Published September 27, 2007
“Did you receive the letter that I sent you?”
More than a few people have asked me that question both here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta and in the Diocese of Belleville, and I have often had to respond with that “deer in the headlights unknowing glance.” I receive lots of letters each day—some days literally scores of letters arrive at my desk. Now, living in the world of cyberspace, the number of letters has increased exponentially!
Most of the letters that come my way are very pleasant: invitations, thank-you notes, a request for prayers, a commendation for the work of one of our fine priests or deacons, a request for a financial contribution, a formal request to begin a project.
The overwhelming majority of letters that come to my office require no response because they disclose something that has already happened or that is scheduled to take place. A few letters are more thorny—they are angry in tone because of something that has happened or ought to have happened in a parish, through an agency of the Archdiocese, or by me as the Archbishop. These letters often require me to ask the help of one of our staff or department directors to give me some background on an issue or to help me to research a complaint. Some of those demanding letters are anonymous, and therefore I can’t possibly respond—even though they might very well deserve a serious reply.
Then there are letters like one that I received last week that informed me of an important anniversary that will soon take place. The Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement at Graymoor who have long been identified with the work of ecumenism in the Catholic Church have announced that in 2008, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity will observe its centennial anniversary. The designated theme for 2008 “Pray without ceasing” was chosen at Graymoor by a joint committee of representatives from the Holy See and the World Council of Churches.
In 1898 the Reverend Paul Wattson, an Episcopal priest, and Sister Lurana White, an Episcopalian sister, founded the Society of the Atonement at Graymoor, near Garrison, N.Y. Eleven years later Pope St. Pius X corporately received the community of Friars and Sisters into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church. Thus long before the Second Vatican Council did the work of ecumenism find a welcome home in our Church.
Ecumenism is an important priority for the Church—and should be for all churches because the disunity among Christians is a source of scandal for the entire world. We who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ and yet who find ourselves fragmented must embrace and give serious attention to the prayer of Jesus that we all be one. Ecumenism is difficult work because the differences that separate the churches are considerable and fraught with historical and theological problems. Yet all Christians need to acknowledge that we must call upon the Holy Spirit to help us to overcome our disunity.
The letter from the Graymoor Franciscans asked me to encourage all of our parishes, institutions and faithful people to be particularly aware of this anniversary observance in 2008 and to rededicate ourselves to the task of ecumenism both next year and always. There are resources available on the Web site: www.weekofprayer2008.org.
I am very glad that this letter arrived early enough for me to remind all of you of this centennial observance. We here in the Archdiocese of Atlanta must pursue the work of ecumenism through our outreach to and collaboration with our local Christian neighbors and friends so that the prayer of Christ that we may be one is never forgotten.