“May they be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they be one in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:21)
The spirit of ecumenism calls us beyond simple co-operation among different denominations. The word “ecumenism” itself comes from the Greek, oikoumene, a Biblical word referring to God’s whole created order, “the earth and its fullness” (Ps.24). Ecumenism is the commitment to the search for the fullness and unity God intended for creation. It calls us to name what we believe in common and to celebrate that common faith, as well as to name our differences and to work to overcome obstacles to a united witness to Jesus Christ.
The Roman Catholic vision of ecumenism is founded on the will of Christ and the shared communion of all Christians through baptism. The “soul of the whole ecumenical movement,” is a “change of heart” and “holiness of life” along with “public and private prayer for the unity of Christians.” These three together are called “spiritual ecumenism” by the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism (#8).
“There is one body and one spirit – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all”. Eph.4;4-5
Ecumenism in the Diocese of Saskatoon
Ecumenical cooperation is not new to the diocese. We have a rich experience in ecumenical relationships. Our social, political and spiritual development, although not without strife and tensions, has been marked by a tone of cooperation. For generations we have seen goodness in our neighbours from many backgrounds, who have worked together to build many caring communities. This grassroots experience, at times unnamed and unknown as ecumenism, has led to the formation of many ministerial associations, councils of churches and ad hoc committees to enrich our experience of church.
The diocese has participated and often taken a lead in these endeavours. This leadership was shown in the formation of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism (PCE).
The PCE was established in 1984 as the ecumenical office of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon. Our diocese was enriched by the commitment and ecumenical wisdom of Fr. Bernard de Margerie. Bishop James Mahoney entrusted Fr. de Margerie with a full time ministry in ecumenism that enabled Fr. de Margerie to become the founding director of the Centre. The Constitution of the Centre describes the PCE’s mandate “to call the churches to the goal of visible reconciliation and unity for the world’s sake, expressed in one faith and one Eucharistic fellowship in Christ.” This mandate is drawn from the foundational documents of other ecumenical agencies, especially the World Council of Churches.
The Constitution of the Prairie Centre for Ecumenism also indicates that the establishment of the Centre corresponds to the common will of the partner churches to move forward together on the road of Christian renewal, reconciliation and unity. We do so in a spirit of faithfulness and obedience to the Gospel.
From its founding, the Centre has had a Board of Directors drawn from the various churches in Saskatoon. In 1988, recognizing that an appropriate level of maturity had been achieved, the decision was taken to move to a broader sponsorship. The Local Church Leaders’ Group, a regular gathering of the senior leaders of the churches of Saskatoon, approved the revised Constitution of the Centre, and asked the churches of Saskatoon to determine whether they were prepared to sponsor the Centre and provide it with both financial and prayer support. The Anglican, Evangelical Lutheran, Presbyterian and United churches, as well as the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy, joined with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon in sponsorship of the new ecumenical enterprise.
Saskatoon Diocesan Commission for Ecumenism
The role of the Ecumenical Officer and the Commission for Ecumenism is outlined in the Catholic Church’s “Directory for the Application of Principles and Norms on Ecumenism.”
The Saskatoon Diocesan Commission for Ecumenism (SDCE) undertakes to be guided by:
- the leadership of the Bishop of Saskatoon and the terms of reference of the Commission;
- the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and its directives for ecumenism;
- and documents of the Church, especially the Decree on Ecumenism and the Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions.
In the practice of the Catholic Church’s commitment to ecumenism in the Diocese of Saskatoon, the SDCE further undertakes:
- to recognize that many ecumenical relationships have been developed over the years,
- to realize that the focus of the SDCE is with Catholics of the diocese of Saskatoon,
- to become aware and supportive of other ecumenical and interfaith activities,
- to encourage ecumenically active individuals to be more “intentional” about their participation; to see it as part of the ecumenical movement..
Members of the Commission for Ecumenism are appointed by the bishop for a two-year renewable term.