Convocation of Parish Leaders

The Blessed Virgin Mary in a posture of prayer with a flame of fire over her head


Parish Resources:

While evangelization has always been at the heart of the life and mission of the Church, there has been an increasing focus on and renewed sense of urgency surrounding it over the past fifty years. A brief glance at the statistics is enough to realize our culture is changing. Statistics aside, we all have parishioners whose friends or family members have either left or gradually drifted away from the practice of the Catholic Faith. However, there is also a growing hope and renewed evangelical focus, which gained momentum with Pope St. John Paul II in the New Evangelization and has continued through the pontificates of Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. The Holy Father has called all in the Church to a “missionary conversion” and to be a Church which is “permanently in a state of mission” (EG 25). 

Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America

Last summer the United States Bishops along with Catholic leaders from around the country, gathered in a historic meeting called the Convocation of Catholic Leaders: The Joy of the Gospel in America.  The bishops and their delegates reflected on key points of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation on evangelization, Evangelii Gaudium. Speakers delved into the social and religious ‘landscape’ of our nation. Breakout sessions highlighted the peripheries and how to identify and reach them.  Finally, each delegation had the opportunity to discuss and to ask the question, ‘What could missionary discipleship look like within our parishes and diocese?”

Convocation of Parish Leaders

In order to more fully explore that question, the Dioceses of Crookston and Fargo are co-hosting a similar event at the regional level called the Convocation of Parish Leaders on November 30-December 1, 2018, in Fargo at the Avalon Events Center.  Bishops Folda and Hoeppner are inviting pastors and their delegates to delve into the Church’s teachings on evangelization, missionary discipleship, and how to be a mission-oriented parish that seeks the lost and strives to be Jesus’ mercy and love in a world marred by wounds. This event will equip participants in basic evangelization skills and will provide networking opportunities, as well as times of prayer and the celebration of Mass. Overall, the convocation will begin to equip attendees to go forth and engage their communities with the hope and joy of the Gospel.

What do we hope to accomplish through the Convocation for Parish Leaders?

The convocation will offer parish leaders the opportunity to reflect on key questions and begin to discuss what a culture of missionary discipleship could look like in their parishes and the steps to take to bring it to fruition. The convocation is not an end in itself; it is a tool to build off for continued discussions and planning among parish leadership.

Please see pages 2-3 of the Convocation of Parish Leaders Handout (PDF) for more information on the aim and process. 


Friday, November 30 (Feast of St. Andrew)   Saturday, December 1
8:00 Registration   8:30 Mass
9:00 Mass   9:45 Overview of Parish Meetings
10:15 Break   9:55 Break
10:30 Welcome   10:15 Parish Meetings
10:45 Keynote 1: Fr. Frank Donio, S.A.C., Catholic Apostolate Center   12:00 Lunch (boxed lunch for those who need to leave early)
11:45 Lunch   1:00 Diocesan Meetings
1:00 Witness Talk   2:30 Summary and Closing Prayer
1:10 Keynote 2: Msgr. Thomas Richter, Diocese of Bismarck   3:00 Departure
2:10 Break      
2:45 Breakout 1      
3:45 Break      
4:00 Breakout 2      
5:15 Evening Prayer      
5:30 Supper      
7:00 Evening of Prayer & Praise      

Page 4 of the Convocation of Parish Leaders Handout (PDF) has a printable version of the schedule.

Speaker Information

Keynote Speakers

Fr. Frank S. Donio, S.A.C., D.Min.


Fr. Frank S. Donio, S.A.C. is Director of the Catholic Apostolate Center and Provincial Rector of the Immaculate Conception Province of the Society of the Catholic Apostolate (Pallottine Fathers and Brothers). Fr. Frank is originally from Hammonton, New Jersey and made his first consecration as a Pallottine in 1986 and was ordained a priest in 1994.

Fr. Frank is a Consultant to the Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He also collaborated with the Conference on the development of Living as Missionary Disciples: A Resource for Evangelization. Fr. Frank has served as Consultant to the Archdiocese of Baltimore for pastoral planning and assisted in the development of their Be Missionary Disciples planning process.

Fr. Frank is an Adjunct Professor at St. Joseph’s College of Maine in the online Theology program and at Fordham University in the Graduate School of Religion and Religious Education. He is also a Lecturer in the undergraduate Theology program in the School of Theology and Religious Studies at The Catholic University of America. He teaches in the areas of Catholic mission, pastoral ministry, spirituality, ecclesiology, and Church management and leadership.

He holds a Doctor of Ministry in Adult Spiritual Formation from The Catholic University of America (CUA), as well as a Bachelor of Arts in History and a Master of Arts in Church History from CUA. He also holds a Master of Divinity from Washington Theological Union and a Master of Science in Church Management from Villanova University School of Business.

Msgr. Thomas J. Richter


Monsignor Thomas J. Richter is a priest of the Diocese of Bismarck has been appointed as pastor of Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Dickinson, North Dakota.

Monsignor Richter’s roots are in rural North Dakota. His values and character formed in his upbringing on a dairy farm near Bismarck. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from North Dakota State University and studied philosophy at Cardinal Muench Seminary in Fargo.He received his theological seminary formation at North American College and the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, both in Rome. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Bismarck on June 13, 1996. For the first six years of his priesthood, he served as Parochial Vicar, high school religion teacher and Pastor of several parishes. From 2002 to 2012, he served as Director of Vocations and Vicar for Deacons for the Diocese of Bismarck. In July of 2012, Monsignor Richter was named Rector of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in Bismarck. It was also in 2012 that Pope Benedict honored him with the title of Monsignor.

In February 2016 Monsignor Richter was given a special assignment from Rome, commissioned by Pope Francis as a Missionary of Mercy—along with priests all over the world—to preach and offer the Sacrament of Reconciliation to those desiring the beautiful mercy of God.

Outside of the diocese, he has served on the Executive Board of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocations Directors and as a faculty member and spiritual director of the Institute for Priestly Formation. He is the author of two discernment booklets, “Is Jesus Calling You to be a Catholic Priest” and “Lend Your Own Voice to Christ.” He also has authored a booklet for Catholic lay people entitled “Integrated Evangelization: How to Facilitate the Encounter with Christ.” For a great majority of his years as a priest, Monsignor Richter has been directly involved in priestly formation, and when not acting as Vocation Director, he has served as a mentor to young priests in the diocese.

Break-out Sessions

Domestic Church: Living and Sharing Faith in the Family

Pope St. John Paul II famously stated, “As the family goes, so goes the world.” The Second Vatican Council described the family as the “domestic church” and said parents are the “first preachers of the faith to their children.”  Practically speaking, what does this mean? Panelists will share ideas of how parents can evangelize their children, leading them to encounter and know Jesus Christ and to build a strong foundation for their life in the Church. This session will also address how the family is called to reach out and share the Gospel with others that they encounter in their communities.

Leading Them Home: Reaching out to family, friends, and the unaffiliated

“My family has left the Church, and I don’t know what to do.” Nearly all of us have family or friends who have drifted from the Catholic Church or who have never practiced any faith. When reaching out and evangelizing those closest to us, where do we begin? You are not in this alone and there is hope. This panel will offer ideas, resources, and encouragement in your role in leading people to Jesus Christ and back to their spiritual home of the Catholic Church.

Youth and Emerging Adults

This session explores the opportunities and challenges that exist in ministering to youth and those who are transitioning to adulthood during a time when “Cultural Catholicism” is much less of a framing influence than it was in previous generations. 

Evangelization in Rural Parishes

The majority of parishes in the Dioceses of Crookston and Fargo are in rural communities. This session will help us understand the landscape of rural life in our Dioceses; the opportunities, challenges, and the role of the Church, reaching out to those living in rural areas and communities.

On the Peripheries

For Catholics, it is common to minister to those in the pews and tend to those who come to us for assistance. Pope Francis however, has repeatedly encouraged Catholics to step outside of comfort our zones and go out to the peripheries.  Whether those peripheries are existential, or material, each parish has its own unique challenges and opportunities to minister on the margins.  This session will help us understand what it means to reach out to those in our community, such as those who struggle with addiction and mental health issues. 


Bishop Folda has asked pastors to invite key parish leaders to participate as members of his parish delegation.   Pastors, please register the members of your parish delegation for the Convocation of Parish Leaders by following the “Online Registration” link on the Clergy Resources web page (password required). The registration fee for each participant is $50.

Individuals representing non-parish groups should contact Ashley Grunhovd (701-356-7908 or ashley(dot)grunhovd(at)fargodiocese(dot)org) for directions on how to register.