The 2018 theme was Pope Francis at Five Years: the Church at the peripheries.
Sessions were inspired by a quote from Pope Francis:
“The church is called to come out of herself and to go to the peripheries, not only geographically, but also the existential peripheries: the mystery of sin, of pain, of injustice, of ignorance and indifference to religion, of intellectual currents and of all misery.”
Bishop Perry opened his address with words regarding Fr. Augustus Tolton, for whom he is postulator for the Diocesan Phase of the Cause for Sanctity.
“Good morning everyone. Thank you for the invitation to speak to you relative to your theme: Pope Francis and the Church at the peripheries. First of all, let me say that I’m aware, being an outsider, this is holy ground here in Missouri. Particularly Jefferson City. The archbishop mentioned, one of my tasks is seeing to the cause of the declared sainthood of one who sprung up from the soil of your own state here, that is the diocese of Jefferson City, Missouri. On that farm, which still exists, where Augustus Tolton and his family were slaves. We bring several groups of pilgrims down to visit that farm and the church there in little brush creek, where he was baptized, and he was launched there in the midst of a civil war by his mama, Martha jane, who took this harrowing escape up to Hannibal Missouri, and then the treacherous Mississippi River to get to the Illinois, side which was at that time a free state. Without his mother, Martha Jane, we probably never would have heard of him. But he went on through certain difficulties, trying to get an education, in a milieu at that time that exercised by law and lawless customs, the separation between white and black. But he eventually made himself over to Rome to be ordained a priest there, because it was impossible to be ordained a priest here, for someone of his background. And then was sent back here instead of Africa in order to work amongst the people of Quincy, Illinois, only to encounter certain difficulties there of a racial nature. Augustus Tolton being the good man and the good pastor that he was, attracted all kinds people. People spontaneously came together, as white and black, under the same roof of his church, St. Joseph’s there in Quincy. And that was a no-no for that time, you understand the history. So he was told to get out of town. The archbishop of Chicago picked him up and asked him to come help a group of fledging black Catholics who were worshiping in the basement of St. Mary’s Church in downtown Chicago, where he worked for about 7 or 8 years until … he dropped dead from heatstroke. A heatwave hit the city the first week of July 1898, where about 60-some people died in Chicago because of the effects of heat. There was another priest who died the same day. But we’ve never forgotten Augustus Tolton, for his image and his sense of pastoral ministry at a time where society and the Church was unready for integration. And his memory looms large. That’s why the Jefferson City diocese is holy ground. The state of Missouri is holy ground. And we look forward to in the near future, hopefully, being able to celebrate with all of you his beatification and canonization. We’re working hard at that. We ask for your prayers as well as your support for that great cause. It’s my honor to be with your bishops, those of you from the public policy arm of your Catholic Conference, for their officers and people at large from your various dioceses to meditate and reflect on this theme that you invited me to talk about: Pope Francis at five years — now five and a half years — and the Church which is called to the peripheries…”