BALTIMORE (CNS) — A 2017 convocation for Catholic leaders represents “a new way of reaching and teaching our people,” Bishop Richard W. Malone of Buffalo, New York, told the fall general assembly of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Nov. 16 in Baltimore.

Bishop Malone, who chairs the bishops’ Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, was joined by two other bishops in a presentation on the national convocation, planned for July 1-4, 2017, in Orlando, Florida, and the communications research leading up to it. The theme of the meeting is “The Joy of the Gospel in America.”

Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston, chairman of the Committee on Pro-Life Activities, and Archbishop Leonard P. Blair of Hartford, Connecticut, who chairs the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis, were the other presenters representing the Working Group on the Life and Dignity of the Human Person, which has been meeting quarterly since June 2009.


Cardinal O’Malley said the aim of the research project was to “focus on the people in the pew and why they accept or disregard the church’s teachings.” The goal was to find ways to “motivate Catholics to embrace the full vision of what it means to be Catholic,” he added.

“While the nationwide survey focused on those regularly attending Sunday Mass,” the cardinal said other research looked at subgroups such as Hispanics, young singles, young parents and a group dubbed “missionary disciples” because of their high level of church engagement and their desire to evangelize others.

Results of the research provided “a framework for reaching and teaching these various audiences based on responding to their motivations” and offered ideas for “developing potential messaging feeds for each particular audience,” he added.

Archbishop Blair gave the bishops a first look at a brief “save the date” video for the convocation, which “will be greatly informed by this research.” Participation will be by invitation only, but key addresses and events might be live-streamed to anyone interested, he said.

The video said the gathering will feature “fellowship, networking, eucharistic celebrations, speakers and family activities.” He said Orlando was chosen specifically because of the many family-friendly venues in the area and the Catholic leaders will be encouraged to build a family vacation around the convocation.

Bishop Malone said each bishop will have the important role of naming Catholic leaders to participate in the convocation. He said they might be diocesan leaders, parish leaders or a combination of both, but each participant should be “receptive to the vision of the convocation and in a position to best serve as missionaries in carrying the vision forward.”

The USCCB will be responsible for selecting leaders of national organizations or movements to attend the convocation, he said.

Getting to the nitty-gritty of the gathering, the bishop said the cost for each Catholic leader will be about $1,480 for registration, housing, travel and meals, with the cost being borne by the diocese that nominates him or her.

To help keep costs down, some national church events, such as the Catholic Social Ministry Gathering and the annual meeting of pro-life directors, will be “folded into” the convocation, Bishop Malone said.

He encouraged the bishops to volunteer to lead presentations, workshops and liturgical celebrations at the convocation.