Ongoing Formation Session 1

Opening prayer: O God, we are all your sons and daughters created in your image and likeness. We worship together in spirit and truth, regardless of our particular Church affiliation. As we reflect on your Living Word in scripture, guide us to a deep spirituality and to a personal relationship with you. Amen.

Leader: Associates and Sisters Day 2018 called us to “Explore Personal Growth in the Spirit of Angela Merici.” When Associates and Sisters were asked what area of their spiritual growth they wanted to pursue most, the clear majority wanted help with these two areas:

  • Ecumenical prayer, Christian unity, and an understanding of other religions and cultures.
  • Creating a deep spiritual, personal prayer life, and more knowledge of scripture.  

These two pursuits will guide our formation sessions in 2018-19. This session will deal with ecumenical pursuits.

Reader 1: “The way through the door of unity is on our knees.”
Yves Condor, theologian, calling for prayer to unite the Church

Reader 2: The idea that Catholics should seek a better understanding of other Christian faiths and non-Christian faiths is neither “new” nor “radical” – unless you think more than 50 years ago is “new,” and that the declarations of the Second Vatican Council are still “radical.”

Reader 3: The Decree of Ecumenism from Vatican II says, “All those justified by faith through baptism are incorporated into Christ. They therefore have a right to be honored by the title of Christian and are properly regarded as brothers (and sisters) in the Lord by the sons of the Catholic Church.”

Reader 4: “The genuine ecumenists are not at the margin of their church’s life, but at the heart of it. They know what is important in the Christian life and can recognize those elements in other churches even if they may be differently expressed.” Father Thomas Ryan, CSP

Leader: Discuss these questions at your table or with the entire group.

  1. In what ways can you better understand your Catholic faith, so that you can find the common ground with other Christian faiths?
  2. Better understanding often begins with shared projects together. Would you consider reaching out to other Christian churches for a common service project, an ecumenical concert, or perhaps a support group for interchurch couples?
  3. Have you been involved in an interfaith activity that proved worthwhile?      

Reader 5: “I am a stranger to no one; and no one is a stranger to me. Indeed, I am a friend to all.” Guru Granth Sahib, the religious scripture of Sikhism

Reader 6: “We want to treat our diversity as an opportunity — an opportunity to be more inclusive and appreciative of differences. We see ourselves as a family. If we acknowledge and recognize the differences within our family — including different faith traditions — we can understand one another on a deeper level. We can have a deeper conversation about morality and faith development.” Daniel Perez, principal of St. Aloysius School, Harlem, N.Y. Only 20 percent of the Catholic school’s students are Catholic.

Reader 7: In 1965, the Second Vatican Council issued a declaration on the “Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions.” Included in this declaration was a rejection of anti-Semitism and a call for “the spiritual patrimony common to Christians and Jews … to foster and recommend mutual understanding and respect.” There was a desire to work with Muslims to “forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.” It affirmed its reverence for the “rays of truth” in other faiths.

Leader: Consider these questions at your table or with your group.

  1. Have you ever attended a prayer service or ritual of a non-Christian religion? If so, what common ground did you find? If you have not attended, what is stopping you?
  2. Would you consider starting an interfaith book club? Would you work on an interfaith project in which people are seeking God, such as following a tragedy?
  3. Are you willing to take the first step in reaching out to people of a non-Christian religion, especially if they are a very small minority? 

Reader 8: “There will be no other sign that you are in the grace of the Lord than that you love one another and are united together.” Saint Angela Merici, Tenth Legacy 

Leader: Consider some of these resources on ecumenism:

  • “The Documents of Vatican II,” specifically the “Decree on Ecumenism” and “The Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions.” Walter M. Abbott, S.J., general editor.
  • The Diocese of Owensboro website on Ecumenism, owensborodiocese.org/ecumenism
  • Learn about the Paulist Fathers, who count among their mission “ecumenical and interfaith relations.” Visit their website at paulist.org. Learn more about Father Tom Ryan, who directs the Paulist North American Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations, at this address, www.tomryancsp.org
    Please share other resources you find with Ursuline Sisters and Associates.

Closing prayer: O God, your servant, William Butler Yeats, seems to understand that we are all friends when he wrote “There are no strangers here, only friends we have not yet met.” Your son Jesus had a similar message when he told us he calls us all friends. Help us to not be afraid and to reach out and embrace all those friends who look different, who speak a different language and who have different customs than we do. We ask this in the name of Jesus, our brother and friend. Amen