The week of January 17 I was privileged to be part of an ecumenical conference, “Experience Alpha.” It was an opportunity for leaders from Catholic and Protestant communities to come together to be immersed in the Alpha approach to evangelization. We were able to see firsthand how Alpha has transformed the lives of thousands people – especially young adults. We learned the “nuts and bolts” of running the Alpha Course and shared our own experiences of running Alpha in our communities. It was an enlightening and affirming experience.
It was perhaps coincidental that this ecumenical gathering took place during the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity,” an annual world-wide observance. Certainly the conference drew us Catholics and our Protestant brothers and sisters closer together. One of the most poignant moments was when the Protestant participants prayed over us Catholics and then we did the same for them. Many were visibly moved as we prayed for a spirit of mutual forgiveness and in thanksgiving for the gifts each tradition brings to the Body of Christ. Such common prayer together throughout the conference was a truly beautiful experience.
In his homily at an ecumenical service to conclude the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Pope Francis spoke about the importance of Christians working together, despite our differences, especially in terms of evangelization. The Holy Father said, “While we are moving towards full communion among Christians, we can already develop many forms of cooperation to aid the spread of the Gospel. By walking and working together, we realize that we are already united in the name of the Lord.” I’m almost tempted to think he had our Experience Alpha conference in mind! We all experienced that sense of unity Pope Francis preached about.
This week marks the beginning of another annual observance: Catholic Schools Week. It’s an opportunity for us to reflect upon the tremendous gift of Catholic education. Our parishes are blessed with fine Catholic schools – made possible by your generous support. As we celebrate our Catholic Schools, I want to say thank you for all the many sacrifices of time, talent and treasure you make on behalf of Catholic education. Please join me in praying that our Catholic Schools will be effective instruments of evangelization, leading students and their families to a renewed encounter with Jesus Christ. I also want to invite you to join us for Mass with Bishop Callahan this Thursday, February 4th at 9:30am at McDonell Catholic High School.