Seasonal Reflection: Christian Unity Week

Richard Husted, OFM Features

Since the mid 1960s, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity has been commemorated by congregations around the world, traditionally between Jan. 18 and 25 in the northern hemisphere and at Pentecost in the southern hemisphere, according to the World Council of Churches.

In the reflection below, Richard Husted, OFM, ordained in 1966, discusses the significance of the week that “invites the whole Christian community throughout the world to pray in communion with the prayer of Jesus ‘that they all may be one.’ (John 17: 21),” according to the Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute.

This essay is adapted, with permission, from the Jan. 23 bulletin of St. Bonaventure Church in Allegany, N.Y.,
where Richard is pastor.

One of the principal concerns of the Second Vatican Council was the restoration of unity among all Christians. Great strides have been made in the past 47 years to examine doctrine, discipline and structures that stand in the way of full communion. The Council Decree on Ecumenism (Nov. 21, 1964) proclaimed “all who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have the right to be called Christian, and with good reason are accepted as brothers and sisters in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church.”

Each year from Jan. 18-25, which includes the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, the Church sets aside a week of prayer for Christian Unity. Pope Benedict XVI marked the formal beginning of his reign as pope by appealing for Christian Unity. In the homily at his inauguration Mass, he said, “Let us do all we can to pursue the path toward unity.”

In his Jan. 21 column in the Olean Times Herald, Rev. Dan McDowell, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Olean, spoke of the area’s efforts to work together through the Greater Olean Association of Churches (GOAC). We can certainly take pride in all the ways that area Christian churches work together in so many different ways.

On Jan. 23, the Christian churches of the area are gathering at St. Bonaventure University Chapel for a prayer service for Christian Unity. The celebration highlights the presentation of the annual Ecumen Award to the Warming House in recognition of over 30 years of service to our community. Let us raise our voices with the Lord who prayed on the night before he died “that they might all be one.”

— Fr. Richard, a native of Caldwell, N.J., celebrated 50 years as a friar in 2010.