A brief history and purpose
In 2007 Bishop Sam Jacobs of the Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux initiated a conversation about an idea/inspiration he had to see if the ecclesial movements in the U.S. would want to collaborate in some way on some future event celebrating the movements as had happened on the international level in 1998 with now Saint John Paul II and in 2006 with Pope Benedict XVI.
In 2008 an invitation was issued to a limited number of movements to join with Bishop Jacobs to begin the process of praying and dialoguing about how we can be more supportive of one another, affirming our different charisms and helping our Church better embrace them for the good of the Church in the U.S.
Responding positively were representatives of Charismatic Renewal, Cursillo, Focolare, Neocatechumenal Way, and Worldwide Marriage Encounter. Since then, several other groups have been added: Life Teen (2009), Youth Arise International (2010), Apostolic Movement of Schoenstatt (2015), Couples for Christ (2015), and Renovación Carismática Católica (2020). Also added in 2020 was a Young Adult representative, from one of the new communities. Life Teen and Focolare are currently inactive.
Early on we chose the title above “in Conversation” because we did not see ourselves as an organization but in dialogue and not “in charge” but of service. A few years after we began we added “New Communities” to the title in line with the Vatican’s approach.
Interactions with bishops and the USCCB
In our first in-person meeting we decided to convene a gathering with Bishop-Friends of the Movements in November, 2010. In November, 2011 we held a Workshop on “Movements, New Communities and the New Evangelization.” Since then we have held three Receptions (2012, 2013, and 2014) and two Luncheons (2015 and 2017) with various configurations of bishops.
In June, 2012 representatives of the Conversation met with Msgr. Ronny Jenkins, General Secretary, and several other officials of the USCCB, to inform them of the Conversation and our plans. We have reached approximately 60 bishops through these initiatives, as well as a number of USCCB staff members.
In June, 2020 we wrote to all the bishops in the US about our recently adopted Vision and Mission statements and Goals and received a number of affirming responses. (We wrote similarly to the Movements and New Communities of which we are aware.)
Vision, Mission, and Goals
Vision: A Church alive and empowered by the Spirit.
Mission: Making known the charisms of the Movements and New Communities in communion together as a service to the Church.
Goal #1: Engage bishops and the USCCB in various ways. Encourage them to have conversations with Movements and New Communities in their [arch] dioceses.
Goal #2: Gather representatives of Movements and New Communities for prayer, fellowship, encouragement, and strengthening in the work of Evangelization.
Goal #3: Communicate our Vision, Mission and work to bishops, Movements and New Communities and other leaders.
Gatherings of Leaders/Representatives of Movements and New Communities in the U. S.
We have held three in-person Gatherings and, due to COVID restrictions, two virtual Gatherings. A total of 42 movements and new communities have been identified and invited. The First in-person Gathering was held in June, 2013 the Second in June, 2015 and the Third in July 2019. Each drew about 30 representatives from about 16 movements/new communities. The Fourth Gathering was held June 12, 2021 and the Fifth was held February 26, 2022. There were fifty plus participants for each.
The Gatherings have three purposes:
· to share about the work of the Conversation, and to discuss proposals for the future;
· to build up the communion amongst us as we came together in prayer and conversation, thereby recognizing and magnifying each movement’s or community’s particular gifts;
· to encourage one another in our mutual work of “new evangelization” in the light of an increasingly secularized society.
Each one has been well received by the participants.
As a first effort toward the initial impulse, a Celebratory Event was held in August, 2014 just north of Washington, D.C. We celebrated the gifts/charisms of the movements and new communities, and raised awareness of these ecclesial realities, especially with regard to the new evangelization. About 900 attended, from close to two dozen movements and new communities.