By Joanna Thurmann
“People are hungry for hope; they are hungry to hear the good news of Jesus Christ,” said Bishop Daniel E. Garcia of the Diocese of Monterey. He echoed the theme of the previous day’s keynote by Sister Simone Campbell as he celebrated the Eucharistic Liturgy with Diocese of San José Bishop Oscar Cantú on Saturday morning of the California Catholic Ministry Conference at the San José Convention Center.
“Sister Simone referenced children held in cages along the border, poverty, and Mass shootings. Amidst all that, God is calling upon us to be instruments of hope, mercy, unity,” Bishop Garcia emphasized.
In other words, we must be Christ unto the world. “But not so much by what we say but the way we live out the Gospel,” he stressed. A credible proclamation of the Gospel is not made with beautiful words but with an exemplary life.
Bishop Garcia shared a poignant story of 17-year-old David, whose family abandoned him when he contracted AIDS. Garcia ministered to him in 1987 and accompanied him throughout the remainder of his time in hospice. He experienced the discomfort of others when David walked into Mass and sat in the last pew. As David struggled to breathe on his death bed he asked, “Does God really love me?” Garcia answered, “Absolutely.” David died a few hours later.
Many of us have similar stories from our own communities, about children in hospitals or families living in fear of being deported. “We must not pre-judge but encounter them, as Pope Francis says; hear their stories, accompany them, and assure them that God is with them. God never tires of anyone,” stressed Bishop Garcia.
A conference session by Janèt Sullivan Whitaker encouraged attendees to share that love and faith in everyday ways. Meanwhile, a three-part session titled “Adults at the Center” by Douglas Leal asked us to reimagine ourselves as the beloved community of the early Apostolic times.
Such a beloved community must include radical inclusion and welcome, preach the heart of the Gospel, engage the lived experienced of adults, practice the art of accompaniment, be comfortable with doubt and questions, and open to change and challenge. Then those hungry for hope would describe us the same way as did the North African theologian Tertullian (ca. 160–220). “See how they love one another.”