The joy of the Gospel in America

By Beth Mahoney
Special to The Anchor

ORLANDO, Fla. — During the first four days of July, Orlando, Fla. was the place to be for Catholics in the United States. More than 3,500 cardinals, bishops, priests, religious and lay leaders from around the country gathered to listen, dialogue and act on the needs of the Church in the 21st century. 


The delegations came from various dioceses, ministries, interests, perspectives and cultural families to reflect on several topics pertinent to the life of the Catholic Church. The convocation started by asking for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the assembly and affirming unity in the joy of the Gospel.

From there the Spirit led the delegations through an amazing adventure of honest dialogue, prayerful reflection, incredible witness and evangelical discernment on the needs of the Catholic Church today. From the Diocese of Fall River, we had a diverse and committed group, who took their task to heart. The members attended the plenary sessions, took an active part in attending the breakout sessions, participated in all Liturgical services and spent much time in prayer, reflection and dialogue with each other. 

Bishop Edgar M. da Cunha, S.D.V., who led the delegation, spent time in dialogue, prayer and listening sessions with the members from Fall River. Bishop da Cunha lead one of the breakout sessions covering the topic on refugees and immigration. It was truly a historical moment in the life of the Catholic Church in the United States, and certainly in our own diocese.

The breakout sessions, plenary sessions and moments of prayer were led by the cardinals and bishops of the United States. As you walked through the halls of the hotel or convention hall, you could sense the joy and openness of the delegations, as the friendliness flowed through everyone. It was a beautiful feeling to experience that we, the Catholic Church, is alive and well, ready for the newness to move forward in the Spirit of God. There were so many good points: words spoken, witnesses given on forgiveness and healing — on creativity and actions to be taken, on newness to develop and on changes that need to be lived. 

Cardinal Donald Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., spoke of reconnecting in the Pentecost experience — to be bold — to embrace this time of urgency in the Church with mercy, compassion and be filled with joy. I had the opportunity to speak with him after his talk. He simply smiled and said embrace the Spirit of Pentecost and trust in the Spirit. Returning to the diocese, there is much hope for newness, as Bishop da Cunha stated so clearly in his first Pastoral Letter — “Rebuilding in Hope and Faith.” 

“This was a historical moment for the Church in the United States,” Bishop da Cunha told The Anchor. “For the first time the bishops gathered with more than 3,000 Catholic leaders to pray, reflect and discuss the reality of the Catholic Church in the United States and to strategize on what to do to revitalize the Catholic community for the future. 

“We had great, inspiring and dynamic speakers who challenged us and encouraged us to become missionary disciples in the 21st century in the United States. Everyone who attended the convocation came from there filled with new hope for the future of the Church in this country. 

“The Spirit of the convocation was truly rich in enthusiasm and determination to go back to our dioceses, parishes and institutions and make the Gospel of Christ relevant for the present and future generations. Now it is up to us to implement here in the Diocese of Fall River all that we heard and shared during those days. We need to pass on the positive energy, to challenge and support all our brothers and sisters of this local Church to become missionary disciples of Jesus.”

When you look at the various needs within the dioceses and know of the needs right here in our own diocese, one ponders how do we answer the needs that are so great. The last session before the closing Mass and sending forth to share the joy of the Gospel in America, each diocesan delegation had an opportunity to meet with their bishop to recap the plenary sessions, breakout sessions and to discuss how do we share this with others back home. There is so much to digest, ponder and act on, but there is one thing that is certain for the entire diocesan delegation, led by Bishop da Cunha, and that is — we are set on fire to share the news of the joy of the Gospel in the Diocese of Fall River. Come Holy Spirit, come! 

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