Vision 20/20 Convocation: A Spirit-filled experience

Anne Marie Amacher
Bishop Thomas Zinkula blesses and gives a mission to delegates during the closing of the Vision 20/20 Convocation June 8. The three-day event was held on the St. Ambrose University campus in Davenport. Assisting Bishop Zinkula is Sister Johanna Rickl, CHM.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — From start to finish, the Spirit was moving at the Vision 20/20 Convocation June 6-8 at St. Ambrose University. You could see it as Bishop Thomas Zinkula entered the stage swaying to the music and clapping his hands as two choirs, one Congolese, sang “O, Happy Day!” during the Rite of Welcome. Father Jeff Belger, priest director of the Newman Catholic Student Center in Iowa City, recorded the spontaneous dance and posted it on Facebook.

Bishop Zinkula introduced Vision 20/20: from Pentecost to Pentecost last year, inspired by Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel” and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America (2017). The apostolic exhortation serves as a template for the diocesan initiative.

“This convocation could be described as our little diocesan Second Vatican Council,” the bishop said during opening remarks. “I encourage you to sit back and take it all in … but don’t be passive; embrace the process, network.”

Michael Havercamp, co-chair of the Vision 20/20 Steering Committee, prayed for “the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit to blow through these halls” during the convocation. He identified three major themes for the 450 delegates gathered on a mission to lead the way to revitalization of the Catholic Church in southeast Iowa: 1.) Go; get out of your comfort zone. 2.) Build authentic relationships. 3.) Proclaim the Gospel in a fresh and winsome way.

Convocation content

The delegates ranged in age from teens to senior citizens and represented parishes, schools, religious congregations, campus ministry and other diocesan entities. A few spoke Spanish only and listened to translations provided by the diocesan Multicultural Office. Prayer services and the Friday afternoon Mass incorporated English and Spanish in Scripture readings and hymns. Liturgy planners chose different parishes to lead the delegates in song, individuals to read Scripture and clergy to proclaim the Gospel. Banners of red and orange and of gold were carried down the aisle during the procession before each service.

“Worker bees,” staff and volunteers of the Diocese of Davenport, provided hospitality that wowed the delegates. The worker bees shuttled delegates and others around campus and to hotel rooms, greeted them at every doorway, provided directions to break-out sessions and offered refreshments.

Fleshing out the convocation’s three main themes were keynote speakers Mike Patin, a self-described faith horticulturist; Katie Prejean McGrady, a delegate to the Vatican’s Pre-Synod Gathering of Young Adults; and theologian Hosffman Ospino, a national consultant on ministry with Hispanics. Each one’s presentation built on the next to instill delegates with an understanding of what it means to evangelize and how to impart that knowledge in their parishes, schools, religious communities, campus ministries and other entities.

In addition, 22 speakers offered break-out sessions aimed at evangelizing parishes, teens and young adults, married couples and families, and enhancing the ministry of preaching and the liturgical life of the church. Other topics included ministering to the immigrant community, Catholic teaching on sexuality and sexual identity, and how to include individuals with special needs in the life of the parish.

Central to each presenter’s message: evangelization requires an investment of self, making time for prayer, Scripture and the sacraments; being present to and listening to another person’s story; and asking questions to build on understanding. Today’s young adults do not feel compelled to stay in or enter the Catholic faith. They see it as a choice. Evangelizers need to set an example through their lived experiences of being joyful Catholics who love Jesus.

Visual messages

Sharon Roling, who co-chairs the Vision 20/20 Steering Committee with Havercamp, appeared on stage in her “Holy Spirit” shoes, making a visual point about “going out” to encounter others. Wearing the shoes, which are red, yellow and orange and look like flames, takes her out of her comfort zone. But the more she wears them, “the more comfortable I become in going. The more I share my faith story, the more comfortable I become.” So she shared a story, about a former co-worker initiated into the Catholic Church about two years ago. “At that time, I asked her why she became a Catholic. Her response caught me a bit off guard. She told me, ‘I wanted to have what you have.’ Build relationships to build the Kingdom of God,” Roling urged the delegates.

Being present to people is essential, Patin said in his keynote talk. He quoted St. Gregory the Great, who said: “If the sacrament of the Lord’s passion is to work its effect in us, we must imitate what we receive and proclaim to mankind what we revere.” Patin asked his audience, “Do we model, imitate and carry the risen Christ?”

Prejean McGrady wove stories of accompaniment and encounter into her keynote talk. She shared an alternately humorous and serious story about serving as a delegate to the Pre-Synod Gathering of Young Adults. Pope Francis told the delegates that young adult Catholics need to be taken seriously. He spoke of accompaniment as a way “to encounter and exchange; to journey closely together; to share without fear of judgment; to ask questions without the fear of being berated because we dared to ask; to explore and to try to understand without the fear that someone is going to fuss at us,” she said.

During his keynote talk, Ospino told the delegates that the Catholic Church is located in the “here and now” and to consider that context in moving forward. What does Catholicism look like in 2019 in the Diocese of Davenport? What will it look like in 2025 or 2035? “What kind of church do you want your children, your grandchildren, to inherit in the United States of America?”

While the majority of Catholics might be of Euro-American descent today, that won’t be the case in the future. Sixty percent of Catholics under the age of 18 in the U.S. are Hispanics, he said. How are parishes preparing for diversity?

The next steps

“It is our turn to leave the Upper Room, go out to all the world and tell the Good News,” Bishop Zinkula said in his homily during the convocation’s Mass. “Now is the time for us to dialogue, to think creatively and to envision new ways of proclaiming the Gospel. We have a big advantage over the disciples in the Upper Room,” the bishop said, referring to the convocation speakers, the Bible, church teachings and Pope Francis’ Joy of the Gospel.

“But like them, we have embarked on a challenging initiative, a paradigm shift, changing the culture, shifting from maintenance to mission … focusing on being as well as doing.”

Vision 20/20 has been undertaken because “we love our Catholic faith, because we love all of God’s children, our brothers and sisters,” Bishop Zinkula said. “This is how God feels about you: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring the Good News!’”

Delegates huddled with their specific groups — parishes, schools, campus ministry, religious communities and other entities — for a conversation on what’s next. They were asked to respond to three questions: What did we hear? What does it mean for our parish/entity?

What help do we need?

After the conversations, the delegates gathered one last time for the closing prayer and missioning — the day before Pentecost. Bishop Zinkula reminded the delegates that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the disciples at Pentecost was meant to gather into one the dispersed children of God. “That’s our mission. We are disciples of Jesus Christ. We have to believe that our Catholic faith is a wonderful treasure…. We know the world desperately needs to hear the Good News of the Gospel.”

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