.- On the final day of the “Ecclesia in America” international conference, several participants agreed that it was a wonderful experience that helped them spiritually and intellectually.
“This conference, really seen through the lens of Our Lady of Guadalupe, has been a really beautiful experience,” said Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore in a Dec. 12 interview.
The congress was held Dec. 9-12 in Rome, and discussed regional challenges and the New Evangelization, while also marking the 15th anniversary of John Paul II's apostolic exhortation “Ecclesia in America.”
Archbishop Lori found it particularly edifying to be with bishops, religious, and laity, all of whom are devoted “to the Church's mission of evangelization.”
He said that the conference has proposed “afresh” the presence of Our Lady of Guadalupe and “her perfectly encultured presentation of the Gospel for America.”
“All of us who are charged to proclaim the Gospel find ourselves in the position of being Juan Diego, feeling her love, her care, her persistent presence in our lives, as we go about the work of the new evangelization,” he said. “So this has been a spiritually enriching conference, as well as intellectually stimulating.”
He said that he will return to the Baltimore archdiocese with a “renewed and urgent concentration” on family life.
“Parishes are vital, growing, happy, places when they are made up of wonderfully strong, active families, (so) it's very clear how the family plays this huge role in evangelizing.”
“Young people don't really absorb the faith,” the archbishop explained, “unless they can see marriage as a way of living out the baptismal vocation to love. So it seems to me that's one thing that has to be brought home.”
Dan Zeidler, the U.S. representative for the Latin American Alliance for the Family, agreed that family life must be strengthened throughout the Americas.
Zeidler’s organization reaches out to parents who have had abortions to help them “heal and to reconcile with God and with their child.”
He said the meeting's emphasis on Our Lady of Guadalupe “has been very spiritually invigorating … we'll all be more involved in networking, so we'll also be more in touch and hopefully more effective.”
Curtis Martin, president of the U.S.-based Fellowship of Catholic University Students, was also pleased by the “tremendous desire for collaboration.”
“There's a growing hunger amongst faithful Catholics of how exactly do we collaborate with the New Evangelization,” he said.
Sister Theresa Slota, who is superior general of the Sisters Servants of Mary Immaculate, a religious order of Eastern rite Catholics founded in Ukraine, also shared what she will take away from the congress.
“After being at this conference, the one thing I can do is share with our people about Our Lady of Guadalupe,” she said. “We have many Madonnas in Ukraine, and we love the Madonna very much, but this is a special gift that I have received these days to be here.”
“The thing that's most important, especially with evangelization, is how we as women carry Christ in us, and how to bring that more and more to our people and the people we meet every day. And that is what I would like not only for myself to do, but for each of our sisters all over the world.”
Archbishop Lori also reflected on the battle which the Church is engaged in, particularly in the U.S.
“We are preaching the Gospel to a culture marked by hardened secularity … willing to debase human life … and an overarching indifference among people.”
“We're in mission territory, let's face it, and the New Evangelization is about taking up the mission of the Church that began at Pentecost, with renewed vitality and love,” he stated.
“Love diffuses itself, and the love we bear is stronger than sin and more powerful than death.”
Alan Holdren, Estefania Aguirre and Marta Jiménez Ibáñez from CNA's Rome bureau contributed to this report.