Joy of the Gospel in America
Convocation - Day 2
How has the landscape of the Church in the United States of America changed? That was the fundamental question for day two of the Convocation of Catholic Leaders - the Joy of the Gospel in America.
Archbishop Wenski (Miami) set the stage with some sobering news - based on some right brain research conducted by the USCCB, there is not as much tension between people and the institutional church as we thought. The bad news - or at least a wake up call - is the angst people feel. The uncertainty. And a lot of hurt.
Dr. Hosffman Ospino (Boston College) reviewed the history of the church in America - at first English, Spanish, and French settlers on the fringe of society, then a massive immigration of European Catholics that built the Church infrastructure in the Northeast and Midwest and in the large metropolitan areas. This brought on the "golden era" of American Catholicism but not everyone benefitted.
If our history of immigration teaches us anything, it teaches us that the immigrant is not a threat to our country.
The new Catholic reality is 1% Native American, 4% African-American, 5% Asian, 40% Hispanic, and 50% White European. The growth is in the South and West and the decline is in the Northeast and Midwest.
The major cultural shifts is the impact on family life, the erosion of communal life, the culture wars, and rise of secularism. Only one-third of self described Catholics go to Mass on a regular basis. The church is in a liminal space, in the advent of a new moment, a new Kairos, a new time.
The church today needs to be in a permanent state of mission. The Fifth Encuentro, a gathering of the Hispanic church, is happening across the country and will culminate in a national gathering in September of 2018. This is a moment for everyone in the church to come together, learn from and support one another, and discern next steps for the church.
The panel on young adults - specifically on the "nones" - was again sobering. 50% of baptized Catholics no longer identify themselves as Catholic. Of those, 79% leave the church before they are 23. And they are not angry. They are indifferent. They do not leave the church in a huff; they simply drift away.
Cardinal Wuerl (Washington, DC) stressed that the laity are really coming into their own - women and men - as agents of evangelization. They are the ones who can encounter, engage, and accompany those who have not welcomed the Gospel message into their lives.
He spoke of five characteristics of the "evangelist" - boldness, connectedness, urgency, compassion, and joy.
We gathered for prayer in the evening and Cardinal O'Malley (Boston) called us to be honest with what we have done, and what we have failed to do. We all stand before the Lord as sinners and Jesus never - NEVER - tires of forgiving us. We are all wounded and sinful, yet it is Jesus who empowers us to heal and bless. It is wondering, amazing, unbelievable, and the source of our joy.
Together in Mission,
Dr. Donald R. McCrabb