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Archdiocesan Justice Convocation to focus on mercy

By Mark Labbe Pilot Staff
Posted: 10/21/2016

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BRAINTREE -- The Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy will be ending on Nov. 20, but that's not before this year's Archdiocesan Justice Convocation highlights Catholic social teachings in relation to mercy on Nov. 5.

Themed "Justice in the World, Mercy in the Church," the eighth annual Archdiocesan Justice Convocation will feature two keynote talks, a small-group faith-sharing session, Mass, and a number of exhibitors.

It will be held this year at Boston College High School in Boston.

It's the first time in years the convocation will be held somewhere other than the Archdiocese of Boston's Pastoral Center in Braintree, but after people had to be placed on a waiting list last year due to building constraints, organizers thought it might be best to move to a bigger venue.

"We reached capacity here, so it was probably a natural move to go to a larger place, and BC High has been very welcoming and generous with their space," said the archdiocese's director of Spiritual Life Mary Ann McLaughlin, speaking from the Pastoral Center.

Taking place from 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the Archdiocesan Justice Convocation will begin a greeting from Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley before the two keynote addresses will be given.

The first keynote speaker will be Father J. Bryan Hehir, the archdiocese's Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Services.

Ann Cussen, an organizer of the event and operations associate for Spiritual Life, said his talk will give the basics of Catholic social teaching and their relation with the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.

"Father Hehir, he gives a great foundation of the Catholic teaching," she said.

President of Boston Health Care for the Homeless James J. O'Connell, MD, will give the second keynote address.

O'Connell has provided care for the homeless for over 30 years, and recently chronicled his experiences in a 2015 book entitled "Stories from the Shadows: Reflections of a Street Doctor."

The book, McLaughlin said, shows the "faces of people you pass that are faceless."

Through O'Connell's organization Boston Health Care for the Homeless, over 12,000 homeless men, women, and children are cared for each year.

The issue of homelessness will also be illuminated in this year's exhibitors.

Cussen said there will be over 30 exhibitors present at the Archdiocesan Justice Convocation, and "many are focusing on the issue of homelessness."

There will be new exhibitors from last year, she said. There will be a mix of both local and international organizations represented.

"You literally will see around the room how the Church is responding day in and day out" to the issue of homelessness, said McLaughlin.

During the event's small-group, faith-based discussion, "Witnessing Through Social Action," attendees will be able to reflect on the keynotes and discuss them amongst each other.

The session will be led by Sister Honora Nolty, OP, the associate director of RENEW International.

A Mass, celebrated by Father Hehir, will bring to a close the convocation.

McLaughlin said she is looking forward to the event.

"There's a buzz when it happens, when you're there that day. People are talking in a different way to one another, about their faith, about these issues," she said.