Diocese of Ogdensburg

The Roman Catholic Church in Northern New York

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Readings: Is 56:1, 6-7/Rom 11:13-15, 29-32/Mt 15:21-28

Are you amazed by the Canaanite woman in today’s gospel? Her faith, her willingness to follow behind Jesus, calling out to him, making a spectacle and nuisance of herself that the apostles want to send her away.  She continues to plead, even when Jesus tries to dissuade her (“I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”). Even when Jesus seemingly insults her (it is not right to take food of the children and throw it to the dogs), she persists.  Did she see Jesus statement as a challenge?  Was there something in his eyes that made her persist?   She does not get angry, but continues to plead her daughter’s case. What great faith and what great humility!   What is it you pray for? Can we pray with the same intensity as the Canaanite women for those who have drifted away from the Church and are in need of healing and mercy? 

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July 4

The last day of the Convocation started with Morning Prayer:





Bishop Malone urged us not to rush without taking the Long View.  He reminded us that a church that goes forth is a church whose doors are open.  He asked us to slow down. And remain with someone.

We are called to Surrender our wills to him and follow him. We are imbued with Holy Spirit and need to rely on the Holy Spirit.  We are given and need to practive the theological virtues Faith, Hope, and Charity.  

Inhabitatio and Innovatio. Live in us and Innovate.  We are given gifts in order to bear fruit. God uses all of us.  If we seek out the needs of  the world, he will connect art gifts with needs.

We need to be renewed in the Lord striving for excellence. To be committed to one another. We are a community of disciples, not Lone Rangers.   We need to hold each other accountable and remember that we are  One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic.  So think about striving for Excellence. We are not just checking off tasks. Rather, we are sons and daughters, extraordinary in Holiness through Grace.  Ask the Lord to renew our hearts and minds.



Keynote: Patrick Licioni from Amazing Parish spoke to us about creating excellent teams and also that people need to be reminded more than they need to be instructed. We need to do our best to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and need to be careful not to turn the Church into a business. 

So Where do we start? Is this practical and real? Patrick reminded us about the Circle of influence and circle of concern.  The circle of influence is what we can actually do and where we can have an effect.  We need to focus on this this area. When we do small things locally, our circle of influence grows. The circle of concern, on the other hand is what we wish we could change, but we  can’t have any real impact here.

So what is my circle of influence. There are three three things that all of us control which will allow us interior peace and personal holiness; Daily prayer. Sacrament. Relationship. Without these three things, nothing can happen.

Focus on team.  Team members are to be a co-responsible small group of people who are committed to teamwork.  We need to live the gospel here, in this team, first. We can tell if not working in a team. We need to be willing to suffer with those closest to us.

A good team will have five behaviors that will that separate it from just being a committee:

First, a team trusts one another.  There is a radical trust based on vulnerability.  Team members are willing to admit to things they are not good at and willing to be vulnerable with your mistakes. We need to be able to ask each other for help.

Second: A team needs to be able to engage in conflict.  There should be healthy conflict around best plan of action. Without trust, this becomes mere politics. With trust, this becomes an honest search for the best options and you can find truth.  We have to be able to disagree on ideas or we will the degrade into dissing people. Without conflict we don't grow anything and we don't commit.

Third:  A team needs to be committed.  We must hold one another accountable.  We are peers holding each other accountable.

Fourth: Eventually the leader has to be ultimate arbiter. A leader who is unable to tell people where they need to grow are selfish. Those who don't hold team members accountable are called wusses withholding excellence.

Fifth: We need to focus on results. Again this includes holding people accountable. Results. Focus on collective outcomes. Team results supersede personal objectives.  

Eventually it is about the health of organizations at large.  We are responsible – each of us. Each one in the Church needs to let people see the love of Jesus, no matter what the reason they come to us.  We must show the Love of Jesus to everybody who comes in to us.



Lucia Baez Luzondo from San Antonio gave her testimony of how God changed her life from a power seeking divorce lawyer missing the love of God in her life. Eventually, she found the Lord and used her gifts to Radio Paz.



Closing Keynote by Bishop Robert Barron.  Bishop Barron’s flight to Orlando was canceled and was able to speak to the Convocation via EWTN’s live stream.

Evangelization: there is nothing more challenging but great saints love a good fight.  Bishop Barron presented three challenges and three opportunities.


First challenge in our culture is the challenge of scientism (naturalism, materialism).  Today’s culture reduces all knowledge to the scientific form of knowledge. It ignores that man's heart is ordered to God and if we close ourselves in we do damage to the human heart, soul.  Scientism is self-refuting.  You can’t prove scientifically that science is the only value. Read Intro to Christianity Benedict XVI. Central point is the universal intelligibility of nature – everything is marked by intelligibility.  The world is intelligible because it is created in the creative intelligence. To evangelize is to speak of God and break through the buffered self and allow the human heart to fulfill its aspirations.

The second challenge is the culture of m'eh, the idea that there is no objective truth …that sense of “whatever”. Bishop Barron used the image of John Henry Newman.  Cardinal Newman said what gives a river force and energy is firm banks. If you break the banks, the river turns into a big lazy lake. Culturally, we are floating on a big lazy lake. Whereas, Evangelization is meant to send me on Mission, which requires energy and verve.  Think of scripture: Mary went in haste. Once you have encountered Jesus you have energy to go in haste. We have a mission.

The third challenge is the culture of self-invention.  Nietze and and Sartre argued existence before essence. Today people argue that my freedom comes first. We get to invent who we want to b, to invent ourselves.  My freedom determines the meaning of my life. Volunteerism leads to triumph of will over intellect.  In other words, the world is what I want it to be. (Look at Regensburg address.) This is an obstacle to evangelization because your life is not about you.  In Gallatians we hear it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. This is counters to today's culture: Truth shall set you free and there is a correlation between truth and freedom.



We have three opportunities or strategies to deal with these challenges:

First is the True.  We need to get away from dumbed-down Catholicism. Catholicism of banners and balloons.  We are a smart religion. Superficial Catholicism cannot sustain a people when struggles come.

Our great figures embrace the intellectual heritage. We need a good grasp of the proof of God. The proof of God that Bishop Barron likes is the argument from contingency. Everything is contingent on other things is science. Science assumes this and looks for causes.  At some point we need to come to reality that is the ultimate TO BE.  God is the I am Who Am: Essence and contingency. God sustains creation as a singer sustains a song. There is a need for a new apologetics using language suited to today’s audience.

The Second Opportunity is the Good. The most powerful force for evangelization is the goodness of people: “How these Christians love one another.”  They care not just for their own but for all.  This is radical.

We need to go back to basics.  Think Mother Teresa. Living the life of faith grabs attention of the herd. We need to recover the splendidly radical form of the Christian Life. Cardinal George asked where are the orders and movements? At times of crisis, orders movements arise. (God will raise up the saints we need when we need them…)

The third opportunity is the Beautiful. The true and good are met with resistance so maybe start with the beautiful. Show people the beauty of Catholicism. Show them the way of beauty.  Paul Claudel was converted by the rose window at Notre Dame.  

Dietrich Von Hildebrandt distinguished between the merely subjectively satisfying and objectively valuable. Subjectively satisfying is things we like, for example Pizza. It is a matter of take. Objectively valuable and intrinsically beautiful seizes us and stops us in our track and rearranges our subjectivity and it changes you and sends you on mission. It is like the first song that rocked your world. Not just the song you liked, but that made you different. The beautiful sends us on Mission. It reaches into your very soul and grabs you by the shoulders. There is nothing more beautiful than the dying and rising of Jesus.



The day concluded with Diocesan teams getting together to discuss and reflect on all we had heard and then concluded with a Mass sending us forth to go and make Disciples. Stay tuned. 

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170706 convocation logo final 470wJuly 3:

The third day of the Convocation started with a Eucharistic Procession: 

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Bishop Edward Burns spoke briefly before introducing the keynote.  He told us to GO OUT.  We, the baptized, are the ordinary Disciples of evangelization. We each have a voice in the conversation. We have our own story to tell.  He reminded us that GO it is mentioned about 1200 times in scriptures.  Perhaps God wasn’t kidding: go out into the fields


KEYNOTE: Carl Anderson, Supreme Knight, Knights of Columbus

He began with a story about a South Korean missionary who traveled to North Korea to give medical assistance. It was dangerous and he was asked why did he go?  His answer: Where there is great suffering Jesus is already there and WE MUST BE ALSO. We need to be with each suffering person. Jesus is already out there on the periphery. Will he be there alone or will we join him?

Mr. Anderson reminded us that we are a universal Church. We must make this church visible at the peripheries. In way going out to the ends of the earth might be easier.  The most difficult challenge may be reaching out to our neighbors.  We don't just need to DO more we need to BE more. The world needs witnesses and those closest to us will know our authenticity (or hypocrisy).

Who are we today as Church? We are in a permanent state of mission, joyfully looking for missionary fruitfulness with joy.  But we are not supposed to go it alone.  We are not to be lone wolves, but labor in  fraternal communion.

At the same time, we are called to personal involvement. The closest periphery is maybe ourselves! The new evangelization is the church becoming what she is by her nature, in relationship with Jesus Christ.

The family is the model place for witnessing the faith, and the the family is essentially missionary. The family shows us how to guard and reveal or communicate the faith in love. The family is an an icon of God's love

Both the parish (a family of families) and the family must be places of encounter with Jesus Christ.  The parish is to be an icon of Jesus is Love that guards, reveals and communicates God’s love. We need to break down our boundaries in the parish: Repudiate extreme individualism, commit to community, be the heart that sees when Love is needed.  We are called to discipleship, witness, and community.

In Redemptoris Missio we were once again called to holiness. Encouragement for a new ardor for holiness.  But we cannot wait for perfection – we need to begin where we are. As Vince Lombardi said: We will chase perfection but cannot attain it, but in the process but we'll catch excellence.

We exist in time and space.  We need to remember the legacy of Catholics before us.  We should look to those leaders who are our heritage: some examples: Mother Seton, Junipero Serra, Mother Cabrini, Kateri Tekakwitha, and Fr. McGivney.

Benedict XVI spoke of creative minorities: the secret of growth of the church is countless creative minorities.



Ansel Augustine - black Catholic Ministries

Fr. Paul Check - Courage

Kim Daniels: communications consultant to the Vatican and USCCB

Sister Marie Pimentel: Catholic Charities

Dr. Christine Woo – CRS


Ansel Augustin (Black Catholic Ministries)

Be careful with language when we say periphery. Black is beautiful. Those of us in black ministry: we need to learn our own history. Black Catholics get overlooked and sometimes I feel like a motherless child (Thea Bowman).  Daniel Rudd, the founder of the National Black Catholic Congress, encouraged blacks to seek the welcoming arms of the church and for the Church to open her doors to them. We have much work to do.  Dr. Augustin recommended Archbishop Hughes (New Orleans) Pastoral Letter on Racism. (Made in the Image and Likeness of God).  We need to remind ourselved that Black Catholicism is a gift to the church

Sister Pimentel (Catholic Charities) reminded us that It is not about us -  it is about the Kingdom. Go out to the border be present.  Encounter the strangers.  Show that the immigrant matters.  Trust that God Is with us/in us and allow immigrants to see Jesus in us as we see Jesus in them.

Carolyn Woo (Catholic Relief Services) CRS is in locations hostile to Christianity. in some countries conversion is punishable by death and so we need to be careful not to endanger people.  We go to help in imitation of the Good Samaritan.  We focus on need not the Creed and serve without conditions.

CRS Works only when and where invited so we need to build relationships/friendships in other to gain access. The point is to make real God's love. For many people God's love remains abstract, but by CRS action they become the messenger for the needy.  In this case, the media – service- is the message

Father Paul Check -  Courage

Who do you say that I am?  Everyone working on that question for themselves. Jesus asks: who do you say that I am?  To fully understand myself,  I need others, we need relationship.  Poverty, chastity and obedience leads to a happy and fulfilled life.  WE need to see that the joy of the Lord is related to how he lived.  The question is, do I believe that chastity is part of the good news of Jesus?  Our Lord will not ask something impossible or that is not for our good, but in living a chaste life, we will be a sign of contradiction. Our lives become an invitation to other to live the fullness of joy.

How do we reach out to same-sex attracted people? First of all, those of us not SSA need to live our Christianity with integrity and we need we need to listen, especially to those who have lived one way and now live another way.  We need to hear the stories.

Kim Daniels, working in Vatican Communication, reminded us of those on the periphery who are persecuted Christians.  We need to give them a platform, a voice. She reminded us that Syrian Christians baptized St Paul.  What do Christians in the Middle East need to do to show they belong there?

The US government should not ignore Middle East Christians.  They are undergoing genocide. We need to provide life-sustaining aid and get there. We have to begin insisting the religious apartheid must change. One way of encounter is via social media.  We can use Social Media plattform to go to the peripheries.  We need to engage people where they are and raise awareness. Use social media or mobile devices.  We need to be interactive on Social Media build community (it isn’t called SOCIAL media for nothing!)  Also, remember that Church is the origianl social media network.  A good example for social media use is to look to Pope Francis: no jargon, great substance, and as for content, bring Jesus in the gospel


(NOTE: There does not seem to be a video for part 2 of this Plenary talk.)


Breakout Session 2

B22- Who’s on the Peripheries in our local parishes and communities



Sherry Weddell -

Bishop Timothy Freyer (Orange)

Diana Hancharenko (Youngstown – Parish ministries)

Rich Harter – Milwaukee

Tom Quinlan - Joliet

Bishop Robert Deeley Portland Maine


Bishop Deeley introduced the topic speaking of his own experience in Maine.  The state of Maine is the periphery.  Maine is mostly rural surrounded by Canada and like elsewhere parishes are the heart of the church. Maine is also peripheral because it is one of the most secular States.

Secularization isn’t new. Secularization has been happening for some time. It was noted as a concern in an essay in 1924.  But secularization creates challenges because people follow the lead of the culture. Bishop Deeley told us that recently met a 15 year old who is the only Catholic in his high school. He is on the periphery.  How does he connect with Church?

Peripheries are within our parishes. Parish is a family of families. How do we make sure that family knows itself as domestic Church?

Registration in Parish is not a canonical term. And a parish is not defined by its registered members. Parish includes everyone in the parish boundary (not just the Catholics).

Another concern is the Twinning/merging parishes. People need a sense of belonging. Smaller groups within the parish can give a sense of belonging to something bigger.  Something to remember with the changes in parish configurations, the feeling of dislocation just not just affect lay faithful. Priests also have to adjust. When parishes get bigger, it becomes more difficult to connect with parishioners.

There is nothing more beautiful than to be in a parish on Sunday.  It is there that we find the presence of Jesus.  We need to move people who are one with us to invite new people to share our experience. The Parish is still THE the place where faith is celebrated and the faithful are sent forth.


Questions to the panel: Why are we passionate about the parish

Sherry Weddell: 98% of the people are in our parishes and that is where the peripheries are.  In reaching the people and creating disciples at the local level, the Church can impact the culture.

Tom Quinlan: we are reminded to love those who are not with us.  As a former DRE he noted the importance of  loving the parents who  are often on the peripheries.

Rich Harter Jesus is risen from the dead triumphed and sent the Holy Spirit. This is where life and hope comes from. If the focus in parish is right, they lead the people and the world changes

Diana Hancharenko As as pastoral associate in a growing  inner-city Parish, the possibilities are endless


We cannot go on as business as usual. The focus has to move from inward looking to going out.  We need to ask who is in our local periphery? Periphery may vary based on location and the demographics, etc.  This session we will look at common themes/broad overview that hopefully will be applicable everywhere.

Comments from the panel:

Sherry Weddell: Worked with ~500 parishes/~140,000 parishioners and the mantra is: never accept a label in place of a story.  She suggested three peripheries:

  • Majority of people in active parishes are passive in early stages/thresholds and they they need to move on a journey to begin to become disciples
  • Middle hemorrhage: people who leave because they are spiritually hungry they don't know where to go in the church
  • Non-practicing parents of kids in religious ed. If we do not reach the parents we will lose the children. 60-90% of kids and families leave after confirmation.

Tom Quinlan:  A story about the periphery.  A new DRE told a story about a mom Lauren of special needs/autism and how she felt unwelcome at Mass because of the child’s actions. We need to look at how the parish is  experienced by those on the periphery. Any surveys we do are are answered by insiders.  It is a reminder that there's plenty of field hospital work needed in our parishes.

Rich Harter:  We need a new set of how to’s.  We need to do Parish differently.  We approach parishes as if stuff happens by osmosis ,and it is NOT HAPPENING. 

Parish should be a school of discipleship. We need to let go of what is not working and intentionally begin leading in a new way. If anyone has not met Jesus, they are on the periphery. If they have not found/discerned their charism(s)  they are on the periphery. Many of our staff are not appreciated and not equipped to deal form disciples.

All this points to learning a new evangelization. Comment on the reference to school of disciples and preaching the kerygma in a new way, the fact that disciples are made, not born and how do we equip our people to make them to be missionary disciples

Diana Hancharenko: We need to make the periphery our priority.  Diana works with young adults in a poor parish. We need to minister with our young adults, not to young adults.  With young adults, we have quality events for the usual suspects.  We need to talk one-on-one and make make connections.  We need to get to the why of things. We need to tell the young adults what is right with them.  They always hear what is wrong with them as millennials.  When we ask Young adults what they love about the church, they are shocked when they answer your questions and you actually listen to their answers.  They are not used to being listened to.

We are called to conversation and LISTENING. We must have empathy. Parish is a place of journey. No one no one comes there who is already perfect.  We also may need to slow the pace. We need to walk with them,  accompany them.

Question to the panel: what are ways to evangelize our staff and leadership

Sherry Weddell: Lots of leaders realize that they have not made the journey yet. We need to listen to their story. What is their lived relationship with God? Pray with them on the spot: Lord I want to move and be open. We need to train ordinary Catholics to be spiritual companions.

Rich Harter: Bring authentic love of Jesus with you before you open your mouth. We have to be the message. We can only give what we have.  We need to learn to speak about our own spiritual journey, and talk about the mission of the Church.  Perhaps look at a formula of Reach, Call, Form and Send

Tom Quinlan:  The DRE I spoke of earlier has a sense of empathy.  She may not have the Theology and skills but can relate and react to others. She is gifted at accompanying people.   Everyone has gifts to share.

Question to the panel: Is it time for paradigm shift in Sacramento preparation

Sherry Weddell: Can we move it away from age-based to spiritually ready,  spiritual hunger and openness? Sacramental prep needs to be evangelizing.

Tom Quinlan: Parents in religious education are most likely on the periphery. We need to raise the ask of the parents.  Quit being afraid to challenge the parents to be in formation.  Catechesis need to be evangelizing. Also, can we front load the ministry. The cement is wet at baptism this is when we can make a difference. Baptism is a natural mom's ministry. Enlist evangelized parents to assist the other parents.

Rich Harter:   It is a People to People.  It is relational.  We need to tap those who are evangelized.

Diana Hancharenko: Marriage prep!  What are we doing for young adults? When they prepare for marriage, it may be the first time they have stepped in church. Don't judge them for not having lived the faith. Rather, think of it as an opportunity. They are here now.


Question to the panel: What can we do about active Catholics.

Sherry Weddell: It needs to be person to person .  We need to listen to the lived experience of God. No one ever asks our active Catholics about their lived experience, and if they do, they don't listen.  We need to let people put how God is active in their lives into words.

Rich Harter: Never accept a label. Just because they have been active in an church activity does not necessarily mean that they have a deep spiritual life.  We need to encourage a Continual encounter with Jesus. We need to stop thinking about rules. We silo by ages or topic. We need change to evangelizing and proclaiming kerygma and talk about the journey of faith.

Tom Harter:  We need to remember that hose on the periphery may have a deep spiritual life. We have to be careful with assumptions.  Let's just talk about Jesus and our own spiritual lives.

Diane Hancharenko: Importance of listening: don't listen to respond. We need to be curious and not judge.  Trust and honor the vulnerability of those sharing their story with you.

Sherry Weddell: we need to focus more on pre-evangelization since this is where most people are. We need to strengthen trust and rouse curiosity.

Question to Panel: How can we best assure openness and missionary creativity in our parishes?

Bishop Deeley:  Parish social Ministries.  We can seek out the needs that people have and then work to meet the needs.   We become disciples by doing the mission. This is especially important for Millennials. They want to serve and make a difference.  This can be a great opportunity for pre-evangelization.

We can also look at the example of the Neocatechumenal way: a Catechumenate for those already baptized. Referring back to Tom Quinlan’s earlier point, this is an opportunity to re-wet the cement.

Sherry Weddell Energizing disciples around you is the proof your ministry is bearing fruit. Be bold. Dare to fail but trust in the Holy Spirit.  Also, don't confuse urgency for impatience.  It takes time.




Breakout Session 3

C6: sharing Christ’s Story, Sharing Our Story


Bishop Cheri, OFM – New Orleans

Bishop Noonan, Orlando

Lisa Brenninkmeyer – Walking with Purpose

Steve Dawson: Saint Paul Street Evangelization

Mark Middendorf – Lighthouse

Fr. Dave Pivonka: TOR


Bishop Cheri: Let us start with a song by Fanny Crosby -  Blessed Assurance.

One of the last true testimonies happened on Calvary. two thieves, one demanding to be released and one asking to be remembered.  The Good thief received paradise with Blessed assurance.  We are all sinners: criminals of some kind.  We have all been there and done that. Yet it does not prevent the life of Christ to shine through us. All you need to know the mercy and love of Christ.  THIS is a story we have to tell.

Telling Christ story and our story is the only way we can make it:  to form disciples. It calls us to live out our lifestyle. We have to be living Epistles. We may be the only book someone reads.

We all have a story. And we forget, and develop policies, programs, and creeds instead of telling our story.  What we need to do is to show them the life of Jesus. We have to know what God has done for us.  We have to remember our blessings.  How has Jesus made a difference in our lives. THIS is our story.

How do we tell our story in a way that is compelling and not annoying? We need to use normal words, no jargon. We need to be brief and get to the point. Etc.

Steve Dawson told us that he was passionate because he had a powerful conversion. We have a responsibility if we believe what the church teaches.

Father Dave Pivonka:  a great example for us is the Woman at the Well.  She goes out when she won't be seen and then, after encountering Jesus goes and tells everybody. She is no longer ashamed: The encounter changes their lives. We have to create opportunities of encounter. We have to show others that THIS is what he has done for me.  We have people who have not encountered the Lord or don't know how to articulate that encounter.

Mark Middendorf is also passionate because of his own story. Through personal witness he came back to the faith. It was a cassette tape by Scott Hahn. That personal witness moved his conversion. True devotion book let to total consecration. Now he desires to to give back how he received.  This desire became Lighthouse Ministries.  Then he joined with Tim Gray and now it has become Augustine Institute. His story shows the power of collaboration.

Lisa Brenninkmeyer: The longer we walk with faith we become more homogenous and become comfortable with the holy huddle. We need to break out of our comfort zones and reach out. The ones closest to us is harder. Key people can make a difference and we can be that person.


What works?

Dave Pivonka: We remember stories (think about it, everybody can tell the basic Thanksgiving day story…) Stories can break down walls. Evangelization is about being responsive to the Holy Spirit. It is about being available to the Holy Spirit.  We need to build up our relationship with the Holy Spirit. How am I available to the Holy Spirit? We need to look for divine appointments.

We need to be able to reflect on our own story and reflect on encounter with the Lord and then articulate it.  We need to do our part and but need to have all the answers. When we try things and it goes wrong,  repent for failures and then get back in the game.

Steve Dawson:  Trust your Inspiration to talk to people.  How often do we miss the opportunity to share our faith?  Also, the more we open up the more he asks us but he also equips us.  Prepare simple ways to create opportunities to evangelize. Don’t worry about what is this person going to think? We need simple ways to engage people. One way is to offer holy items – prayer cards, medals, little tangible things.

An Apostle is always on the lookout for people to evangelize. St. Maximilian Kolbe would hand out Miraculous Medals.  It is a simple thing.  Learn the story of the metal. Put yourself out there and the Holy Spirit takes over.  One thing that is very important is listening to the other. Listen and then offer to tell you what I believe about Jesus. God. (“can I tell you what I believe?”) Then encourage the next step How about the church? You are not trying to shove the catechism down their throat but you are inviting them to a relationship, an encounter. But sometimes the simplest way is to start with something easy lie a Miraculous Medal or a Lighthouse CD.

Mark Middendorf: There is a power of questions. Think about it. How many questions did Jesus ask? He knew the answers before it was asked. He asked so that we could step into his life.  One suggestion is to go door-to-door. Invite them. Before you go, do a Marian consecration.  Prayer before all else. And have  answers to 3 types of encounter prepared: one for the Catholic who is no longer interested, one for a protestants and one for a secularist who espouses Scientism.

Lisa Benninkmeyer: Each one of us has a story but we need to wrestle with the parts of the story we don't like.  Normally we present edited versions of our story, but the part we want to edit out that is often the part makes our story compelling.   People are longing for authenticity and honesty.  They want to know about the things that are  hard in life and then this is how Jesus has Impacted me.

People are loved to Christ rather than convinced.  We need to do a lot of personal sharing of story and point to the Hope Jesus brings. Tell stories of struggle. Jesus is the hero. People will hear your story and thing if Jesus showed up for you maybe he will show up for me too.   And even if the situation is different, what we share is that I don't know the exact situation but I know the feeling you are sharing.

Best practices with strangers: Joy of the Gospel  uses the word  listen over 30 times. Ask others for their story. It opens up the conversation. Relationship can develop quickly. Listen to understand, not to formulate a response!

Terry Baldwin  who is an evangelist in Cleveland suggests: prepare three talks:  in 30 seconds you can tell about who brought you to God. In a three minute exchange you can tell someone about your encounter with Jesus. If you have  30 minutes: how does the Holy Spirit impact your faith.

Digital discipleship Network and NET ministries tell us to look at people as people not projects. We need to learn what the kerygma is and how to proclaim it.  

Remember the rule: of stories: humility, brevity and clarity.


A few last thoughts from the panel:

Mark Middendorf: The last two sentences of the Joy of the Gospel: “behold I make all things new” and entrust yourself to Mary. Also, people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.

Father Dave Pivonka:  I want to love you just the way you are. Let people know that we love because Jesus loves us first.

Steve Dawson: Do something, anything. Try something: grab a few miraculous medals and give them out or find your own approach.  But DO SOMETHING.

Lisa Benninkmeyer: Lean into the hard places where people are struggling. Our story matters but so do theirs. Be good listeners.


Bishop Noonan, wrapping up.  Once upon a time he thought he was in control. But he realized he was not open to the Lord.  Rather he was telling telling the Lord what he wanted. Then he attended a Cursillo and learned God was in charge.   God is in charge.  Listen and then tell your story.



After Mass and Dinner, the Third day concluded with an amazing talk by Cardinal Tobin and a concert by Matt Maher and Audrey Assad

Mass, July 3: 

Cardinal Tobin's Reflection:


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Vignettes edited 1


Readings: 1 Kgs 19:9a, 11-13a/Rom 9:1-5/Mt 14:22-33

The story of Peter walking on the water is one of those familiar bible stories that sometimes we no longer pay attention to when it is read at Mass.  There is so much symbolism in this story.  The fact that Jesus stays behind because he needs to pray. Peter walking on the water is doing fine as long as he keeps his eyes on Jesus. The fact that the storm dies down when Jesus gets into the boat. Sometime we get complacent while we are safely inside the boat, content in the routines of our parish.  Can we, while keeping our eyes on Jesus, step out of our comfort zone, and go out to those who may be adrift and looking for a safe harbor of a loving community of faith?

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July 2, Afternoon Session


Archbishop Leonard Blair from Hartford began by mentioning the new document from the USCCB: Living as Missionary Disciples (a wonderful resource.  Stay tuned for a review on this blog soon).  There is a new emphasis on evangelization which is also evident in the name of the USCCB committee, which is now called the Catechesis and Evangelization Committee. Pope Francis’ call to missionary discipleship is only the last one in a long line of popes calling for evangelization.  Pope Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi affirmed that t: The Church born of evangelizing work of Jesus and the twelve . It is the whole church, including each member, who is called to evangelize.  Hans Urs von Balthazar gave us the image of the paschal mystery  is like a stone dropped in a pond.  It needs to ripple outward.

Representatives of various ministries and diverse groups are gathered for the convocation.  Diversity with common baptism leads to common Mission to evangelize. We are bearers of Jesus and the joy of the Gospel and the best text cannot beat personal witness of Catholics living their faith out loud. We have not done evangelization well.  So now we must rise to the challenge of our baptism and encourage each other to go out BOLDLY.

Panel Discussion:

Bishop Frank Caggiano, Bishop of Bridgeport

Fr. Rafael Capó, Archdiocese Miami – Office of Hispanic Ministry

Sister Miriam Highland, SOLT

Curtis Martin, Founder of FOCUS

Sherry Weddell, Catherine of Siena Institute


Bishop Caggiano broke open the word radical: an uncompromising desire to go out wherever the gospel calls us rooted in Jesus Christ. It begins by going inward: a radical response to the call to holiness. We need radical conversion. We need to pray for mercy, encounter, interior change. Also, no one in this room is saving anyone! We already have a savior, and his name is Jesus Christ. Humility is needed so we can come together as a family. Like Mom said: it is clear we have enough food and the person coming through the door is family.

Curtis Martin: We are not asking enough of our young people. The world has gotten noisy and we need to let kids know there is a real battle going on. Card. Ratzinger said the end of evangelization is to address poverty in all forms in the world. Kids we are here for a reason.  They are can be an agent to help end poverty in all its forms. Answering a question about  FOCUS on historically black colleges: FOCUS serves at the invitation of Bishop and colleges. We need everyone's leadership.

Father Capo:  On reaching out to Hispanic youth who have left the church: we need to start making an impact with Hispanic youth and young adults who are sitting next to us, who have not left.  We need to open spaces for Hispanics across the church and empowering them train young people in leadership.

There is a great diversity among Hispanic Catholics.  The Hispanic Community has had to make that journey of unity in diversity of themselves. Hispanics are the people of God who pray in Spanish – it is not a mono-culture. Unity in diversity begins with conversion – and it is a process.  Encuentro – is for everyone (including non-hispanics)

Sister Miriam told her story.  She ached for more: Someone loved me in my brokenness.  God didn’t abandon me. A priest witnessed intimacy with Jesus and she desired that intimacy.  That priest fathered her.  I don't know what you have, but I know that before the gaze of Jesus all falsehood burns away. Love is an ongoing invitation.  There is always more. If there is not something more, we are just managing well.  We don’t just want to manage, we want to live vibrantly and fully.  We need to pray that God will come and heal where we are still hiding from him.

Sherry Weddell: We have a misconception of missionary discipleship. Most of us are not far along as we think we are. It is a real journey. Only about 2-3% of all Catholics are conscious missionary disciples. We can help them identify a place where God has used them. Then their mission comes to life.  We all have charisms but we need help to discover them.  We need to be prepared to help people on the journey. We need the support of an intentional Christian community to help us make the journey to discipleship.  Once we are following Jesus and now he is sending me. This changes everything. How do we earn trust of those who disagree with us? First thing we need to see is if there a badge of trust, any positive association with the church? Perhaps we are the living bridge of trust. With many of our lapsed Catholics that bridge of trust isn’t there, and maybe never was.  

Bishop Caggiano: What does turning outward look like? How do we know we are ready to be disciples?  Jesus wants everything:  heart, mind, soul. Love and trust one another. Stand firm.  Come together to form his body. We should give everything over to the Lord.

Fr. Capo aswered a question concerning diversity and polarization. We need to sit at the table with eachother. One practical way is that we can serve as meeting point: sit at table, get to know each other and share our stories of conversion. Remember that the Lord who called me, called each of them. We can bridge the divide.

Curtis Martin answered a question about authenticity and vulnerability by telling us that Jesus shows us how to do this.  He modeled the process of getting in people's lives.  He basically said that if will you be “all-in” for me, I am all-in for you. 


To conclude, each of the panelist could briefly say what they thought was important for us to hear:

Bishop Caggiano: Our challenge is to rediscover the power of the table. 

Curtis Martin: Three habits are needed: divine intimacy, authentic friendship, clarity and conviction. This generation is responsible for this generation of people to be evangelized..

Sr. Miriam: Encounter cannot be theoretical it is personal.  Where has Christ gazed on you? We gaze of things that are lovely – Christ gazes on you and you are lovely. His kindness leads to repentance, and we return to God.

Father Cápo: AS we walk together.  Listen to our young people and empower them to become missionary disciples.

Sherry Weddell: There is someone out there who is waiting what you have been created to give. Their lives hang in the balance. You matter. It matters that you say yes. There is no vocational unemployment

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Cardinal Wuerl wrapping up:

Looking to the future with a new sense of outreach.  We have an extraordinary role model in Pope Francis.  He represents the face of a church that invites everyone.

Context: situations change from age to age … sometimes from week-to-week. The message doesn’t change but we must always address the local situation in a language that can be received.  We need to be language appropriate so people can hear the message.   

We need to go out: experience the mercy and live it out in word and deed.  We need to encounter and accompany, identify the peripheries, and we need to remember that the role of the laity is the transformation of the secular order.

Five characteristics of evangelizing disciple

  • Boldness we stand in the Truth
  • Connected to church
  • Urgency
  • Compassion for sinners embraced by the love of God
  • Joy



The second day of the Convocation ended with a beautiful Mass with Archbishop Gregory from Atlanta as the main celebrant.

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Day Two: July 2 - Morning Sessions


Day two started with a beautiful chanted Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours.  The delegates were led by two cantors to help us chant the psalms and Archbishop Wenski from Miami presided.


PLENARY SESSION: Charting the Landscape and Mission Field

Archbishop Wenski spoke briefly about the background of the Convocation.  Planning began far back in 2008 with a strategic working group.  Eventually the planning moved from Pro-Life and the Social Justice leadership, to realizing that what was needed was much broader in scope. There was a strong desire on the part of Catholics to see the WHY of church teachings. The Church needed to be a field hospital.  Mercy and Healing were needed in all areas and there was a great need to share the gospel in a way that moves people.  The strategic planning group realized that evangelization and engagement of laity was the key.  Therefore, other groups were added to the planning team, which eventually led to the Convocation of Catholic Leaders

This first day, we needed to look at the context of who we are evangelizing.  What is the current landscape and mission field?  To do so, we need to look at opportunities as well as challenges.  We need to imitate the Good Shepherd looking for the lost sheep.  The challenges are great, but Archbishop Wenski reminded us that it is not all doom and gloom. The gospel is Good News filled with hope and  joy


Keynote: Dr. Hosffnan Ospina – Researcher from Boston College

Dr. Ospina took us through the context of the current landscape and how we got here by giving us a brief overview of recent Catholic History in the United States. He asked us to think about what it means to be missionary disciples in our current landscape and to consider how Catholics a hundred years from now will view us. What will be our legacy?

To give us some insight, he gave us a brief review of history of Catholicism in the 19th and 20th centuries. In the 19th century, he reminded us, that the wave of European Catholic immigrants (Irish and Italian) displaced the Hispanic Catholics and the French.  This large influx of immigrant Catholics built up the church in the United States.  This led to Catholicism in the public square overcoming poverty and anti-Catholic sentiment. 

In the 20th century, there was a brief stability and an integration of Catholics in the US culture.  Catholics could now be BOTH Catholic and American – it was no longer a case of being either one or the other. Ethnic churches embodied the Catholic population and Catholics took part in the American Dream.  But not all US Catholics participated in the dream: African, Hispanic, Asian and the rural poor were on the peripheries.  There was racism and classism.

More recently, we have and are undergoing a demographic transformation: Hispanics comprise 71% of the growth in the Catholics Church since the 1960s.  60% of Catholics under the age of 18 are Hispanic and one of the largest groups are now Asian Catholics. Many of our new faces are immigrants. They, like previous waves of European immigrants, are the face of Jesus as well.  It is a type of a new beginning.

Current demographics are 1% native, 4% African American, 5% Asian Pacific, 40% Hispanic and 50% European White.  The delegates at the convocation reflect this demographic, but do we see the same representation in our parishes, diocesan chanceries, etc.?

There is also a geographic shift: more than half the US Catholics now live in the south and west of the US, not the Northeast and the rustbelt. Although there is a population shift, the resources and infrastructure have not shifted as quickly.  The phenomenal growth of the church in the South and West have created needs that we are struggling to meet. There is a need for more churches and other infrastructure.  The South and West have fewer resources.  People have less education but they are strong in faith and family.  The Church is truly becoming a poor church for the poor resulting in a real sense of solidarity.

Simultaneous to changes in demographics and geography, there are massive cultural shifts that have occurred which can be summarized in four areas:

Family Life is being reconfigured.  There are new rules, expectations and practices. Yet family life should be where faith is learned.  We must think creatively to strengthen the family which is the basic building block of society.

There is an erosion of communal life. Our culture is becoming more and more individualistic. Shared convictions and caring for others becomes someone else's job and many of our people no longer see worshiping together as important to their spiritual growth.

Cultural Wars and polarization make mutual and respectful dialogue almost impossible.  Rather than working together and learning from our difference, we are focusing on making ideological points and demonizing the Other

The fourth cultural shift is Secularization. In 1991, 3% self-identified as nones – having no religious affiliation; today 25% consider themselves nones.  Today, twenty million people who were born and raised Catholic have drifted away from the faith they grew up in. Fourteen million Hispanics no longer identify as Catholic. To understand our current landscape, we need to know why are they leaving.  Also, did we notice that they left?

But as Bishop Wenski said, it is not all doom and gloom.  Dr. Ospina reminded us of two Greek terms: Crisis and Kairos:

Crisis speaks of a transition, that liminal space between what is passing and what has not yet come.  Many of us see pluralism with a sense of loss and the future seems unstable.  In a time of crisis, people need accompaniment, knowing that someone is there walking along side of them, that they are not alone. At forefront of the changes are young Catholics. Many of these are immigrants who bring fresh life to the community, who are looking forward and are building bridges to the future.

The second work Kairos, speaks of a new age that is emerging and brought forward by the Holy Spirit. It is a renewed invitation to preach the joy of the Gospel and a reminder that God has called us from among the nations to be God’s faithful people here and now. We are to be God's faithful people.  We need to embrace the new reality and declare ourselves in permanent state of mission.  We can no longer sit back and remain passive.  We are called to a permanent missionary activity, to go forth to peripheries and take the initiative to reach out to those who have drifted away.

Witness Story by Damon and Melanie Owens

Dane and Melanie Owens shared their story which reflects the cultural shifts that we have been seeing.  They are a couple who were baptized but whose lives did not reflect demands of baptized Catholics. The way they put is was that they were trained in the College Culture of Love.  They fell in love hard and it quickly turned physical. They were the marginalized Catholics.

Doctrine was irrelevant to them but passionately wanted connection.  They wanted real love and wanted to be love for who they were, for themselves. They needed to find a way to reconcile the love they felt with the law of doctrine.  They were looking for the Damon and Melanie exception.

But then the joy of love met joy of the Gospel in the community of a good parish, and they were willing to be the best for each other.   Building up the good was a purification and a universal search for belonging.  God’s mercy led them to where they are today and his mercy led them to an interest in sharing the good news they found in NFP and the Theology of the Body.

They reminded the delegates that wounded are yearning hearts that need the transforming power of love.  We must have a desire to draw the world to Jesus who can heal the wounded hearts among us.  People will do for love what they would never do for the law, and so we have to lead with love.

Panel discussion

Helen Alvare (Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University)

Fr. Thomas Gaunt, SJ (CARA)

Kerry Webber (America Magazine)

Fr Agustino Torres, CFR (Latinos Por La Vida)

Helen Alvare: There is both good news and bad news. In the family, we are embracing the role of women as well as embracing male role in home.  There is an emerging consensus that the Church’s way is freeing and that family a crucial force in society. The bad news is that differences in family structure are creating gap between rich and poor, the good of permanence is being questioned and the redefinition of marriage us creating religious freedom issues.  Helen recommended that we not we be afraid, that we not forget underserved children and working poor.  We need to develop a new language around Justice, Love and Truth.  We need to stay involved with the constitutional arguments around freedom of religion and be communities of witness who are able to explain what we will use our freedom for.

Fr. Thomas Gaunt: Told us not to be afraid of changing demographics.  The Church has always been changing in the in the US and the cultural center of Church has never been constant.  There are millions Filipino, Vietnamese, Indian, Africans, and others who will come to our parishes, most often our city parishes.   Devotions will change when enough immigrants join a parish to create a tipping point but this is an enrichment, not a loss.

So many parishes closing, driven by driven by demographics.  Many children move away.  At the same time, we have the opposite problem in the South and West where the issue is how to deal with explosive growth.  It is a reminder that things look different based on context.

Catholic identity is fluid.  Many who do not go to church call themselves Catholic. 25 million Catholics never show up at church but still call themselves Catholic.  Which makes you question, with so many non-engaged Catholics, what makes identity so enduring?  These Catholics on the periphery are prime targets for evangelization, since they still hold some of the values which can serve a bridge to begin communication.

Kerry Webber: What does Mercy look like in the current landscape? Is there an openness, and an invitation to action?  How do we turn the sentiment of mercy into action? How can we be “mercy-ing,”  to-be mercy for others.  Because mercy is not passive: it is disruptive and reinvigorates lives.  We need to ask ourselves, how do I live this Mercy?

In Media, Catholic media needs to represent the diversity of Catholics and allow people to speak through their own voice, because they are children of God.

Fr.  Agustino offered advice to people who have sense of loss in their parish because of changes in demographics.  Rather than fearing change, we need to see the beautiful Church that diversity is creating.  We need to see the beauty that is present in the different cultures that enrich our community. People want to be included but often feel neglected. People want to be recognized and have an identity (for example, Hispanics are not a homogeneous group, they come from multiple countries with very different cultures).

We also need to look at women in church – they should be like yeast in a cake, not like raising (in other words, they need to be throughout the church, not like a quota or checkmark mentality). Women offer a complementarity even at the chancery by adding their feminine genius.  We need to expand our understanding of complementarity. Complementarity is not just needed in procreation.

There should be a separation of ordination and power – we live out the gospel call in collaboration.  This also includes social justice aspects of fair wages, maternity leave, support for part-time workers as well as supporting husbands and fathers.

We need to reflect on the Theology of the Body to establish a new language.  In the encounter, we are always searching for meaning. We are made for love, for the gift of self  and we are made for communion.  And so, we can say this is my body/this is not my body, because our bodies reveal the truth of Who We Are.  This new language is a huge opportunity: Theology of the Body makes the church relevant in today’s culture by helping us ask the right questions: Who am I? Why am I here? What makes me happy?


Breakout session A22

Landscape of Parish life and Catholic Ministry



Bishop Mark Brennan (Baltimore)

Bishop Robert Fisher (Detroit)

Marti Jules (emerging models)

Steve Bannon (Paradiso Dei/That Man is You)

Father Michael White (Rebuilt)

Bishop Mark Brennan

Bishop Brennan started us off by telling a story that spoke of the changes in demographics that many areas are experiencing.  His first parish was in Montgomery County, which was a prosperous parish, white English speaking (Anglo) population with a smattering of Filipinos, Vietnamese and blacks and the Mass attendance was good.  He went back in 2003. The county has changed.  The population was now a third foreign-born and their children. The parish had 11 weekend Masses: six in English and five in Spanish.  They were thinking of adding a French Mass for the French speaking Vietnamese.

The question arises: Why does the church exist? To bring Jesus to the people.  We can be more fruitful by going out to those on the margin.  Every parish, every region will have to look to who is one the margins because it is not one size fits all. We need to accompany them, be at their side.  We also need to reach out to those who are leaving the parish because of secularization and materialism.

Why should we care about those on the margins? The parish is the normal place where people interact with the church and the parish rightly structured can form missionary disciples. Multicultural Parish can be a laboratory of the new humanity created in Jesus Christ

Some issue to explore:

  • Considering our parish structures, pastoral practices and the typical expectations of parish, clergy, religious and lay ministers, what helps and hinders forming missionary disciples and engaging in the mission of the church to evangelize and what is missing that could foster such a transformation?
  • How do we attract Catholics presently absent from parish life, as well as people of no religious affiliation, especially those on the margins? Since they and we live in a dominantly secular culture, how do we challenge the culture/transform it?
  • How do we overcome divisions in our parishes so that we may live fully the unity in diversity that we have sacramentally in Christ?

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Marti Jewell, who worked on one of the largest research study of parishes is Catholic parishes in the 21st century, added that we are in the midst of great change and asked are you comfortable with change?  We cannot continue to do what we have always done, because it no longer works. We are called to let go of how we do ministry because of the decline and priests and parishes.  At the same time, there are areas where growth is exploding and the priest of parishioner ratio is one priest for 22,000 Catholics.  Lay ecclesial Ministry is growing, as is the Diaconate.  It can no longer be only Father and Sister who do parish ministry.  We have to let go of old paradigms. 

One comment she had about those on the margins: We need to deal with the reality that people are statistically younger and are leaving the church.  We need to see how we are including our young people - incorporate them into the parish, not separating them from the community.

We also need to welcome diversity.  This is everywhere.  We must create open and welcoming parishes.  We need to evangelize, provide Adult Faith formation and Outreach.  What people are hoping for often varies by culture. 

Steve Bannon reminder us that there is an incredible hunger: people are wandering in a desert.  But it is in the desert where God will speak to their heart. The Catholics who are leaving often “don't feel like I'm being fed.”  We need to meet them where they are.  Also, we need to remember that when family life goes well, all life goes well.  That Man is You was founded to challenge men to be the fathers and husbands their families need them to be.

That Man is You was started because they found that many Catholic men went to Protestant programs.  Since they didn’t have a Catholic alternative, it was the best they could do, but they would like a Catholic alternative.  That Man Is You filled that niche.  The program hits them as husband and father with solid Catholic teaching. Then they get more out of Parish and put more in, and also they get involved in the community at large (school board, etc.)  When men come back to the parish the entire dynamic of the parish changes and transforms.

Fr. Michael White commented that in his town, most of the community does not go to church and yet they are Catholic.  There is a huge Evangelical Church meeting in warehouse and 70% of that congregations are former Catholics.  The common complaint was that they were not being fed and they were not growing in their faith.

This returns to the central questions of evangelization and discipleship. Who are the people who are missing what do we want them to do? Do we have accessible clear steps to get them back? Would an outsider know what you want I want them to do? Do we have clear steps in terms of discipleship?

Just because what we are doing is good, doesn't mean that we can't do better or different. We need to get rid of the attitude of we have always done it this way. We need to break down the barriers. What is it that stops people from crossing our thresholds. And we have to see what people mean by “they are not being fed.   We need to feed our people culturally and intellectually. Many of our kids think education devalues faith.  They see a disconnect between faith and reason. We need to learn to speak to an educated, yet often misinformed population.

When it comes to discipleship and evangelization we need to be specific.  Nothing becomes real until it becomes specific. Evangelization needs to be specific: Who are we trying to reach? How are you going to reach them?

After small group table discussion, there was a list generated of the greatest opportunities and challenges in our parishes:

  • Hungry laity
  • Leaders who themselves are not evangelized
  • Pastors needing to let go of some control (and laity needing to step up to the plate)
  • Embracing new things
  • Crazy growth in the south
  • We need to do both evangelization and catechesis with integrated programs and follow-up
  • Proliferation of secular weekend events with which we are competing: Church is seen by many as one of many equally important options
  • Busy-ness of daily life that divides families. Where and when can families be together and work together. Can we create space for families to be families?
  • Young people want the staff and parish priests to be on fire for Christ.
  • We not praying together as staff for our parishes. As parish and diocesan leaders, we need to bring our challenges to God and model our faith.
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Dn 7:9-10, 13-14/2 Pt 1:16-19/Mt 17:1-9

You cannot help but love St. Peter.  Haven’t all of us felt that way at some point or another.  Perhaps we were on a wonderful retreat, or maybe a day of prayer on one of our lakes.  I am sure that our teenagers who spent a week at Guggenheim have felt like Peter at some point. Can’t we just stay here, in this peaceful place, just Jesus and us.  But we all must come down the mountain, and eventually pick up our cross.  But we should not forget that mountaintop experience, that knowledge that Jesus is with us and God is very much present.  And, no matter what happens, we too can take confidence in the words of Jesus: Rise, and do not be afraid.

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The third day, we traveled to the town of Magdala (Mary Magdalene’s hometown) and saw the remains of a Synagogue from the time of Jesus. The tile flooring was still intact. Did Jesus walk on that tile floor? It is possible!

magdala sm Synagogue at Magdala

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The orgininal tile floor ... did Jesus walk on this floor?


From Magdala, we went to the beach where the resurrected Jesus met Peter and asked him “Do you really love me” three times and where he told Peter to “Feed my Sheep”.  We saw the rock where Jesus was cooking fish for breakfast. The rock is now under the altar of the Church of the Primacy of Peter that was built over the site. 

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Feed My Sheep



Table of the Lord: where Jesus cooked fish for the Disciples


From there we went up to the Mount of Beatitudes and our priests celebrated Mass for our group in an outdoor chapel surrounded by the beautiful gardens.  beatitude panorama sm

Panorama of the Gardens on the Mount of Beatitudes

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Church of the Beatitudes (octagonal for the 8 Beatitudes)


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The likely spot from where Jesus Preached the Beatitudes. 

With the wind from behind, you can hear people speaking all the way down the hill


From there we went to the Tabgha and the Church of the multiplication of loaves with mosaic floor dating back to the Byzantine era.

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Church built on the site of the Multiplication of Loaves


Then we were off to Capernaum (Jesus home base).  There we saw the remains of the first church built over Peter’s mother-in-law’s house, the remains of the Crusader church built on the same site and then the modern church built by the Franciscans which hovers over the archeological dig like a flying saucer.  We saw the remains of the 4th century Synagogue with remnants of the synagogue that existed on the same site in the time of Jesus.  Jesus would have taught there! 

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Three churches in Capernaum: 

Peter's Mother's house in the Center

The Outer ring is from the time of the Crusaders

And the Concret above is the current modern Church staffed by the Franciscans


Then we traveled on the Bethsaida where Andrew and Peter were from.  In Bethsaida, we saw the house of the fisherman where archeologists found nets, fish hook and lots of fish bones.We visited a museum where we saw the remains of a first century fishing boat of the type that Peter might have sailed as he went fishing.

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Markers along the roads in Bethsaida

We ended the day with a silent and prayerful boat ride on the Sea of Gallilee back to Tiberius and our hotel.

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A quiet ride back on the Sea of Gallilee



The following day, our fourth day, we drove south.  We passed Jericho and went around Jerusalem to Bethlehem.  We celebrated Mass in chapel built in a cave near the Shepherd’s field where shepherds had been keeping watch over their sheep when the angels called them to go see the Christ Child. 

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Mass set up in the grotto ... was this where the shepherds were keeping their watch?


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The Grotto is enclosed in glass...


From there we went to our Franciscan retreat house Casa Nova which was next door (!) to the Church of the Incarnation.  We toured the Milk Grotto, which houses an icon of Mary breast feeding baby Jesus as they were running from Herod to find safety in Egypt.

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Icon in the Milk Grotto


After standing in line for a long time, in the lower level of the very crowded Orthodox Church of the Incarnation, which was under renovation, we entered the grotto where Jesus was born, and then went next door and prayed at St. Catherine’s Church, which, after a long and noisy day, was blissfully silent

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Standing in line listening to our local tour guide ... no pushing!


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The Nativity Grotto where Jesus was born.  You can touch the floor of the original cave through the star shaped hole


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Ending the day in the small and silent chapel at St. Catherine's Catholic Church


Stay tuned for the 3rd Installment: Jordan River, Jericho and Wadi Quelt on the old road to Jerusalem that Jesus would have walked ...


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