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Speaker: Taking Gospel to public square not always easy but necessary

By Jessica Trygstad
Posted: 3/17/2017

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Gloria Purvis talks about the need for Catholics to get involved in politics during her keynote talk March 9 at Catholics at the Capitol in St. Paul, Minn. The event featured Mass, talks and visits with state legislators. More than 1,000 Catholics attended. (CNS photo/Dave Hrbacek, The Catholic Spirit)

ST. PAUL, Minn. (CNS) -- The chairwoman of Black Catholics United for Life told a conference room of more than 1,000 Minnesota Catholics that they serve a mighty God and are willing to "speak the Gospel truth in the public square," even if they were fearful.

"I am willing, and you are, too, and God knows that. And because you are willing, he has qualified you. As they say, 'God doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the called,' and that is you," said Gloria Purvis, who is the co-host of "Morning Glory" on EWTN Radio.

Catholics from Minnesota's six dioceses gathered in downtown St. Paul March 9 for Catholics at the Capitol. They started the day with Mass and heard from Bishop James D. Conley of Lincoln, Nebraska, at the inaugural event of the Minnesota Catholic Conference, based in St. Paul.

Purvis rallied the full conference room after they received their marching orders for meeting with legislators at the Capitol from Minnesota's bishops and Jason Adkins, executive director of the Minnesota Catholic Conference.

Despite a late night after speaking at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul March 8, and not having a restful sleep at the hotel, Purvis told the crowd, "I ain't no ways tired, and neither are you." The phrase served as motivation throughout the day of education and advocacy.

Purvis, who also is a wife, mother and Third Order Carmelite from the Archdiocese of Washington, began her presentation by leading the crowd with the St. Michael the Archangel prayer, which begins: "St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle."

She highlighted two of the three legislative priorities on the day's agenda -- supporting school choice in the form of scholarship tax credits and opposing physician-assisted suicide through alternatively improving the state's palliative care.

She spoke about J.J. Hanson, a Marine combat veteran with the same type of brain cancer as Brittany Maynard, the 29-year-old who chose to end her life through Oregon's assisted suicide law in 2014. Before her death, she served as a "right-to-die" advocate.

"J.J. is offering his (life) in service of the truth," Purvis said. "He was telling me, 'You know, as a soldier, Gloria, when I see a bad guy, my instinct is to charge him, to stop him. That's what we do. That's what we're supposed to do.' And you know what, we are soldiers, too, except we're soldiers of the cross. And I hope that when we see darkness, our instinct is to charge it and bring the light of Christ and not to be afraid. And that is exactly what you're going to be doing today when you go to those legislators and you advocate for truth, beauty and goodness.

"Don't be afraid, and you can do this because ... ," she prompted her listeners. "I ain't no ways tired," the crowd responded.

Purvis also shared the story of how her mother went into a coma in 2005 and was pronounced brain-dead. After months in the hospital, doctors had told her father it was time to remove her mother from life support.

But, "God is the divine physician, and she's walking, talking, driving a car and playing poker to this day," Purvis said to applause. The experience gave her family a chance to be a witness to God's glory, she added, an experience of which society often robs people.

In emphasizing the importance of school choice, Purvis said she believed the "four Rs" -- reading, 'riting, 'rithmatic and religion -- were instrumental in her education. Although her family wasn't Catholic, Purvis attended Catholic school and decided to join the church at age 12.

"Catholic education gave me a lens through which I filter the moral challenges of our day," she said, adding that it's what brought her to the faith. "It really helped me understand that I follow Jesus Christ."

That evening Purvis had an intimate meeting with black Catholics at St. Peter Claver in St. Paul, which has historically served black Catholics. As a national speaker, she makes a point of meeting with black Catholics wherever she goes.

"When I travel, this is one of my asks: I need to meet with the community there," she said at the beginning of her talk with the group of 20 people. "No one can love you like your mama loves you, and that is what the black Catholic Church has been for me."

Black Catholics, Purvis said, must "lead the charge" in spreading messages of hope, healing and the sacredness of humanity and sexuality in the black community.

"We need to talk about it because abortion is a scourge in our community," she said. "I'm sharing this because I think we need to start talking about our experiences and creating some messages of love."

She also encouraged the audience to counter the false compassion and the image of black women as poor, single mothers whom doctors and the abortion industry use to justify their practices.

"I feel like they pimp our image to get our money," she said.

She also proposed a radical way to fight racism.

"I know a racist is a hurting sinner," she said, and the way to convert them is prayer and fasting.

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Trygstad is assistant editor of The Catholic Spirit, newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Bridget Ryder contributed to this story.