Convocation 'great opportunity' for U.S. church, says religious sister

IMAGE: CNS photo/Chaz Muth

By Carol Zimmermann

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Dominican Sister Marie Bernadette Thompson
can’t help but see things through a teacher’s eyes after spending eight years
teaching elementary and high school students and belonging to an order whose charism
is education and the faith formation of young people.

But the
42-year-old sister, who has been council coordinator for the Council of Major
Superiors of Women Religious since 2014, also is not opposed to being a student
particularly when it comes to learning new ways to engage others in the faith
and spread the Gospel message.

She hopes to pick up some pointers from other church
leaders from around the country this summer at the “Convocation of
Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America” July 1-4 in Orlando,

convocation, sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is an
invitation-only event meant to give the 3,000 participants expected to attend a
better understanding of what it means to be missionary disciples in today’s
world through workshop presentations, keynote addresses and prayer.

Marie Bernadette will attend the event as part of a Council of Major
Superiors of Women Religious delegation with more
than 20 major superiors representing orders, including the Little Sisters of the
Poor, School Sisters of Christ the King, Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal and
Sister Marie Bernadette’s order, the Dominican Sisters of St. Cecilia. These
women religious cover the spectrum of serving the poor and elderly, working in
parish ministry and education or devotion to contemplative prayer and new

She believes
the council’s delegates have a lot to bring to the table and also will have plenty
they can take away from it.

said the sisters’ presence “will be a powerful expression of our union
with the bishops and the daily commitment to the new evangelization,”
adding that these women religious are “on the peripheries of the new
evangelization every day.”

she said she’s “delighted to be able to go” to the convocation,
describing it as “an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to really bring us
all together to share best practices, to share struggles, insights with others
that we may not even know and may never have come in contact with.”

She sees
it as an important encouragement boost for faith leaders to continue the work they’re
already doing but she also views it as a challenge for all participants to take
a responsible role leading the global church.

In a
May 9 interview with Catholic News Service, she said the convocation delegates have
a great opportunity with this event, noting that most countries don’t have this
chance to bring their Catholic leaders together. “I think we have a responsibility
to take it seriously and to listen so we can not only help our own people but
help the universal church in this worldwide mission of evangelization,”
she said.

Marie Bernadette, who grew up in Long Island, New York, views evangelization as
a key tool for the church moving forward and says the root of this missionary
work needs to be based in prayer and listening and walking with others.

knows a little bit about evangelization from being on the other side of it when
she was just out of college and wasn’t sure of her next step. A newly ordained
priest at her home parish was “on fire for the faith” and urged her
never to be afraid to show her faith in public.

Marie Bernadette certainly shows this faith now, wearing a full-length white
habit and living in community with other sisters in Washington where together they begin and end each day
with prayers.

She is
convinced prayer is behind any success in drawing others to the church. As she
put it: “The message we’re bringing gives life to people and to us; we’re
best witnesses of that when we are spirit filled.”

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Zimmermann on Twitter: @carolmaczim.

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