Evangelization, ecumenism highlighted at annual convocation

CHARLESTON — Evangelization was the focus of a two-day convocation of priests from the Diocese of Charleston, held Jan. 13-15 at the Marriott Hotel.

The speaker for the opening session of the gathering was Msgr. John E. Kozar, national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States.

In his dialogue, Msgr. Kozar stressed how important it is for priests to have “an abiding presence” in the world community. He said all of evangelization is based on this concept.

Msgr. Edward D. Lofton, convocation organizer and pastor of St. Theresa the Little Flower Church in Summerville, had high praise for Msgr. Kozar and his enthusiasm for missions.

“He was very inspiring,” Msgr. Lofton said.

One of the most recent mission trips for Msgr. Kozar was a visit to Northern India in November. He spoke to the children in the village of Sirsiya, Nepal, and encouraged them to remain firmly rooted in their faith and to become apostles and missionaries among their peers.

His journey followed in the wake of an attack against the Don Bosco School in Sirsiya in July that resulted in the death of Salesian Father John Prakash. Msgr. Kozar said evangelization must not be stymied by fear.

On Jan. 14, Father James Lehrberger spoke on evangelization and ecumenism.

Father Lehrberger is a member of the Cistercians of the Common Observance and is an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Dallas. He has taught theology and served as a chaplain in Rome at the university’s European campus. He is a specialist in the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas and has published articles on Sts. Augustine and Aquinas.

During his discourse, Father Lehrberger presented the premise that evangelization and ecumenism are not opposites, but rather two sides of the same coin. He said one of the great achievements of Vatican II was to reconcile the two so the Catholic Church could have missionary outreach and ecumenism at the same time.

To illuminate his point, he compared the Catholic Church to the sun, the source of light, and other Christian religions to the moon, which shines with light reflected from the sun. “They can see,” he said, “just not as clearly.”

Father Lehrberger said it is important to understand that Protestant religions have elements of the truth of God, and can bring attributes to the table, such as a love for Scripture, and the liturgy of the Orthodox. In closing, he said everyone would benefit if other Christians could be brought into the full light of the Catholic Church.

Another speaker Jan. 14 was Deacon Ray Morales, from the Diocese of Savannah, Ga., who discussed evangelization of Hispanics.

In an interview with The Miscellany prior to his speech, Deacon Morales said he hoped to bring a better understanding of who comprises the Hispanic population and what they need from their priests.

One thing that must be realized, Deacon Morales said, is that when a homily is translated from one language to another, it must also be translated from one culture to another. If a homily does not have cultural relevance, it loses meaning, he said.

The deacon suggested that a translator could help in this process, and said if one is not available in the church or deanery, one could be found via correspondence.

Deacon Morales said it is also important to be welcoming and to bring everybody into one church. He said when Mass is celebrated in Spanish at one time and in English at another, it puts distance between the cultures and keeps them separated.

He encouraged churches to host ethnic celebrations and respect the various cultures, but to celebrate Mass in the language of the country.

“We all want one church,” Deacon Morales said. “We can’t sacrifice the one to focus on the differences.”

Sister Julia Hutchison, diocesan superintendent of Catholic schools, focused on evangelization in the schools. She said two students each from Bishop England and Cardinal Newman high schools addressed the convocation about their experiences with evangelization.

Closing sessions on Jan. 15 touched on spreading the Gospel across the state and the neo catechumenate.

Mass was celebrated the evening of Jan. 14 in the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.