Happy Fourth of July to you and your family!

I am celebrating our nation’s independence with over 3,500 people at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Orlando, Florida where an historic gathering of key leaders from dioceses and Catholic organizations across the country have gathered. The goal of the Convocation of Catholic Leaders is to begin strategic conversation about forming missionary disciples that animate the Church and engage the culture.

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Over 1,000 people joined a Eucharistic Procession Monday around a mile perimeter of the Hyatt Regency Orlando Convention Center.

The message we are focused on is one that Pope Francis shared with the world: A renewal of joy is essential to missionary discipleship. We’re also reminded of Saint Pope John Paul II’s message: “Duc in altum!” which means, head into the deep. (Luke 5:4)

“Going to the peripheries,” and “taking risks,” “the smell of the sheep,” and “getting one’s hands dirty.” We’re tired of the catch-phrases. But here, they seem to apply.

And missionary discipleship is not only about doing all of those things, but doing them with the joy of the Gospel.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Pro-Life Activities said at the opening ceremonies Saturday, “Discipleship and unity united for mission will only be effective with joy.”

He reminded us that the model in our family for going out on a mission to draw people to Christ is found in St. Luke. Mary, the Mother of God, visits Elizabeth. She is the first disciple and she is attentive to God’s Word.

Dolan quoted Jacques Maritain, a French Catholic philosopher, who said that, “Joy is the infallible sign of God’s presence.” And he said that St. Paul teaches us, “Joy is fruit of the Holy Spirit.” Also, he quoted St. Thomas Aquinas: “Joy flows from hope.”

The archbishop of New York also told the story of Malcolm Muggeridge, a British journalist, who asked Mother Teresa of Calcutta, “Mother, help me understand why you pick up beggars and lepers with such joy. How do I get this joy?” Mother Teresa replied, “Look at how joy is spelled.” J (esus) O(thers) Y(ourself).”

“Discipleship and unity united for mission will only be effective with joy!” said Cardinal Dolan. Let’s be joyful disciples together for Christ as we celebrate our nation’s independence!

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God bless you,

Cecilia Tombelli

Director of Project Rachel Diocese of Lansing

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