Over 120 attendees at the recent Southeast Alaska Catholic Conference in Juneau were enriched by the teaching of Dr. Jonathan Reyes, the 3-day event’s keynote speaker, and Executive Director of Justice, Peace and Human Development for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Reyes shared a knowledge and understanding of the topic brought about through his years of experience in Catholic social service, higher education, and family life. Over the three days, Reyes led conference attendees through an introduction to Pope Francis’ vision of building a ‘Culture of Mercy’ through ‘encuentro,’ or, encounter.

Pope Francis has identified in our modern world what he sees as the emergence of a ‘throw-away culture’ — an epidemic of isolation, invisibility, and the loss of a sense of life’s meaning. His vision for changing this, Reyes explained, is through the path of encuentro, or encounter, in which we affirm each other’s dignity. “If we want to change the world, we have to treat each other like they matter,” Reyes emphasized.

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How are we to respond personally to the call to live the life of mercy in both our families and on mission in the world, asked Reyes? He continued by sharing what he sees as the virtue of ‘magnanimity’ (the desire to do great things that are appropriate for us) as being essential to Christian life and to combat discouragement.

“You were made for greatness…” Reyes reminded those present. “We all bear the mark of the Creator… The Lord chose you to be alive right now; the Lord has something specific in mind for you. We each have a great vocation — a greatness to which we are called.”

By virtue of our baptism we are all called to be disciples. Sharing Mother Teresa as an example of one who was willing to pursue the greatness to which God calls us, Reyes encouraged all of us to respond with confidence, “Use me, Lord!”

You can find video recordings of the keynote presentations on our YouTube channel and see photos of the conference on flickr