By: Dominique Johnson
As the number of Catholics who attend Mass every week sits around 40% (Pew Research Survey 2014) there has been an increased call from Pope Francis and other Catholic leaders to encourage the laity to take on the role of Missionary Disciples. During the 2018 Southeast Alaska Catholic Conference in Juneau, themed Living and Sharing the Joy of the Gospel, the presenters shared tools to help attendees embrace their call to be Missionary Disciples.
The conference featured speakers with focuses on youth, musicians, rural ministry and ministry in the Hispanic community. During the three days participants celebrated Mass, took part in adoration and confession and were able to connect with parishioners throughout southeast.
In her first keynote address of the conference Dr. Susan Timoney, professor of pastoral studies at Catholic University of America, reminded those in attendance that at their baptism they were called to serve as priest, prophet and king. She reminded everyone, “We have all been given the grace of this mission and everyone is qualified by the virtue of baptism.”
Dr. Timoney continued her first talk sharing that being a missionary is to point people to Christ. She then gave four traits (the 4 Cs) every Catholic evangelizer carries: Convicted, Contagious, Called and Courageous. Dr. Timoney then demonstrated how our evangelization role model, Mary, possessed those four traits.
On the second day of the conference Dr. Timoney focused on building community and accompanying those in our families and parishes on their journey. She challenged those in the pews to rethink the way we practice community quoting Pope Paul VI who said, “A parish is not principally a structure, a territory or a building, but rather the family of God alive in fellowship with a unified spirit.” Then she asked if this is what people are currently experiencing at their parish and what they can do to help make their parish become more like Pope Paul VI’s vision.
As the talk continued she reminded those at the conference that Jesus didn’t build a church and ask people to come to him, but that he traveled to different communities; he was in the marketplace and visited people in their homes. Dr. Timoney said that we are to use our parishes as a base, but after Mass to go out to our communities and bring the message of Jesus to others. She asked if people’s parishes reflect the face of their community. “Do the people sitting in your pew look like the people in your grocery store? If not, who’s missing?” Dr. Timoney then challenged those in the pews to find ways to accompany those who are missing from their parish, so their parishes better reflect their communities.
In her final keynote presentation of the weekend conference, Dr. Timoney compared the current way of Catholic evangelization to the secret service, because Catholics are quietly there radiating the love of Christ and waiting for disaster to strike to do more. “This is not the kind of evangelization we are called to,” she said. She said we need to prepare our elevator speech on why we believe, so we can share the good news with others, “because how many of you have shared good news without using words?” She added that to be comfortable about sharing our faith, we have to be ourselves and authentic.
Dr. Timoney concluded her talk by giving each person a homework assignment. She asked the participants to talk with a friend or coworker about the conference and to be ready to share the good news of Christ.
You can watch all three of Dr. Susan Timoney’s presentations as well as select breakout session talks on the diocesan website, DioceseofJuneau.org.