Members of the diocesan Presbyteral Council discussed possible ways to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 at their meeting June 21 at the Chancery in St. Cloud.
The conversation was held in the context of an exchange of letters earlier this year between Our Lady of Victory Church and First Lutheran Church in Fergus Falls.
First Lutheran’s leaders wrote to say they accepted Pope Francis’ appeal during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity for forgiveness for “un-Gospel-like behavior” on the part of Catholics against Christians of other churches. First Lutheran also asked for forgiveness for un-Gospel-like behavior on the part of Lutherans against Catholics.
Our Lady of Victory Parish responded with a letter of gratitude and an offer to discuss ways the two churches might jointly mark the Reformation anniversary.
Leaders from the two churches subsequently met for a meal and conversation, said Father Robert Kieffer, who represents the Alexandria/Morris deanery. “We should pick up on that and have an initiative of our own in the same vein,” he said.
The letters are indicative of the ecumenical strides made between Catholics and Lutherans in recent times, said Bishop Donald Kettler. Members of the council — which is comprised of priest representatives from around the diocese and serves in a consultative role to the bishop — discussed the possibility of marking the anniversary at the diocesan and parish levels.
Crosier Father Kermit Holl, who represents religious order priests, suggested that The Visitor print a series of articles to help Catholics better understand the Reformation and how Catholics should view it today.
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.
Bishop Kettler said he is close to naming an ecumenical officer for the diocese who could help give direction to any possible planning. In the meantime, the bishop said, in the spirit of ecumenism, priests should consider attending any of the 500th anniversary events that local Lutheran churches may be having. He said he would keep the council updated on any plans the state’s Catholic bishops might pursue.
In other business, the council:
- Heard a report from Father Matthew Crane, who is chairing 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. An important topic the group has been discussing is how to define a parish and what that would mean for its pastoral care. The group is finishing its work and will soon submit its recommendations to Bishop Kettler.
- Discussed a recent memo from Bishop Kettler to priests, deacons and administrators regarding the purification of vessels and posture during the Eucharistic Prayer.The memo, citing the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, states that vessels needing purification after the distribution of holy Communion should be purified after the liturgy “at the credence table or in the sacristy.” Purifying the vessels after Communion, it said, “while permitted, unnecessarily prolongs the Communion Rite and distracts the faithful during the time for thanksgiving.”The bishop’s memo also states that when a “sizeable number” of priest concelebrants are present for a liturgy and seated among the assembly, “I want the faithful to remain standing for the entire Eucharistic Prayer.” Standing, like kneeling, is a gesture of reverence, the memo said, and will give the assembly a better view of what is happening at the altar.
- Discussed the possibility of developing diocesan-wide recommendations for Communion to meet the needs of worshipers with a gluten intolerance. Several options already exist, including using low-gluten hosts and having the person only receive from a designated chalice. Bishop Kettler said he will have the Office of Worship look into the matter.