Ecumenism, ‘Life and Dignity Sunday’ on priests’ council agenda

Members of the diocesan Presbyteral Council continued discussions from their meeting last June on possible ways to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 during their meeting Sept. 20 at the Chancery in St. Cloud.

Bishop Donald Kettler said Catholic and Lutheran bishops in the state meet annually, and some Lutheran ministers he is in contact with would like the Catholic Church to participate in some way. He stressed that the anniversary would be a “commemoration,” not a “celebration.” Rather than highlight divisions, it would be an opportunity to highlight ecumenical strides made between Catholics and Lutherans in recent times.

The bishop said he will ask the diocese’s new ecumenical officer, Benedictine Father Edward Vebelun, to assist in exploring ideas.

Father Robert Kieffer, who represents the Alexandria/Morris deanery, said clergy in his region talked about making an effort to participate in events that may be planned by local Lutheran churches. They also spoke about the possibility of co-organizing social gatherings with Lutheran congregations.

Other members of the council — which is comprised of priest representatives from around the diocese and serves in a consultative role to the bishop — said clergy in their regions suggested additional possibilities, such as joint prayer services, service opportunities or other activities that highlight common ground rather than divisions.

A few council members noted that some Catholic parishes already cooperate with Lutheran congregations for vacation Bible schools, Thanksgiving services and food shelf coordination.

The symbolic date of the Reformation’s start is Oct. 31, 1517, when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg, Germany.

In other council news:

  • Members heard a report from Father Matthew Crane, who chaired a planning task force charged with making pastoral recommendations in light of an expected decline in the number of active priests between 2020 and 2030. The task force has completed its work and submitted its recommendations to Bishop Kettler for his review. The diocesan Planning Council will discuss the draft report at its next meeting, Oct. 6.
  • Members also heard a report from Chris Codden, director of the diocese’s Office of Marriage and Family, about “Life and Dignity Sunday,” set for Oct. 22-23. Codden stressed the importance of every parish in the diocese having an ambassador to help facilitate awareness and participation in the Minnesota Catholic Conference’s Catholic Advocacy Network. The network keeps Catholics informed about important legislative activity in the state.
  • In his remarks, Bishop Kettler reported that local committees are working to plan Diocesan Ministry Day and a diocesan-level Encuentro, both in fall 2017. The local Encuentro is part of a two-year process of missionary activity, consultation, leadership development and pastoral discernment for Hispanics/Latinos. He also called the priests’ attention to recent studies by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate indicating that many Catholics are leaving the faith — sometimes at a very young age. The issue emphasizes the need for effective religious education programs and getting youth to attend. He said he will work to get information about the study to council members so they can share it with others.

Author: The Visitor

The Visitor is the official newpaper for the Diocese of Saint Cloud.

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