By MARY HOOD HART
For 15 years, my family and I were parishioners at Our Lady Star of the Sea in North Myrtle Beach. Over that time, we developed wonderful friendships in our parish and through the Diocese of Charleston’s Cursillo movement. A move to North Carolina brought us to the Diocese of Raleigh, but we hold dear our memories of the time we spent in your wonderful diocese.
Therefore, it was a homecoming for me on Saturday, Jan. 26, when I participated in the Coastal Catholic Conference in Myrtle Beach. Not only did I encounter many old friends, I was blessed to meet Catholics from parishes all over South Carolina.
At the conference, I was asked to facilitate workshops on evangelizing the family, but before my sessions, I was able to attend the keynote address by Jesuit Father J-Glenn Murray.
In his keynote, Father Murray set the tone for a day full of inspiration, spiritual nourishment, and enlightenment. I’d been told what a wonderful preacher Father Murray is, and his keynote didn’t disappoint. In his dynamic address, interlaced with humor and song, he challenged and inspired us to immerse ourselves in the Word of God and accept our baptismal call to be evangelists.
As is always the case when I lead a workshop or retreat, I became the beneficiary of many graces. I was greatly encouraged and inspired by the people who attended my presentations on evangelizing the family. What a privilege to be in the midst of so many Catholics so passionate about their faith.
In my vocation as a columnist, I evangelize through telling stories. I tell stories about my family, sharing the good times, the crazy times, and the hard times, and in those stories, I hope to illuminate the way God’s abundant grace is present in the ordinary events of our daily lives. Sometimes I tell stories about the challenges families are presented living in a culture that too often rejects the sacred and glorifies the profane.
But my vocation is not unique. We are all storytellers. Each family has its own stories, each culture has its own stories, and our church family has many shared stories. Of course, Jesus taught and continues to teach through stories.
So, by telling and listening to our stories, we become instruments of evangelization. My presentations offered participants a chance to hear some of my stories and share some of their own. I was heartened to learn, through the sharing of this group, that Catholics are taking very seriously their call to evangelize. Whether it be within their own families, or among their co-workers, friends, and acquaintances, these Catholics are intent upon sharing the healing love of Jesus Christ with everyone they encounter.
In the sessions, we talked about brokenness. We live in a broken world, and we are all broken people. When we recognize our brokenness and permit ourselves to grieve over the suffering caused by the sinfulness in our world, in our families, and in our hearts, that grief leads us to reconciliation and a renewed spirit of generosity. It is within a framework of reconciliation and generosity that we lead people to Christ.
After the sessions were completed, our spiritual nourishment came in the celebration of the Eucharist, when hundreds of Catholics of all ages, colors, and backgrounds gathered at the table of the Lord. In unity with the Holy Father, our bishops and priests, we were nourished by the Word and by his body and blood so that, as disciples, we could go forth to love and serve the people of God.
Mary Hood Hart lives in Sunset Beach, N.C., with her husband, Jim, and four children.