deacon L. David Hernandez and Diocesan Pastoral Council representative Darrell Welle.
During the convocation, Bishop Kettler will be a panelist for one of the workshops focused on Pope Francis’ encyclical “Laudato Si,’ On Care for Our Common Home,” and Codden will be a panelist for a workshop titled “Pastoral Care for Those with Same-Sex Attraction or Who Struggle with Their Sexual Identity.”
While there, the team will split up to cover more ground, each attending different workshops. At the end of the convocation, while still in Orlando, the diocesan team will meet to share what they have gleaned through breakout sessions and, hopefully, come out with a goal to bring back to the people of the diocese.
In addition, a “home delegation” will be formed for those who wish to participate from home. Bishop Kettler is inviting teams of educators, priests and religious, youth and young adults, individuals and families to participate in the convocation through online presentations offered during the convocation and provide follow-up after the event.
Marrin noted that this work is a “direct correlation to how we, as a nation, are becoming more diverse.” She hopes that the momentum will continue as the diocese plans to celebrate Encuentro and Diocesan Ministry Day in September (http://dmd-vencuentro.stcdio.org/).
“Our population of Hispanic/Latinos has greatly increased in the last 25 years,” Marrin said. “As we look to the future, the strength of the Catholic Church is no longer dependent on Europeans. Together we can work at becoming disciples and we will be stronger as a church in the end.”