Wheels in motion to celebration unity week centennial

  • February 2, 2007

interfaithlogoTORONTO - The Franciscan Friars and Sisters of the Atonement finished off the 99th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity by launching a web site dedicated to helping the whole church get ready for the 100th anniversary of the annual week.

It’s no accident that a lot of the material at the www.weekofprayer2008.org is dedicated to prayer, said Atonement Friar Father Damian MacPherson. The cutting edge of the ecumenical movement is prayer, he said.

“Spiritual ecumenism really is trying to cut a new direction in terms of the ecumenical efforts,” he said.

Ever since the Atonement Friars gave birth to the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 1908 it’s been a labour of prayer, said MacPherson, who runs the office of ecumenism and interfaith affairs at the archdiocese of Toronto. He was in charge of seeing the Week of Prayer 2008 web site launched for his religious community.

“Some of our older friars attribute the calling of the (Second Vatican) Ecumenical Council to the prayer of friars on a daily basis,” said MacPherson. “They prayed daily ‘that they may be one.’ They prayed daily, and they still do, the prayer from John’s Gospel, chapter 17.”

MacPherson said there’s no way to prove the prayers of a small community of friars and sisters at the end of every Mass and Divine Office they said from 1908 on caused Pope John XXIII to call an ecumenical council. But either you believe prayer is real, or you don’t.

“We certainly believe as a community of friars that our prayer has not just gone out to space,” MacPherson said.

The web site includes suggestions for ways to get a parish ready for the 100th Week of Prayer for Christian Unity in 2008, a history of the Week of Prayer and of the ecumenical movement, a calendar of ecumenical events around the world and across North America, examples of ecumenical projects around the world from AIDS ministry to housing the homeless, names and phone numbers for Atonement Friars and Sisters who can help with planning for the centenary, and more. In the section on how to get a parish ready to celebrate the 100th anniversary celebration, the web site suggests starting in September 2007.

The web site is a practical aid for helping the church celebrate a benchmark year in the history of the ecumenical movement, but the real engine of ecumenism is beyond the scope of the Internet, said MacPherson

“In the final analysis, it’s the Spirit that will give unity to the church. We, of course, have to make our effort and take part in it. But it’s the Spirit that eventually will draw the church together in unity,” he said.

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