HARTFORD – The 25 delegates from the Archdiocese of Hartford who attended the “Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America” in Orlando, Fla., July 1-4, said they returned feeling excited and ready “to go out with boldness to be missionary disciples,” as Archbishop Leonard P. Blair advised in his opening remarks.
The purpose of the historic national meeting, which brought together more than 3,000 people, was to discuss the issues facing Catholics in the world today and to discuss how the faithful can evangelize to their various constituencies, which include the young, old and those who are marginalized.
“The convocation was a wakeup call. We need to bring stuff to the people,” said Claire Nicholls, a youth minister at St. George Parish in Guilford. She is about to take 22 of her religious education students to Rome to visit the Vatican and engage them in their faith. She looks forward to sharing the spirit of the convocation with them.
The archdiocesan delegation included catechists, educators, parish leaders, staff members, clergy and religious.
Miriam Hidalgo, archdiocesan director of youth and young adult ministry, attended the convocation as a participant and panelist. She and Archbishop Blair were part of a panel discussion entitled “Catechesis: Forming Young People in the Joy of the Gospel.” The panel discussion addressed such questions as how do we teach our young people how to pray? and how do we deal with a generation that is bombarded with images that counter their faith? The panel concluded that the key to influencing our youth is looking up to a strong mentor.
“We have to help our youth fall in love with Jesus Christ,” Hidalgo said.
During his homily at the opening Mass on July 1, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York touched upon four virtues: discipleship, unity, mission and joy. He emphasized joy, saying that “it is a gift from God, which flows from hope,” and commended the delegates for responding to Pope Francis’ call to become missionary disciples.
The message resonated with Dino and Xiomaria Pantoni, who have been Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program leaders for almost 20 years in Waterbury. They said they were very inspired by what they heard at the convocation. “To evangelize is to let go of self and let the Holy Spirit get a hold of you,” said Dino Pantoni.
The archdiocese’s participation was guided by the missionary vision of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Guadium,” or “Joy of the Gospel.”