In the context of the Eucharistic Congress sponsored by the Diocese of St. Augustine, an event at which we had the invitation to promote Maryknoll, we chose to use the encyclical as an entry point to conversation. Rather than enter into the cause-effect political debate, we chose to approach the encyclical from the spiritual dimension of the letter. Pope Francis connects the transcendent with the temporal in Eucharist and reminds us that care for our common home is not an ancillary but essential part of Christian Life.
In preparation for the congress, we assembled packets of information material provided by the Maryknoll USMEA (mission education). Fr. Ed Shellito, MM, gave us wonderful support and participated in the event with us. This was a first for us in that, rather than our Affiliate community supporting the Fathers and Brothers’ program, they supported us in our effort—great collaboration.
The congress was held on a Friday evening and Saturday. We engaged many people in conversation as they passed through the display area. The overwhelming response, when asked if they were familiar with the encyclical, was “No, I’ve never heard of it.” A few people had negative reactions, and a few people had read it. We distributed 75 packets of information to those interested in learning more about the encyclical. Included in the packets were the Affiliate brochure and a locally prepared invitation with Affiliate meeting information.
I feel that using the theme was a more effective way of engaging people in a non-invasive and non-threatening manner. We learned a lot about peoples’ perceptions and attitudes toward Pope Francis and his writings. Even our tiny steps are steps.